Dumpster Dive: Hoarding: Buried Alive May Cause Nausea, Heartache, Nightmares, Loss of Appetite

Even in the best of times, a half-eaten chicken carcass isn’t exactly easy on the eyes. But toss it atop a waist-high pile of garbage inside a suburban kitchen, let it turn gray and fetid, and you’ve got the exclamation point on the visual sentence “OH NO THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!” that was a recurring theme of Sunday night’s installment of TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive.

Being of sound mind and tempermental stomach, I’d never actually watched any hoarders-themed programming before, but when TLC sent me a release touting a new episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive called “It’s Just Sex,” I decided it was time to don some double-ply yellow rubber kitchen gloves and find out what it was all about. I’ll admit I chuckled a little at the opening chyron warning me that I was about to face “content and images that may be disturbing.” I mean, isn’t that the only reason anyone would tune in to this show?

And sure enough, Hoarding: Buried Alive made good on its promise, taking us into a 1,600-square-foot home/landfill of our protagonists, Herv and Janet, that was reportedly four to six weeks away from being condemned by the local authorities. “We’ve kept things we shouldn’t have kept,” said Herv, in an understatement that bordered on the obscene, before taking us to a foyer piled almost to the ceiling with dusty trash bags and assorted strewn detritus. Not surprisingly, it had been 10-15 years since the couple’s front door had been opened.

At least half the trash in the front entrance was bagged and ready for disposal, though, which is more than could be said for the rest of the abode. Janet gave a tour of the unspeakably fouled upstairs loo, which except for a small path to the filthy sink and shower, was knee deep in waste, including what Janet referred to as “used bathroom items.” The downstairs bathroom (pictured, right), meanwhile, was used only for its toilet, though where one could find legroom among the beer cans and general muck is beyond comprehension. Janet then took us to the bedroom (pictured, above), where a lonely mattress sat surrounded by a sea of discarded horrors; she lifted a couple of empty wine bottles from the debris, then chuckled, “there’s a pizza box in there, too.”

Turns out that Herv and Janet’s hoarding began shortly after the death of their infant son, Gregory, almost two decades prior. Over the years, Herb found he couldn’t discard even the most useless items; Janet eventually got to a point where she didn’t even notice that her home looked and smelled like a transfer station. And because their lifestyle meant they had to keep replacing appliances, clothes, and other essentials, they wound up $80-100,000 in debt.

Other unspeakable moments from the hour:

* The couple’s 22-year-old son, Hervey, who grew up knowing only the hoarding lifestyle, showed off his former bedroom, which had been turned into a cluttered litterbox for the family’s cats. “I’m stepping in some right now,” he noted, nonchalantly, as the cameras panned to piles of feline excrement.

* Hervey giving best friend Derrick a tour of the home, with a stop at an abandoned refrigerator containing a plastic-wrapped processed cheese slice coated with bugs, and a black smear that Hervey identified as “a pie.”

* Jam-packed rows of fly strips in the kitchen that Hervey said were hung back when he was in high school.

* This line: “What’s that squishing beneath my feet?”

* The discovery of an unrefrigerated, green-ish pork tenderloin during Hervey and Derrick’s search for soda cans.

* Herv’s coworker Wendy attempting to be non-judgmental on her first tour of the house, but quickly giving this stream-of-consciousness monologue: “It’s overwhelming. The stench is terrible. The food left out is scary. This is really bad. I don’t know what to say. It’s disgusting. How long have those fly traps been up there?”

* The admission by Janet that Herv and Wendy had had a affair, and that they eventually drew her into their sexual relationship. “I was asked to be bisexual,” said Janet, and to “pleasure” the duo. Even though Herv claimed the affair was over, he and Janet began living with Wendy after being told by sheriff’s office officials that they couldn’t sleep in their house in its current condition.

* The shot of a mind-numbingly filthy toilet while professional organizer Mindy Godding noted the house contained “major systems that have failed.”

* The discovery of a wrapped turkey breast with an April 29, 2007 expiration date.

In the end, with the help of a psychologist and a team of cleaners/organizers, Herv and Janet purged their home of its waste, wrote heartbreaking farewell letters to their late son (which they subsequebtly burned in the back yard), severed ties with Wendy, and were shown six weeks after the main action sharing a meal in their bright, tidy kitchen. “It’s not atrocious anymore,” noted Derrick. And considering where the action kicked off, that’s about as much of a happy ending as anyone could want.

Did you watch Sunday’s installment of Hoarding: Buried Alive? Are you a regular watcher of hoarder programming? Or is the idea of tuning in even briefly too much for your stomach to bear? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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18 Comments
  1. Maria G says:

    I draw the line at any hoarding show where animals are being subjected to the conditions of the building, and there’s spoiled food everywhere. Clutter, I can deal with. “How Clean Is Your House?” was good training for it.

  2. Liana says:

    I watch almost all the hoarding shows so not much shocks me anymore. Animal hoarding when really it really gets freaky. I meant to watch this last night but then I went to bed. I like Hoarders much better… because it doesn’t seem as haphazard as Hoarding: Buried Alive. You should try it. The duo of Matt the Professional Organizer and Dr. Zhasio are pretty terrific.

  3. Christian says:

    Never watched before…saw the “it’s just sex” tagline and had to give it a try. one of those things where you wish you could change the channel, but your finger just won’t press it down…

  4. Jrs says:

    Love these shows! Fascinated and continually amazed by how whack some of these people are. But this episode raised it to a whole new level with the whole ménage a troi thing going on. Wierd stuff and the fact the young son was so openly aware of what went on.

  5. Angela says:

    I only watch when I don’t feel motivated to do the weekly house cleaning. It gets me motivated quite quickly.

    • Jennifer says:

      I’m with you there-if anything, it makes me feel better about MY house! I still find it fascinating how people can turn what is usually some trauma into such a response, as well as the infinite patience of those that try to help them.

    • Kristoffer says:

      I am glad I am not the only one that watches for that reason. Not to sound heartless but there is nothing better than watching Hoarders and Intervention back to back to make everything in your life seem so much better.

  6. Jennifer R says:

    I watch both Hoarding series, and I am rarely shocked by the living conditions shown (after a few seasons, not much shocks you any more). The reason I watch is for the therapeutic interventions carried out by the mental health specialists and professional organizers, both with the hoarders themselves and with their extended family members and friends. It is absolutely fascinating to watch as trained professionals work with individuals who have, in many instances, hoarded for decades, but are finally able to identify and process their underlying trauma(s). It is also amazing how relatively quickly the therapy can bring results, particularly with regard to developing insight into the situation, learning decision-making skills, and adopting healthier coping strategies. Six weeks is an extremely short amount of time, but the strides that can be made, sometimes in just a day or two, are nothing short of extraordinary!

  7. Ken says:

    Michael, you are so late to the party! Hahaha, you write about this show like it debuted last week or something.

  8. jen says:

    I’ll be honest I hate these shows and they are disgusting, however after mulitple cleanings of my kids rooms where I found food etc I decided that perhaps showing them what happens when you leave food in your room (specifically the roach infestation episodes) It has been successful at helping my kids understand what can attract bugs & mice. We watch the show 1 times a week and then all clean the house becuase we are so grossed out by what we’ve just seen. Its unusual parenting, but effective. I don’t find half eaten food in their rooms anymore.

  9. Ann says:

    My mother is a hoarder, and these shows have helped me understand why you can’t just go in and clean out the hoard without their permission. It’s infuriating to watch the children/spouses get verbally abused by the hoarders when they are there only to help. My mother does the same thing to me, but I don’t take it as personally as I did before. I agree that Hoarders on A & E is much more entertaining, although less helpful to the hoarders because emotionally they need more than a weekend to deal with the mental illness part of the problem. I love Matt–best part of the show, and the professional organizers are very empathetic, something I often lack when dealing with my very difficult mother, who chose her junk over me. 

  10. Vic says:

    what the hell happened to Wendy????

  11. kate says:

    Where did this one take place? What city and state?

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Kate, I believe they said it was in Richmond, VA.

  13. REBA says:

    I JUST LOVE TO WATCH HOW PEOPLE LIVE. IN MY LIFE TIME I HAVE NEVER SAW SO MANY LAZY PEOPLE. GET OFF YOUR LAZY A==GET THAT HOUSE CLEAN , ITS LIKE LIVING WITH A BUNCH OF HOGS. SHAME ON PEOPLE WHO HAS NO MORE RESPECT FOR THEM SELVES AND FAMILY .

  14. suzanne cipriani says:

    Wendy is an “elephant” in the room. In more. Ways than one. She should leave her husband. He is a pig!

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