The idea of "collecting" something is a recent one, as most previous human generations were more concerned with fending off enemy tribes or dying of the plague than seeing how many 1st edition copies of Pilgrim'f Progreff they could get their palsied hands on. Certainly there were exceptions: academics, the idle rich and the odd thimble collector, but by and large the idea of acquiring and cataloging "things" in a popular sense is a more recent development.
But while I can confess to owning a half dozen longboxes of comics (which haven't been added to since, oh, 2003 or thereabouts) and at one time a sizable assortment of penguin memorabilia (courtesy of family members who mistook my love of Opus from Bloom County for an interest in Spheniscinae in general), my relatively mild pack ratting can't compare to the dysfunction on display in Collection Intervention, the SyFy Channel's tentative foray into original programming that isn't Mega Shark or "Piranhaconda"-based.
CI host Elyse Luray is a "professional auctioneer," but instead of spending her days at the 4H rodeo bellowing "two dollar -- two dollar," she seeks out hapless individuals whose collections have gotten out of control. Or so the Art Institute of America-calibre opening computer animation tells us. Her first case is that of "Howie," who has such a collection of random memorabilia -- 30,000 LPs, thousands of posters, boxes upon boxes of horror/counterculture crap -- that it's threatening to crowd him out of his house.
Huh. "Crowded house." That's a good name for a band.
It's obvious Howie has some nice stuff in his collection, but right away you can tell that while his collecting is spurred by a love of the material, the fact he'll never be able to enjoy any of it due to the mass quantities is what pushes it closes to actual hoarder territory. And I say this as a guy who owns more DVDs than he will ever be able to watch in his lifetime.
The subjects of Collection Intervention aren't merely "geek hoarders," though it's easy to make that mistake. For starters, they have a specific focus. Howie's is underground/alternative media, someone else's might be robots, or (in a previous episode) Battlestar Galactica. Further, these people usually don't just haphazardly dump whatever they acquire into the nearest available space. Their madness has a method, as we see by Howie's at least perfunctory attempts to keep everything organized. Other guys (the subjects of the show are overwhelmingly male, a conclusion you could probably jump to even without being a fan of Dork).
Elyse meets with Howie's friend Ben to get some background. Ben, to his credit, does a good job maintaining eye contact in light of Elyse's impressive chest. Maybe this is part of the whole spoonful-of-sugar approach. Elyse, she wants to work with Howie to perhaps put his collection on display somewhere, a solution the Christopher Walken/Glen Danzig hybrid seems comfortable with. For the moment. He does have a formidable movie poster collection, plus a number of Robert Crumb original prints. His biggest problem is his inability to part with, well, anything. So Elyse suggests meeting with a therapist to deal with his anxiety at potentially selling his stuff. Dr. John looks like a cross between Dr. Drew and Bronson Pinchot in Beverly Hills Cop.
[Side note: Howie has the same LP copy of the Cramps' Gravest Hits that I do! Brother!]
Can he discard anything? Short answer: no. However, he's ultimately convinced to display some of his collection, and even sells several thousand dollars' worth of items. Unfortunately, we're left with the impression that Howie's just going to go out and buy something else to fill the yawning chasm of nothingness in his soul.
And then there's Sean (and then there's SEAN), who's asked his girlfriend Raquel to move in with him. Aw, that's sweet, and an important step in their burgeoning relationship. Unfortunately, all available living space is taken up by action, including a formidable collection of ThunderCats memorabilia. Here's the problem as I see it -- and it has nothing to do with the fact that ThunderCats are among the stupidest characters ever conceived by man: Sean reminds me of a young Mr. Bean without the social graces. That he's convinced a sentient human woman to cohabitate with him is unbelievable, yet she's willing to do so, if he can clear a space in the midst of all his Lion-Os for her to get some sleep. Raquel says it's the toys or her.
If I was her, I'd be more upset that almost none of his stuff is still boxed. "You want me to live with you and you can't even provide a MIB vintage ThunderCats lair playset? It's like you never loved me at all!"
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The best out-of-context quote of the show has to be: "Let's go to my bedroom and I'll show you the rest of my collection." That never seemed to work for me in high school, as I obviously overestimated the aphrodisiac effects of a G1 Optimus Prime.
Sean also meets with a therapist to discuss his dilemma. He reveals that toys are his "happy place," which hints strongly at a loving, well-adjusted childhood. This isn't the real Intervention, though, so we're thankfully spared any serious psychoanalysis in favor of gawking at some hella awesome action figures. What's that? Dad locked you in the basement for crying after a baseball game? Who cares?! Look at that sweet Hot Toys Mark VII Iron Man!
Like Howie, Sean doesn't want to part with much (or anything, really). Elyse convinces him to sell a random assortment of items at local store Toyfusion, making some bucks and clearing out some space for Raquel, who -- I'm sorry -- is either suffering some major self-esteem issues or is as big a geek as Sean. He's batting double-A and she's clearly AL West, at least.
As with any reality show, some things on the show don't ring true, like most of Sean's stuff is meticulously arranged -- like you'd expect -- while other stuff is just piled on the floor. Collection Intervention is also edited chaotically enough to make it apparent some scenes have been more staged than others. Still, I like Elyse. She knows her shit, and recognizes that people sometimes can't be pushed. Plus the show gives me ammo for future arguments with my wife when she complains about the space taken up by my complete run of Hellblazer.