Shows you should be watching: Guilty pleasures edition
You know the shows. The ones so outlandish and sometimes cringe-worthy. The ones with cheesy, predictable plot lines and characters you love to hate. The ones that suck you in and create an addiction you just can't shake. Binging TV can be a guilty pleasure itself, but adding these shows to your binge list makes for the perfect sick day on the couch, rainy Sunday afternoon or even a Friday night in with pizza. You do you. Times staff writers/binge TV "experts" Chelsea Tatham and Brittany Volk picked out some of their favorites.
Gossip Girl, CW
This show is the quintessential #richpeopleproblems. Its six seasons follow a group of wealthy, upper East Side New York City urbanites who attend exclusive boys and girls high schools, vacation in the Hamptons and have elevators and personal maids in their homes. Some of their biggest problems include picking the right dress for a ritzy party, keeping their blazing hot significant other interested and getting into one of the Ivy League schools (Yale is the only right choice, obvs). Serena is the beautiful, angelic blonde who literally doesn't have to do anything to make others like her. And they hate her for it. Best frenemy Blair is the the classic brunette with some controlling tendencies and a love for black and white movies. Also legendary eye rolls.
Over-the-top characters with ridiculous story lines do ridiculous things, yet manage to stray far enough from the typical shallow, spoiled child persona. Take away the Louis Vuitton purses and Blair's signature headband and you get characters with actual feelings and deep flaws. You may hate Chuck and Blair at first, but they were absolutely perfect for one another.
Bonuses: Chuck's ascots and Dorota.
XOXO, Gossip Girl.
You can stream all six seasons of Gossip Girl on Netflix.
Catfish: The TV Show, MTV
I was trying to avoid listing too many reality shows, but this one was a necessity. Before getting into the adorableness that is Nev and Max, I'll define a catfish: a person who creates fake online profiles to deceive others of his or her true identity. These catfish do it for various reasons: shame, love, revenge, what have you. But dynamic duo Nev and Max constantly receive emails and messages from those desperate to find out who the other person is behind the backlit screen. The show is full of juicy drama and unexpected twists that force you to watch until the bitter end. But give Nev and Max credit, they do some seriously fascinating detective work. If anything, they teach their viewers how to do easy online investigating without looking like a stalker. There are a few happy endings, but most end with both parties sad and embarrassed. Nev and Max's bromance is one for the ages, with Nev as the tall dark and handsome soother and Max as the feisty silver fox. Just think how much better you'll feel about your online dating and social media presence after watching someone blindly fall in love with a picture on a computer screen.
Catfish: The TV Show is available to stream on Hulu.
Some 10 seasons later and the Winchester brothers have yet to run out of demons, spirits and monsters to fight. With more than 200 episodes full of black-eyed demons, monotone angels in trench coats, vengeful spirits and modern folklore, Supernatural is an occult-lovers binge dream. Did I mention the brothers are totally swoon-worthy? Sam and Dean Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, carry on the "family business" and their father's legacy by investigating creepy happenings in small towns and the occasional monster under the bed. The first season is downright scary -- ‘Bloody Mary' anyone? Also ‘Bugs' was my worst nightmare. But now the Winchesters' story has gotten deeper and more complex. The two have been to hell and back (literally), purgatory, heaven and everywhere in between and now have a kinda trustworthy angel on their side, Castiel.
Fighting supernatural beings amidst family drama sounds so serious, but the brothers constantly make jabs and jokes even in the most dire situations. They also make the most adorable faces.
The first nine seasons of Supernatural are available on Netflix.
Brittany: Can I interject here with this video. It is everything.
Anything weird, true and freaky ... or food-related.
I'm a serious sucker for any and all reality shows on TLC and cooking shows. A good reality show will either make you feel so much better about yourself and infinitely worse. The best ones can do both. Bonus points if a show can make you hungry.
My top picks: My Strange Addiction (she's addicted to eating plastic bags. I GOTTA SEE THIS), TLC
Hoarding: Buried Alive (my house suddenly looks amazingly clean), TLC
What Not to Wear (now always afraid of my "taking out the trash" outfit being filmed), TLC
Cupcake Wars (JUDGE ME), Food Network.
Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (also called Diners, Drive-Ins and Mayonnaise by my best friend, Leslie), Food Network.
Also fun: yelling at the ridiculousness that is Ina Garten.
Teen Mom, MTV
In 2009, MTV launched a new reality show, 16 & Pregnant. The first show told the story of Farrah Abraham, a girl from Iowa (!!!), who was 16, pregnant and just lost her baby's daddy, and boyfriend, Derek, in a fatal car accident. As she gave birth to Sophia on camera, she complained about her hair and makeup (and everyone looking down there).
I was hooked. And six years later, I'm still watching Farrah complain about everything, as well as all the other girls who have made questionable choices through the years. Teen Mom is the ultimate guilty pleasure because it's so much fun to judge and gossip about others, amirite??? In the beginning, I loved making fun of each girl trying to win back her baby daddy.
But really, it's horrifying to think about these girls' real lives. Today's reality TV is very open about how unrealistic it is. We all know the power the producers and an editing room. But tragically, the core of the Teen Mom franchise is how that has affected the women and their families. Tabloid headlines exploit the girls' bad decision-making skills that have led to prison stays, failed marriages and drug addiction. This season on Teen Mom (now called Teen Mom OG), the TV crew is part of the show. We watch the producers talk to the cast members, prompting dramatic reactions and fights. At the beginning of this new season, Caitlyn, Maci and Amber were told Farrah was not going to be on the show because of her actions off air (excessive plastic surgery, her take at porn, and just overall awfulness), but in reality TV fashion, the producers brought her back. And the girls were pissed. Maci threatened to leave the show permanently. But by the end of the season, the 23-ish-year-old girls were back to where they've always been: being not-so-great parents struggling with too much of the wrong attention. I'm sad (but intrigued) to think about what's in store for Teen Mom in 10 years: Teen Mom: The Kids. But really, I just love this show because these girls say great things.
Many episodes of the 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom franchise are streaming on Hulu. Teen Mom 2 just started its sixth season on MTV. It airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. Start from the beginning and count how many scenes take place in a nail salon. I'm just curious, because I'm pretty sure all the girls' reality TV money goes to acrylic nails.
If someone was logging all the hours I've spent captivated by crime procedurals, I might have to be arrested. It all started with Law and Order: SVU (1999-forever), which airs reruns on every other channel at all hours of the day. In fact, if you haven't seen an SVU episode, I don't think you're a real human being. I seriously could go on and on about all the great cases; and about Ice-T's "acting," and Mariska Hargitay's amazing ability to never age. But let me talk about Cold Case (2003-2010), a show starring Kathryn Morris and Danny Pino, who is now on SVU. Motivated by insomnia, I watched this show through reruns on TNT airing between 1 and 3 a.m. a few years ago. The gist of this predictable show is each episode a group of Philadelphia cops pick out a box in storage and reopen the case, usually prompted by some new evidence or witness. The show uses poignant music from whatever era of the crime and they ALWAYS catch the killer. (Spoiler: it's usually a family member, and a person they speak to in the beginning of the investigation.) I love catching all the random actors who pop up in the stories: Jennifer Lawrence, Melissa Leo, Nestor Carbonell and Darren Criss to name a few. But my favorite crime drama is CBS's Criminal Minds. This gif encompasses all I love about this show.
Shemar Moore and Matthew Gray Gubler, you guys. Shemar can call me baby girl any time he wants.
But in all seriousness, this show can be horrifying. Most of the crimes are disturbing, especially the ones that go over multiple episodes (a rarity, however.) I haven't kept up with new seasons because I mostly just watch reruns on ION (what even is that?) and A&E. Much like SVU, the cast goes through many revolving doors. Jennifer Love Hewitt joined last season, apparently, but luckily my boys are still on it.
SVU and Criminal Minds are on some channel somewhere playing always, but also available to stream on Netflix. Cold Case airs reruns on ION but is not available anywhere to stream.
True Blood, HBO
This show really tested my ability to love unconditionally. But I'm no quitter and I stayed till the bitter end. This vampire drama comes from TV producer and writer Alan Ball (Six Feet Under), who after reading Harris's first book, decided to turn it into a raunchy hour-long drama on HBO. (It strayed so far from the source material each season, but Charlaine Harris' book series wasn't that great, either.) It stars "no longer a child star" Anna Paquin, "please never sing on TV again" Stephen Moyer and "hunky piece of Swedish man meat" Alexander Skarsgard. Oh, and whole bunch of other people you've probably seen on television. Seriously, this show has so many characters. The show follows Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), a virginal and telepathic waitress, who falls in love with Vampire Bill (Moyer). Vampires have just "come out of the coffin" and are just trying to live an open life among humans aka their food. As Sookie and Bill's romance heats up, vampire Eric (Skarsgard) waltzes into Sookie's heart, thus providing me and many viewers with lots of vampire fantasies.
The first season strictly follows Harris's first book, and coincidentally, is its strongest season. Fair warning, this show is not for the prude (but really, what HBO shows are?). Many other supernatural characters and plotlines emerge as the seasons go on: werewolves and werepanthers, shapeshifters, maenads (yeah, I don't know either), witches, fairies and so on. In fact, man of my sexy dreams Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike XXL) plays werewolf Alcide and produces many satisfying gifs.
But in the end, as all vampire stories go, it's all about who Sookie ends up with. Because a woman choosing to be alone is the truly scary ending.
You can watch all True Blood episodes on Amazon Prime and HBO GO. You might as well read the books, too. They're fun summer reads and go in a completely different direction than the show!
But my favorite vampire show is CW's The Vampire Diaries. I'll be writing a post entirely on my undying love on it later this summer here on the Feed blog.
Brittany's other time wasters
Intervention, A&E: I have a habit of watching this show about addicts getting help from their friends and family late at night. It causes severe insomnia because once you start an episode, you have to watch till the end to see if the addicts get sober.
TLC family shows: TLC just canceled 19 Kids and Counting, and because of all the recent controversy, I don't want to tell you how many hours of this show I have watched. My Duggar knowledge is vast, but not because I love the family. The family has always left a bad taste in my mouth, but reality TV is all about watching something that disgusts you and judging it greatly. But on the other end of that spectrum, I love The Little Couple, about a family of little people in Houston just trying to live a normal life. Fun fact: The couple got married at the Don Cesar on St. Pete Beach.
Unsolved Mysteries, LMN: Many summers of my youth I started my days by watching this redundantly-titled show. It was so fascinating, because by the time I was watching it, all the open cases had been solved. (Except for the ghost and psychic stories, because that's not even real.) In 2008, producers recut the show and and replaced Robert Stack with Dennis Farina. A few months ago, I rediscovered the show on LMN as I was getting ready for work one morning. It airs from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and I always have it on now. Bonus: Matthew McConaughey shows up in one of the reenactments.