Weekend Roundtable: TV Guilty Pleasures

Bad TV is like junk food. You know it’s not good for you, but sometimes, you feel compelled to consume too much of it anyway. In this week’s Roundtable, we reveal some of the TV shows we’re a little embarrassed to admit that we watch.

Both past and present shows are fair game for this topic. Are you a secret ‘Baywatch’ fanatic? Do you watch every episode of ‘The Bachelor’ with rapt attention?

Shannon Nutt

I’m going to shock a lot of people with this one, and perhaps lose the few loyal readers I may have gained, but I confess to being a fan of ABC’s daytime soap ‘General Hospital‘. I got hooked back in the ’80s and ’90s when the show was more about spies and the Mafia than the daily routine of Port Charles’ hospital. There were great characters (and some talented actors) back then, including Luke Spencer (Tony Geary), Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers), Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) and Frisco Jones (Jack Wagner). Around the turn of the century, the show took a nosedive in quality, and most of the stars I loved exited and found other careers. However, due to the fact that ‘GH’ is celebrating its 50th Anniversary right now, the show has brought a bunch of fans’ favorite characters and actors back, including all the ones I listed above, for both short- and long-term stints. Both the writing and the pacing of the show has increased tremendously, and I must confess to being hooked once again.

Daniel Hirshleifer

People snicker at me when I admit that I watch ‘The Vampire Diaries‘, but I maintain that it’s one of the most surprising and compelling shows currently on TV. It has nothing in common with ‘Twilight’ and its mediocre ilk. Yes, there’s teen drama on display, but it’s balanced by a ferocity and unpredictable nature that keeps the audience constantly guessing. When you start an episode of the show, you genuinely won’t know who will be alive or dead (or dead and resurrected) by the end of it. It moves at such a breakneck pace that three or four episodes cover more material than some full seasons of other titles. It still manages to surprise and enthrall me every time I watch it. Truly, the only show I find more tense and unpredictable is ‘Breaking Bad’. The Vampire Diaries’ is such pulpy fun that I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about loving it.

Luke Hickman

I don’t get around to watching as much television as I’d like, so there aren’t many series that I get to follow. However, there’s one series that I’ve loved since it first began its run in 1989. I don’t consider it a guilty pleasure, but not having seen an episode of it until she met me, Mrs. Hickman has labeled it just that: ‘Quantum Leap‘. With a guilty pleasure, I’m typically ashamed or embarrassed to admit that it’s something I enjoy, neither of which I feel about ‘Quantum Leap’. But according to my wife, it’s a series that I should be more than embarrassed to admit enjoying. Sure, it hasn’t aged as well in the area of special effects, but it’s still a solid episodic drama with characters worth caring about and great big heart. I still watch it now, and that’s definitely not going to change.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Hey. My name’s Adam (“Hi, Adam!”), and I’m a ‘Pretty Little Liars‘-aholic. My descent started last June when I mainlined a bunch of episodes on a cross-country flight for a wedding. Before I knew it, I was standing in the middle of the Bella Terra shopping complex in Huntington Beach, California, furiously texting with my bestie about who we think the sinister “A” is and who our favorite characters are and OMG can you believe Lucas just did that? All of a sudden, I’d turned into a 14-year-old girl. At my lowest point, I even started reading a ‘Pretty Little Liars’ fashion blog. ‘Pretty Little Liars’ is one of the most ridiculous series on TV, but that doesn’t stop it from being wildly addictive. From the girls dressing up as candy stripers to break into a morgue for the eight hojillionth time, to howlingly clunky hashtags like #thewrongfitz that keeping popping up on-screen, ‘Pretty Little Liars’ is my guiltiest guilty pleasure. Admitting that I have a problem is the first step.

Tom Landy

This will probably sound truly, truly, truly outrageous, but when I was a kid, I used to watch ‘Jem and the Holograms‘. Now let me be clear: This animated TV series wasn’t something I’d rush home from school to watch or anything like that. (Honest!). However, the feminine-charged show about exciting adventure, fashion and fame aired right after ‘G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero’ or ‘Transformers’, and since there really wasn’t anything else on to watch at that time, my younger brother and I just ended up watching ‘Jem’. After a while, I started getting into this show, and to this day I still remember most, if not all, of the lyrics to the theme song. JEM! Jem is my name!

Mike Attebery

Felicity‘. That’s right, ‘Felicity’. When my wife and I first moved in together, we were a couple years out of college, working unfulfilling cubicle jobs, and the absurd romantic entanglements of the frizzy haired girl who always said “Hey” (who, by the way, didn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the box), seemed to be the perfect tonic after a day of soul deadening corporate servitude.

Aaron Peck

I’m ashamed to admit that most of my guilty pleasures are “Reality” TV shows that are obviously scripted or staged. I don’t know why I watch them, but I do. I even posted about my addiction here back in 2011. I still watch ‘Gold Rush’, which I find oddly enjoyable even though most of the people on it seem like dimwits. The other shows have been replaced by the likes of:

  • Bar Rescue‘: A loud-mouthed man goes into failing bars and fixes them up, like an alcoholic version of ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’
  • Project Runway‘: A show I am semi-forced to watch with my wife, but have to admit I don’t mind sitting down to watch it. The catty drama is irresistible
  • Tanked‘: A show about a pair of annoying brothers who build humongous custom fish tanks. I mainly watch this because I love fish tanks.

So, yeah… My name is Aaron and I’m addicted to crappy Reality TV. Are you happy?

Brian Hoss

Since I abhor Reality TV, I can dispense with most of the truly shameful options. Nevertheless, one show that I was initially subjected to for an episode or two is, after the majority of one season, a guilty pleasure. After something like forty minutes of co-watching one episode, I realized that ‘Downton Abbey‘ derived tension from its many faux pas, and rarely would anything more exciting than a character speaking out of turn occur. Acquiescing to a few more episodes, and the show’s luscious HD period production clicked for me. Somehow, the show has turned into a slightly more serious period situation comedy a la a 1920s British ‘Frasier’. The show’s soppy character turns and cliffhangers are just as enjoyable as the constant concerns over which character has momentarily crossed the line of British restraint and propriety. What can be more guilt inducing than a fancy BBC-run soap opera?

Josh Zyber

I’m a sucker for anything ‘V‘. I remember watching the original alien invasion miniseries in 1983 on a tiny black & white TV in my childhood bedroom. I stayed up past my bedtime to watch it, sitting three feet from the screen with a headphone plugged into the set so that my mother wouldn’t know I was still up. I actually had to turn the Brightness knob all the way down any time I heard her walking down the hallway in my direction. I was utterly riveted by the series.

I revisited the show when it hit DVD some years back. The first miniseries holds up as genuinely good television, and I have no reason to feel guilty about that. The following year’s sequel miniseries, ‘V: The Final Battle’, on the other hand, was a huge drop-off in quality, especially all the laughable Star Child crap at the end. Yet it was popular enough to launch a weekly series for one season on NBC. (I guess the “Final Battle” wasn’t so final.) The show was embarrassingly bad. It was so low budget that all of the special effects shots were recycled from the previous two miniseries, and new action sequences almost always consisted of dirt bike chases. Also dropped were other trivial matters such as quality writing, logic or coherency. It’s cheesy beyond belief, yet watchably so. The catfights between alien bitch diva Diana and her rival Lydia are a hoot and a half. (My favorite dialogue exchange: “I’ve never been defeated in mortal combat.” / “Idiot, if you had, you’d be dead!”) The camp appeal is tremendous. I proudly own the complete series on both DVD and a very rare Japanese Laserdisc box set.

ABC rebooted the franchise in 2009 with a new primetime series that was honestly not a whole lot better than the one from 1984. Crappy writing, annoying characters and terrible visual effects were the order of the day. It somehow lasted two seasons, and I watched every single episode. It was a lousy show but, at its best, was hilariously ridiculous and trashy – never more so than in the series finale episode, in which the most irritating character is literally fucked to death by an alien infant (born just a couple hours earlier as a fully grown doppelganger of the boy’s hottie girlfriend) while the child’s mother watches with appreciation on a video monitor from the next room. Yes, that really happened. And then (Spoiler Alert), the show ends with the entire human race defeated and the victorious aliens taking over the planet. If the series had been renewed for a third season, I so would have continued to watch.

Those are our TV confessions. Tell us your secret shame in the Comments below.


  1. My two are “Dance Moms” and “Cheer Perfection”, and for the life of me, I can’t tell you why. These shows are so obviously scripted, its not even funny. Especially “Cheer Perfection”, the actors they got are not even any good. Yet I eat these shows up.

    I also love shows such as “Love it or list it”, “House Hunters International” and stuff like that. Couldn’t tell you what attracts me to these shows, but they are like crack!

    Also love the Restaraunt makeover shows. Once again, I can’t tell you why.

  2. JM

    ‘How I Met Your Mother’ – Soap Opera acting with a Reality TV script, but somehow Neil Patrick Harris makes it sing. It’s like watching community theater the way it was meant to be played.

    If only Trey Parker and Matt Stone could turn ‘The Book of Mormon’ into a televangelized sunday morning internet musical with Neil Patrick Harris as the superstar.

    • JM

      ‘Lark’s End to Candletown’ – Of all the free government propaganda on Amazon with tight costume roleplaying, this is the worst I can stand in the so-bad-it’s-good genre. It’s nearly ideal for knitting baby hats to.

    • William Henley

      I would be all over that show! I would love to actually SEE The Book of Mormon, I only have the soundtrack. Hope the show goes on tour soon! And Neil Patrick Harris in anything that Matt and Trey do would be gold!

  3. Kevin

    Not going to lie. I am an adult male with no children who is a huge fan of the “Power Rangers”. So much so that I bought the “Mighty Morphin” through “Lost Galaxy” DVDs from TimeLife, and the Blu-Ray set of “Super Samurai”.

    Yes, it’s cheesy beyond belief. Yes it’s acting, production design, etc. is largely incompetent at best. But it makes for some fantastic “turn off your brain” viewing.

    Especially “classic” season 1 “Mighty Morphin”.

  4. VIOZ

    Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush.” From the first time my little cousin forced me to watch it I was laughing out loud and haven’t stopped for a single episode. It’s over-the-top everything-wise, but it’s got heart and charm and it’s never “kid’s show dumb” (until the songs start anyway.)
    Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” is another shame I recommend if you’re willing to be patient (it gets better with time, but stay away from the movies.)

  5. I agree with Shannon – General Hospital is AMAZING right now!!! Frisco & Felicia, Sonny & Brenda, Luke & Laura… so much great stuff going on there!

    I’ll admit to being a fan of Smash – it’s really well done and entertaining. Too bad it’s going to be cancelled.

    I really loved Ringer on The CW. It was a lot of fun.

  6. William Henley

    Just thinking of some other guilty pleasures – iCarley, Suite Life, and, when it was on, Hannah Montanna. Not that I went out of my way to catch them, but there really is nothing else on on Saturday Mornings now.

    Oh, and Sponge Bob, but I really do not feel guilty about that, EVERYONE loves Sponge Bob!

  7. Ted S.

    I don’t like to admit it but I can’t get enough of Two and a Half-Men, I DVR’d every episode and watch them whenever I’m home. It’s a crappy show but somehow it’s quite entertaining to me.

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