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A&E vs. TLC: Which is more obsessed with obsession?

March 12, 2010 |  6:58 am


Uh oh. TLC's become obsessed with people with unhealthy obsessions. That's A&E's turf!

TV's history of copycat shows is littered with the short-lived and the canceled -- remember those "Lost" copycats? "Invasion," "Surface" and "Threshold"? We barely do! But a pair of TLC shows premiering in the next few days have hit rival cable network A&E especially close to home.

On Sunday, TLC will premiere "Hoarding: Buried Alive," a series expansion of the one-hour special it aired in October, "Hoarders: Buried Alive," about the most compulsive of pack rats. The theme and title is, well, a mite close to A&E's "Hoarders," which happens to be its second-most watched show, launched in August 2009.

Then on Wednesday, TLC's got "Addicted," a series featuring interventionist and former addict Kristina Wandzilak as she takes on the cases of those struggling with serious addictions. (The first episode revolves around Amanda, 31, who is addicted to heroine, crystal meth, pills and alcohol.) Again, it's not dissimilar to A&E's "Intervention," also about, er, interventions. "Intervention" won the Emmy in 2009 for best reality series, is now in its eighth season, and continues to reign as A&E's No. 1 rated program.

Asked about the, uh, programming coincidence, A&E VP of communications Dan Silberman would only say "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Jodi Flynn, one of the executive producers on "Hoarders," told Show Tracker it was inevitable that, given its success, the show would be copied. She said she didn't watch the TLC special on hoarding, "but a lot of our other producers did and they said it's not as good as our show."

"We're not worried about the TLC show. We shoot documentary-style and I'd be hard-pressed to believe someone else could do it as well," Flynn said. "Plus, we're already out there, and that's a leg up."

Shannon Martin, a director of communications for TLC, however, was quick to point out that "Hoarding: Buried Alive" is simply one in a long line of specials TLC has devoted to keepers of junk. There was "Truth be Told" last summer and "Help I'm a Hoarder" in July 2008. (TLC's Discovery Networks sibs also, Martin also notes, "have been in the hoarding space for years," from last summer's Animal Planet take, "Animal Cops Specials: Extreme Hoarders," to Discovery Channel's 2005 special "Life of Grime.")

What's more, Martin said TLC began preproduction on "Hoarders: Buried Alive" in February 2009 -- so they're not knocking off A&E's August launch. (For the record, A&E said that they green-lighted their pilot in 2007.)

"Obviously, we expected this," she said. "But we were in production on the pilot on or before the same time A&E was in production with their show. This is not us following them."

Is there room for both? You be the judge. Below, a promo from A&E's "Hoarders":

And a commercial for TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive":

As for "Addicted," which comes long after "Intervention's" 2005 premiere, TLC VP of development and production Howard Lee said, "Certainly, there was an awareness of 'Intervention.'"

"'Intervention' was at the forefront of depicting drug addiction and ways to help raise awareness. We did not hesitate to move forward on 'Addicted' because of 'Intervention.' Our series also tells compelling stories that continue the strong wave of informative television that helps raise awareness of addictions, providing understanding to those who may not know where to turn.

The shows are also set up a bit differently.

In "Intervention," family and/or friends stage a traditional intervention where the afflicted party has no prior knowledge of it; TLC's Wandzilak does not.  "There is no surprise element in Kristina's technique," TLC publicist Hilary Povar said.

"Also, you're not just seeing a sick person being sick. You're seeing their families helping them to get treatment. You see them as they're going through treatment. The show is more thoughtful in that way. And the family element makes it a TLC show."

"Intervention," in fact, does heavily feature both the victim's friends and families, as well as a follow-up on their treatment.

Is there room for both on your Tivo? Let's stack them up again. First, A&E's "Intervention":

And a peak at TLC's "Addicted":

-- Denise Martin

Photo: A scene from A&E's "Hoarders." Credit: A&E