Embracing Your Guilty Pleasures

Recently I was having dinner with some colleagues and we started talking about TV shows and those “guilty pleasure” shows that we’re embarrassed to admit we watch.  I think we all have at least one show that we think we shouldn’t like, but we do anyway.

I personally don’t watch much TV.  We don’t have cable and unless I’m in a hotel, or in the mood to watch something on Netflix or Hulu, I mostly keep the TV off.  But periodically I get in a mood and just to want lean back on the couch, put my feet up and lose myself in a few hours of mindless TV.  Often I like to revisit old favorites like the Golden Girls, MASH, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or My Name is Earl.  But sometimes, only trash TV will do, and I find myself watching 90 Day Fiance or Dance Moms.

I know, it’s totally embarrassing to admit that.  These are terrible shows. Yet I love them.  At that same dinner when I admitted that I liked 90 Day Fiance someone at the table said, “I can’t believe you watch that.”  I asked what that person liked as a guilty pleasure and they said The Bachelor.  I had the same thought: “I can’t believe people watch that.” Trashy TV tastes are certainly subjective.

But what is it about these shows that draw us in? Maybe it’s because they’re so bad they’re good. Maybe it’s because we look at the train wreck situations on TV and feel better about ourselves. Maybe we just want to lose ourselves in the fantasy world and enjoy some mindless brain candy.

For me, and most people I suspect, TV can be a bit of an escape.  When I do watch TV I rarely watch anything serious and I carefully avoid anything that is at all violent.  I don’t really enjoy a show like CSI  or Breaking Bad, they’re too heavy for me.  I like my escape time to make me laugh, whether it’s because Sofia hit the wall (the wall of Wendy’s) while walking her 5k,  watching Earl figure out how to get in good with karma or watching Buffy save the world from apocalypse — again.

Yet some people are the total opposite – watching the more serious shows is their escape. I recently saw a presentation by an author who writes thrillers filled with murders.  She said that she used to write lighter fare but when she was pregnant she became obsessed with murder.  All of the sudden, every TV show she watched or book she read was about murder. For her, focusing on murders and investigation of murders took her mind off her very real fear of becoming a parent.  Focusing on these worst case scenarios made her feel better. It was a release.

So is it bad?  Like anything, indulging in a little trash TV is fine in moderation.  It’s a nice break.  The fact is we all think we should watch Nova or something educational and serious, just like we all think we should eat salad and lean protein.  But sometimes, you just want to enjoy a big old real cheese gluten-filled pizza, and to laugh at some loser who thought he could bring over a fiance to be his free housecleaning service, but found out she had a mind of her own.  Brain candy, like junk food, is all about balance.

So what’s your guilty pleasure?

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