Tuning into this weekend’s Real Housewives of Atlanta might not be something all of us want to admit to, but honestly, doesn’t everyone have a TV guilty pleasure or two? Turns out, even some of our most esteemed critics on Rotten Tomatoes find time for shows not necessarily on their beats because — let’s face it — it just feels so good. Here are ten shows that critics are gleefully watching off-hours that might surprise you.
I am almost embarrassingly excited about the upcoming Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions — to see some of my favorite recent players back in action, of such different temperaments: Julia Collins, the winningest female ever (20 consecutive wins), who was always so cool and upbeat; and Arthur Chu, the aggressive and unsmiling strategist who freaked so many viewers out as he bounced around the board. I’m not sure this classic quiz show is ever a cause for guilt, though, so let me go on the record saying that I’m still watching Grey’s Anatomy as part of my weekly Shonda Crazy-Train Binge, and while anything involving the squabbling Callie-Arizona and/or chatterbox April makes we want to jump out the window, and I miss Sandra Oh terribly, I can’t imagine Thursday night TV without a dose of this soapy medicine.
In truth, I have a lot of guilty pleasures. I think they’re an antidote to stuff I have to watch to review. They include Cops, Jail, TMZ, but most of all, Judge Judy. I have it Tivo’d and in our broadcast area; we get two different episodes a day. If it were later in the evening, I’d be tempted to start a drinking game for the number of times she says “‘Um’ is not an answer” (which should be the title of her next book), or uses the word “kerfuffle,” or shouts, “put your hand down.” Or, “They don’t keep me here because I’m gorgeous.” Or: “Coulda, woulda, shoulda.” There are other shows I watch from time to time as guilty pleasures, but that’s my regular, daily go-to. And “um” really isn’t an answer.
While I could find a way to defend even the “least good” scripted shows on my TV docket (Gotham and New Girl being first to my mind), my only true guilty pleasure is Property Brothers on HGTV. Twins Drew and Jonathan help couples purchase and renovate their dream homes in charming — if redundant — hour-long blocks. It’s rather innocent and occasionally educational programming, with many of the ideas and prices going straight to my memory bank for future home-buying and in-house redesigns. Honestly, I only feel guilty because Property Brothers is reality television, and reality television is a drain on our country’s mental health.
Married at First Sight is something that shouldn’t exist, if we’re all being honest. The premise — marrying a complete stranger selected by psychologists — is not a dream any parent has for his or her child. Fortunately, science is real, and therein lies the fascination: what happens when two people are forced into a situation where the outcome is theoretically known? Do you fight it or accept it?
I know a lot of people “confess” to reality programming, and I did have a brief fling with Storage Wars, but my secret addiction is to re-watching British television dramas. And ever since AcornTV arrived, it is an issue I actually have to address fairly soon because I can lose entire days of my one and only life cruising through George Gently, Case Histories and Doc Martin. Law and Order: UK was a big problem for a while — no reason whatsoever to write about it, never missed an episode — and I will watch favorite episodes of Doctor Who, Foyle’s War, Luther, and Sherlock over and over and over again. These are all very fine programs, but there is no denying that I use them to soothe and escape more than anything else. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s all quite Freudian: from the time I can remember, my family’s main TV ritual was watching Masterpiece Theater. Also the men in these dramas all look so good in coats. And, apparently, I have a thing for men who look good in coats. Any age, any era, but must look good in a coat.
I love ABC’s Last Man Standing like I love Pepsi: I know it’s lacking in nutrients and loaded with noxious additives. But I’m hooked on its formula. And the bubbles tickle my nose.
My guiltiest pleasure is probably Glee. I tend to stick with shows I start through the bitter end, even when the masses have moved on (ER, Desperate Housewives, Smash), and Glee is in that slot for me right now. I can’t seem to quit Kurt, Rachel, and the gang, even though it’s all pretty eye-rolling these days!
I know [Andy’s] a carnival barker, a supreme trash-slinger, a manipulator and an instigator, but I love him. He’s an earnest, wide-eyed Chuck Barris, celebrating sleaze with a broad smile and a glint in his eye. I try to tell myself that I’m better than Real Housewives of New Jersey, for instance, but I can’t look away whenever my wife turns on one of the reunion shows or Watch What Happens Live.
It’s so utterly trashy, the closest thing we have on TV now to channeling Melrose Place. It also shows that trashy drama can still beat trashy reality, arguing that some things are still best left to professionals. With characters zipping from dead to alive, from governor to jailbird, it all has a wonderful making-it-up-as-we-go feeling, and the actors understand perfectly that it works best when they play it totally deadpan.
I love the Nutribullet commercial. I feel like there is great pathos in the studio audience for infomercials, and the promises they make on those shows really skirt against the laws of reality (and good taste). I heard someone say that the Nutribullet grew her hair back after chemo. That’s… that can’t be an actual claim, can it?
What’s your current TV guilty pleasure? Let us know below!