There’s an inherent problem with reality TV — namely, that most of it doesn’t feel very real.
The Catch-22 is that for something to feel truly real, it often has to feature people who aren’t self-aware enough to play the game, to use a popular “Survivor” coinage.
Now Animal Planet has gotten into that act with “Confessions: Animal Hoarding,” a six-part series from GRB Entertainment that focuses, in essence, on the crazy cat ladies we sometimes hear about on the news, when the authorities raid a feces-infested apartment filled with pets. (Thank God. For a fleeting second I thought the title was a reference to cats hoarding string, squirrels with an unhealthy attachment to their nuts and dogs hiding bones.)
In the premiere, there’s Bonnie, who has a couple of dozen dogs, and won’t let any of them leave the house, meaning they all pee and defecate on her carpet; and Don, who harbors 30 cats, none of them spayed or neutered.
Premiering July 21, it is, without a doubt, compelling television, mostly because these people are
dysfunctional enough as to be incapable of guarding themselves. Bonnie keeps talking about dying if she has to give up any of her dogs. Don is equally grim in discussing his prospects.
This is not feel-good TV, even if family members are shown trying to help these poor souls. And while the program is presented in almost clinical fashion, there’s no question that it’s exploiting the subjects — setting them up as sideshow attractions, only through the filter of TV instead of a traveling circus.
Nevertheless, such shows do provide a raw jolt compared to the posturing and posing that we’ve become accustomed to on manicured reality a la “The Hills” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
In fact, I already see a potential crossover opportunity bridging those disparate worlds: Let’s force “The Real Housewives of Washington D.C.” to move into the dog lady’s house. Because from what I’ve seen, the stench emanating from that show — which could certainly use an injection of reality — is an almost-perfect match. And trust me, whether or not “reality” is the goal, you’d rather spend time with poor Bonnie than Michaele Salahi.