In the wake of Valentine’s Day, single folk may find solace from the pressures of love by watching 2012 reruns of Say Yes to the Dress (definitely not speaking from personal experience). Even self-appointed movie critics like us here at the Moviegoer love a great episode of crappy reality TV or a saucy teen drama. So this February, swap the overpriced chocolates for a Netflix subscription and check out some of our staff’s favorite guilty pleasure shows.
Grey’s Anatomy toes a precarious line between soap opera and dramedy. The show never fails to deliver some new crazy plot, like Izzie’s hallucinatory romance or Meredith’s post-drowning trip to limbo. Despite all its ridiculousness, Grey’s is rooted in heart, and the characters are both multi-dimensional and relatable, as well as uncharacteristically attractive. You’ll find yourself falling in love with the doctors far too easily, which makes frequent character deaths hurt that much more. A shooting, a superstorm, a plane crash, a ferry crash, a train crash, like five car crashes, and an explosion later, I’ll keep coming back to Grey’s for my quick drama (and hot doctor) fix.
My Babysitter's A Vampire
This is the vampire story for you when Twilight is too girly and “mature,” but you still want to be seen as hardcore when you’re like...seven. This Canadian TV show was shown on the Disney channel, and is so corny, cheesey, cliché, and cringe-worthy that I’m surprised it hasn’t been picked up by the “so bad it’s good” community as a regular viewing experience. There’s also an uncomfortable disdain for media geeky girls like in favor of the media geeky guys like, especially in the original movie, in which the Twilight-knockoff vampires are killed off by mimicking weapons from Star Wars and other similar movies...but I love it. I love how cringey it is, I love the ridiculous dialogue, I love the unrealistically dorky main characters, and I genuinely like all the Goosebumps-but-slightly-more-gory shenanigans they get into. It was my childhood trash, and continues to be my adult trash.
Catfish: The TV Show
I have been obsessed with Catfish since it premiered in 2012 and my love has only grown over the last seven years. Admittedly, I am a huge fan of exploitative reality television, particularly the kind that’s on MTV. 16 and Pregnant? I’m in. Jersey Shore? Say less! But no other reality show can compare to Catfish. The bromance between the handsome Nev and the absolutely gorgeous Max warms my heart. I love Nev’s eternal optimism — in spite of the tens of cases he’s seen where, no, the catfish is not the model in the Facebook photos but, in fact, the victim’s stalker/cousin/scorned ex — and Max’s sober pragmatism. It’s a perfect balance. Ever the Capricorn, Max’s eyes always give away his opinion, if he doesn’t outright state it himself. Swoon. I even love the show’s staple travel montages, which feature the duo’s airport antics and the inevitable clip of Nev grinning with a horseshoe pillow around his neck. But nothing, nothing rivals the drama of the confrontations, where Nev, Max, and the victim demand answers from the catfish. What kind of horrible secret would drive one to set up a fake social media profile using a stranger’s photographs? Is it bad hair and low self-esteem? Almost certainly! Except for that one time a woman pretended to be Bow Wow and sent her victim $10,000 to maintain the ruse. That was just method acting. Not even Christian Bale could so completely commit to a role. Of course, I know that Catfish doesn’t exactly qualify as artful television, but there is something so satisfying about the show’s formula. Each episode is essentially the same — Nev and Max are asked for help, they travel to meet the victim, they “investigate” the catfish, and then they confront the catfish, making sure to explain why catfishing is immoral. The show manages to squeeze in the three things I love most in my reality television: exposing liars, oodles of secrets, and condemnations of social media. What more could I possibly ask for?
There is truly nothing good to say about this show, but I have seen it three times from start to finish. The characters are not relatable (I spent my high school years studying and eating cookies with my friends, while the 90210 kids threw parties worth thousands of dollars), all the actors over-act, and there are an unforgiving number of plot holes through the show. Then why do I keep coming back to it? Like Hayley and Grey’s Anatomy, I can’t seem to keep myself away from Beverly Hill’s eye candies. The 90210 reboot also features some fun guest appearances, such as the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. While her scene is incredibly short, she comes in HOT in the pilot episode with a blow job! But most importantly, it’s a show I can watch mindlessly and leave in the background as white noise. It helped me get through finals week my sophomore year at Penn.
Star Wars: Clone Wars
Nope, not the same show that everyone’s familiar with: I couldn’t call that one a guilty pleasure at all. I’m talking about its predecessor from 2003 (the titles are frustratingly distinguishable only by the appearance of “the” in the better show). While the other, better show had complex storytelling and drama, this one was so much more fun to watch. All the Jedi are super overpowered here, so much that the events of the next prequel movie would make no sense if this show were to be taken seriously. The script is ever poorly written, with lines like “JEDI! You are surrounded!” and “I like you in the dark.” Also, there’s one scene where Anakin goes into Super Dark Mode about a movie too early. It’s too abrupt to work, but (apart from it being entertaining as hell), we never really saw any buildup at all from the 2008 show. Sadly, Clone Wars was a micro-series that aired in commercial spaces, so the whole show is just over two hours long.
Chewing Gum has to be one of my top three guilty pleasures. The show is awkward, inappropriate and sometimes has the driest humor - but I love it. The show is also really difficult to show other people. I tried to introduce it to two of my closest friends, but while the show played they exchanged uncomfortable looks whenever my back was turned and offered forced laughs when I looked around. The first episode revolves around Tracey Gordon, a 24 year old dying to be rid of her virginity, vigorously trying to seduce her very conservative boyfriend - who is later revealed to have a weird fetish that I will not discuss here. Nevertheless, the show makes me laugh, and is absolutely binge-worthy. If you're willing to endure cringing at times, check it out.