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Cast: John Anderson, John Henson, Jill Wagner




Wipeout barreled into its third season as an ABC summer staple. It’s such a fixture now that the network aired it twice a week all summer long. That familiarity hasn’t diminished the show’s guilty pleasures at all. Lots of folks just don’t get it, but there’s something about watching a mixture of skilled and hapless contestants attempt to get through obstacle courses that are simultaneously ridiculous and difficult. We may laugh at the wipeouts, but there’s a thrill in the triumphs, too. It’s impressive when someone manages to get across the big balls without falling. And Wipeout‘s producers are dedicated to keeping viewers (and contestants) on their toes, updating the courses each season with plenty of new obstacles. Wipeout is TV’s guilty pleasure that keeps on giving. Chris Conaton



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American Idol

Cast: Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Ellen DeGeneres


Review [21.Jan.2008]
Review [31.May.2005]
Review [1.Jan.1995]


American Idol

Fans decried the ninth season’s Top 24 as the weakest Idol gang ever, a critique that proved even more troubling when voters jettisoned some of the show’s most promising singers (Lilly Scott, Katelyn Epperly) in early episodes in favor of the likes of Yoda-faced Aaron Kelly and planet-sized Michael Lynche, who overstayed their welcome for weeks. At the end of it all was the crowning of Lee DeWyze, one of the biggest shrugs in Idol history. Afterwards, DeWyze immediately went into the Witness Protection Program. The real story, though, were the judges, as the panel swelled to four, among them an unmusical comedienne who ran out of jokes after two episodes. It was a judge-panel chemistry so abysmal that only one of them remains for next season, and even Simon’s big send-off was emotionally frigid. Yet, dammit to hell, we still couldn’t resist, remaining glued to every Siobhan Magnus-opus and Crystal Bowersox-rocking. And if any interest waned, do you think we’re not tuning in for the Steven Tyler era?  Dream on. Steve Leftridge



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16 and Pregnant

Cast: Various



16 and Pregnant

MTV’s docu-drama 16 and Pregnant evokes the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures: schadenfreude. “No matter what troubles I’ve gotten to in my lifetime,” the viewer may think, “at least I didn’t get pregnant when I was 16”. And, as callous as that may seem, it’s exactly the mission of the series. 16 and Pregnant doesn’t glamorize pregnancy and teen motherhood. Instead, it lays bare a thoroughly un-romanticized reality, full of painful labors, strained and broken relationships, the tedium and expense of raising children, and unrealized potentials and goals. Sure, the series regulars may become tabloid celebrities, but, given the choice, I’m sure that not many 16 and Pregnant fans would want to swap lives with one of its stars. Marisa LaScala



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Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives

Cast: Guy Fieri

(Food Network)


Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
Food Network

There’s nowhere else in the multichannel universe that a viewer can find visceral gratification more quickly than the Food Network, and none of its shows hits the common gourmand’s sweet spot quite like Diners, Drive-In and Dives. If one can overcome grotesque host Guy Fieri (he of the spiked hair, the asshole shirts, and the disconcerting habit of resting his unused shades on the back of his neck), one is rewarded with a whirlwind tour of All-American cuisine in all its repellent attractiveness. Stopping in at two or three down-home dives per episode, Fieri profiles the joints that have made the American epicurean landscape into an impassable range of carbohydrate peaks. The food is undoubtedly bad for you, but for a fleeting second, it just seems so good, and isn’t that the very definition of a guilty pleasure? Ross Langager



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The Vampire Diaries

Cast: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Steven R. McQueen, Sara Canning, Katerina Graham, Candice Accola

(The CW)


The Vampire Diaries
The CW

Loosely based on a series of L.J. Smith young adult novels penned a good decade before Twilight was a “sparkly” drop of blood in Stephanie Meyers’ eye, The Vampire Diaries’ writing team of Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson (of Dawson’s Creek fame) one-upped the books, adding new characters and plot twists to the pre-existing mythos.  Set in Mystic Falls, VA—a fictional town populated with vampires, werewolves and witches; each involved in their own often-overlapping and oddly compelling love triangles—the show features the right amount of sex appeal and impressive depth and character development from an ensemble cast of young actors who have rapidly improved in the span of less than a season.  Ian Somerhalder alone makes the show worth watching for his addictive portrayal of anti-hero Damon Salvatore. He alternates between waggling his eyebrows in a display of unabashed camp and reveling in his vampiric villainy, then makes you empathize for him as he pines over Elena (Nina Dobrev), the human girlfriend of his estranged brother Stefan (Paul Wesley). Screw True Blood. The Vampire Diaries is the true successor to Buffy. Lana Cooper

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