Guilty Pleasures

Posted: July 28, 2010 by mediabio in General Fun
Tags: , , , , , ,

You’ve got them, I’ve got them, everyone has guilty pleasures. Those snacks we swore we’d never have again the last time we had them yet are leaving sugar or grease on your fingers as you read this. The little things we do that others might find wrong in some way but we just can’t help ourselves. For the purposes of this blog, those TV shows, movies, books, and songs that we know are bad yet we must have. You know the deal, you just put down your copy of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (or The Remembrance of Things Past, depending on which version you’re reading) and you’re not really in the mood to go to the literature message board you frequent to pick up your argument on why Dostoyevsky matters because, even though it is said he was a creep (you all read the message his girlfriend transcribed during a bitter break-up where he shouted, “Vy dolzhny prosto ulybnitesʹ i udar mne!”) he had such insight into the human condition and had to be a genius, so you pick up the remote and instead of watching PBS (it’s a rerun) you begin flipping through the channels and…well….

This wasn't on TV, but damn!

Flipping through the channels used to be something I did. It was an active choice I made when I wasn’t reading, writing, or fantasizing about a better life. And I often learned things by finding some show on The Discovery Channel, PBS, or some channel that explained something I never knew I didn’t know but, at that moment, seemed that it was important for me to know. I’ve fallen out of the habit of channel surfing which means I’m dumber and I don’t find as many guilty pleasures to watch.

The summer between junior high and high school was a pretty good summer. For the first time in my childhood, I felt like I had a lot of friends. There was a comic book shop right down the street (this is the summer of 1991), and things were generally good. Right at the start of the summer, on one of those days where nothing much was happening, I was flipping through the channels and saw Bruce Willis running around. I stopped the surfing and found myself watching reruns of the mid-to-late-1980s show Moonlighting, which also starred Cybill Shepherd. I was home the next day and watched it again. And again the next day. I was hooked. Here was 13 (nearly 14)-year-old Billy stopping whatever he was doing at 2 PM to watch Moonlighting on Lifetime. Yeah, that’s right, Life-friggin’-time. The Women’s Network. I saw almost every episode of the series that summer…except the final one. I still don’t know how it ends.


A musical guilty pleasure of mine is the song “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls. That’s right, I wrote it. I love the song. I was watching MTV when the video debuted and I remember thinking, This group is going to be huge. And they were. It is a pure pop song that I’m not sure even makes any sense, but I just like it. I consider it to be one of the best pop songs ever.

In the summer of 2007, I found a guilty pleasure I was so embarrassed by I didn’t even want to tell my wife about it. That’s because she wasn’t my wife at the time, but rather my girlfriend. We’d been dating since January and that summer VH1 (which has gone from a better-than-MTV music channel to Guilty Pleasure Central) aired Scott Baio is 45…and Single. When I was a small boy, I loved Happy Days and had to watch this show. Pamela finally found out that I liked the show when I was at her apartment on a night where something major was supposed to happen (I don’t remember what) and I had to watch it. Pamela found it amusing (she often finds me amusing) and let me watch it. She now uses the show as an argument stopper. Whenever she’s watching something that I consider crap and I climb up onto my high horse to let her know, she simply says, “Scott Baio, hon.” (She sometimes follows that up with a “Scott…frickin’…BAio.”).

Scott frickin' Baio.

During the year-and-a-half that we were preparing for our wedding, her guilty pleasures were a slew of different shows about weddings, from budgets to dresses to cakes. On a recent Monday night when we’d been watching something on a local ABC affiliate at 7:30 (a great show out of Boston called Chronicle) there was nothing on afterward and I just wanted to read. The TV stayed on as The Bachelorette came on. It became Pamela’s new guilty pleasure. Please don’t laugh at her, for I have sworn to guard and protect her heart.

Another guilty pleasure we’ve recently taken to is Bravo’s Bethenny Getting Married? Pamela is a fan of Top Chef (and used to like Project Runway when it was on Bravo) so we are aware of their Real Housewives series. Because Pamela likes to have the TV on when she’s doing a task, there have been times the Real Housewives… have been on when no one was really watching it. The show is neither of our cuppa. For some reason (I truly don’t remember the circumstances), we ended up watching an episode of Bethenny Frankel‘s show and were amused. Without all the snipping and drama brought on by the other Housewives, Frankel shines. Her wit and intelligence is evident as she struggles to get her dream wedding in order while dealing with pregnancy and several careers including bestselling writer, head of the Skinnygirl brand, and television personality. Pamela and I find ourselves laughing and relating to her as a person rather than a personality. Is it art? No. Is it entertaining? Hell, yes.

Ironically, now that she is a real wife, rumor is she's leaving Real Housewives...

Being a fan of horror movies and books, I feel like many of my shelves are filled with guilty pleasures. Stephen King doesn’t fall into guilty pleasure category because the man is a helluva writer (though there are some who believe otherwise). The two Nightmare on Elm Street novels I have are guilty pleasures because I don’t think even the writers who wrote them can say they’re any good. Star Wars novelizations and pulp stories are other guilty pleasures I have in the literary realm. I am also a fan of bad horror movies like Basket Case and I Spit on Your Grave.

So what makes a guilty pleasure? I guess it depends on who you are, who your friends are, and other things such as socioeconomic and educational differences. Being a high school teacher in a media program, I hear about many shows that I would only watch as guilty pleasure viewing that the kids believe to be good. I know the same can be said about things I loved as a child, from sitcoms to Stallone movies, many of the things I still recall fondly can only be placed in the guilty pleasure file. The two most important factors are that 1) you feel guilty for liking it (for your own reasons) and 2) you derive a certain amount of joy from it.

Basically, a guilty pleasure is as important as junk food: Without it, one cannot know the good stuff.

For some you, this picture will be a guilty pleasure.


Do you have any guilty pleasures right now? Or perhaps there is a guilty pleasure in your past that makes you laugh or cringe? Why not share? We promise not to laugh. Too much.

  1. Toby says:

    Ah, this is a fun topic. Something EVERYONE can relate to, but won’t always admit it.

    I think for me, television is the biggest area; certain reality shows are a guilty pleasure. I got sucked into Project Runway because, in many ways, it reminded me of art school. Creating something on a deadline with specific requirements, critiques etc. (by the way, I just stumbled on the most recent generation of that style of Bravo reality/challenge show: Work of Art. Same deal as PR but with artists. Pretty good guilty pleasure so far). I think I got sucked in to the drama of The Real Housewives of Orange County somehow, for much longer than I should have. I honestly can’t explain it, the people represent most of what I find reprehensible, so I guess in some way it was to watch it and be able to say “what is wrong with these people?”

    I’ve gotten hooked on certain seasons of The Real World, which is utterly a waste of time. That would include all the various Challenge shows too. At least with those, there’s a bit of competition and physical challenges that I’m drawn to. I’m ashamed to admit how easily the forced and contrived drama in all these shows can get my attention though.

    Another tv show was that Bravo one Work Out with the lesbian trainer woman. I started watching it because of the title and the fact that I’m an exercise nerd and thought maybe I’d pick up an interesting new exercise variation or two. Again, the drama and crap totally hooked me for longer than it should have, especially when one of the guys on the show ended up dying during the season.

    Off hand I can’t think of any guilty pleasures from comics or books, all that stuff is just awesome and anyone who says otherwise is dumb.

    Movies. Hm. Well, there’s Dead Alive, a “great” B, or perhaps C, zombie movie. A zombie epidemic breaks out after an old lady is bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey. It is clear 100% of the budget was spent on fake blood and limbs. There’s a scene where the main character picks up a lawn mower, turns it on and runs with the blade facing out through a crowd of zombies. There had to be several minutes of closeups of fake limbs going into the blade and gallons and gallons of fake blood. There’s a scene where a zombie’s entrails start crawling around after the hero. And of course, there’s my favorite scene in which the protagonists are in a cemetery being chased by zombies and they get cornered. It looks like they are lunch, when off screen someone yells “IT’S TIME FOR DIVINE INTERVENTION!” and a priest vaults off a mausoleum wall or something between the heroes and the zombies. He faces the good guys and utters “Don’t worry lad, I kick ass for the LORD!” and then turns around and starts attacking the zombies kung-fu style. He was awesome. But he gets eaten.

    I’m sure there are more, I just need to stop and think. I’m sure there are cartoons from my childhood as well. I know there were several Japanese imports that I loved (like Robotech) that used to drive my family nuts, but I never felt the least bit guilty about liking them.

    Hm. Time to ponder.


  2. My biggest guilty pleasure is Hanson. Yes, that Hanson. Never got into them when MMMBop came out, since I was still in preschool. But around 2003 I stumbled across the music video for a new song, Penny and Me. I thought it was one of the best songs I’ve heard and played that video over and over again for days. Now I own about four Hanson albums and know a lot more about Taylor, Zac and Isaac than any 18 year old male should.

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