The greatest guilty pleasure TV shows - and why we watch them

Friday, 25th May 2018, 11:28 am
Updated Saturday, 26th May 2018, 12:36 am

The return of Love Island is almost upon us, and the considerable success of the tacky reality show is a curious phenomenon.

Many would be reluctant to admit they watch it, yet millions keep tuning in.

So we asked the members of our Screen Babble discussion group to name their favourite 'guilty pleasure' TV shows.

The results, accompanied by numerous protestations of "don't judge me!", were revealing to say the least.

The allure of 'Trash TV'

Much as junk food can provide a hollow but fleetingly satisfying fix for even the most sophisticated gastronomic devotee, so too can small screen garbage provide an entertaining change for TV aficionados.

Sometimes, you just need a mindless break from all those European detective dramas. And the 'scantily-clad-fame-seekers-in-exotic-locations' genre is booming.

Jessica Russ is an admitted fan of Ex On The Beach: "Trash TV at it's finest. I can't stop watching it. I also love most of the Real Housewives franchise."

Dance Moms was "way too addictive" according to Diane Geden, while Keely Davison is "ashamed to say" that she used to adore Jersey Shore on MTV. "I was so excited when recently I heard they were filming Jersey Shore The Reunion."

As noted by some, there might be a strange kind of reassurance to be had in these kinds of reality shows.

Jo Mawer Donaldson wonders if watching the "whiny rich kids" of Made In Chelsea "makes me feel better about myself", while Jessica Russ notes that the Real Housewives franchise - also flagged up by other members - conveys the idea that even people with a lot of money still have problems, adding: "Most of the time their problems are worse."

Ironic appreciation

One common thread with TV guilty pleasures is the idea that we can ironically enjoy something. And this can apply to bad dramas as well as reality shows.

Safe, where Michael C Hall's accent - and the general mayhem of the story - had some viewers howling (Credit: Netflix)

Mark Dunford's verdict on new Netflix drama Safe is a case in point: "Badly acted, laughable script, ridiculous plot and a terrible accent from Dexter. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and had to watch it all in one day!"

He and Jessica Russ also point to Grey's Anatomy on this score ("a bit naff - but I haven't missed an episode in 14 seasons").

What a difference a voice makes

One interesting observation is that sarcastic narration on contest and reality shows can make things more ironically enjoyable and entertaining. Mark Dunford notes that Dress to Impress on ITV2 is "great entertainment, mainly thanks to Matt Edmonson's voiceover".

See also Love Island and Come Dine With Me.

Genuine love

For all of that, there are some cheesy shows audiences love unconditionally.

And Karen Dunn believes a show like Friends is the perfect example of something "rather silly", that nonetheless succeeds due to its "gentle humour and lovable characters".

Who could fail to like Chandler? (Photo: Warner Brothers)

"Every now and then harder-hitting storylines gave a glimpse of how good the actors were," she adds.

Mark Dunford ultimately believes that no one should have to be ashamed by their TV viewing choices.

"I honestly don't think there is such a thing as a guilty pleasure. Why should you feel guilty for enjoying something?"

Other TV shows mentioned by the Screen Babblers:

From Riverdale ("absolutely terrible, but so addictive") to Britain's Got Talent ("I'm a sucker for the sob stories and always have a blub") to RuPaul's Drag Race ("flamboyant, bitchy and full of drama") our readers have confessed to many secret indulgences in recent months.

"This is like an AA meeting," as one of them put it.

Here are just some of the other 'guilty pleasures' highlighted:

SuitsSeeking a Sister WifeGrace and FrankieBenidormLegends of TomorrowJudge JudyGolden BallsNaked AttractionEastendersCastleFootballers' WivesThe Rockford FilesWWE ("I'm a mother of boys!")

'¢ What's your favourite guilty TV pleasure? Have your say by joining Screen Babble on Facebook

[Main image: Warner Bros TV, Netflix, Channel 4]