The Best Guilty Pleasure TV of 2012

by PopMatters Staff

13 January 2013


5 - 1

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Cast: Madeleine Stowe, Emily VanCamp, Gabriel Mann, Henry Czerny, Ashley Madekwe, Nick Wechsler, Josh Bowman, Connor Paolo, Christa B. Allen, Barry Sloane




On the surface of it, I thought I would hate this show. Yet another show about ridicululously privileged white people that we’re supposed to care about called something as “hokey” as Revenge and set in the Hamptons. I thought, “wow, Hollywood is kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel here.” And yeah, it is all of that to be sure, but then I gave it a chance and discovered that it’s as deliciously guilty of a soap opera as the good old ‘80s indulgence that was Dallas. You won’t get a Mensa invitation for watching the trevails of Emily Thorne and the Grayson family, but you’ll be glued to the twists and turns and delightful pure soapiness of this Sunday drama. “Revenge” is indeed the theme and it suffuses every aspect of the show, not just Thorne’s vendetta against the Graysons, but in all the family interactions and even the activities of townies like the Porter brothers and tech billionaire, Nolan Ross. You know you might be killing off a few brain cells here, but it’s too irresistable to care as you vicariously play out your own revenge fantasies through these characters.
Sarah Zupko


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Cast: Sutton Foster, Kaitlyn Jenkins, Julia Goldani Telles, Bailey Buntain, Emma Dumont, Kelly Bishop

(ABC Family)


ABC Family

Fans of Gilmore Girls had waited a long time for creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s next tv show (the short-lived Return of Jezebel James apparently did not count). They finally got it in the form of ABC Family’s Bunheads, a show about a dance studio in tiny Paradise, California. ABC Family tried hard to convince its target demographic that the series focused on four teen dancers at the studio, but the show was really about Michelle (Sutton Foster), the Vegas showgirl who moved to Paradise in the pilot and immediately started clashing with dance studio owner Fanny (Kelly Bishop). The show’s premise and network home are probably enough to qualify Bunheads as a guilty pleasure, but the truly maddening thing about the series was its inconsistency.

On the one hand, Sherman-Palladino found the perfect delivery system for her sharp, sarcastic dialogue in Foster, a Broadway vet making her television debut. On the other hand, the writers often tried to use that dialogue as a smokescreen to mask truly ludicrous plot developments and a lack of attention to detail. In one episode, we were supposed to buy that Michelle, a professional dancer used to performing multiple shows a day, would be completely exhausted from having to walk a mile. In another, the show wanted us to be happy that the town elders managed to shut down a Wal*Mart-style store days before it opened. Small town beats big corporation, yay! Except, presumably dozens of people lost jobs and now Paradise has an empty, concrete big box monstrosity just sitting in town. This sort of plotting laziness was a regular occurrence on Bunheads and held the show back from reaching its potential. Chris Conaton


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The Burn with Jeffrey Ross

Cast: Jeffrey Ross

(Comedy Central)


The Burn with Jeffrey Ross
Comedy Central

As a format, the roast seems to have gone the way of the men’s athletic club and the smoker. But thanks to Ross, the current toastmaster of the famed Friar’s Club, the abusive sendoff has found a new home. Skewing those who make the most ludicrous and loud headlines (read: Kardashians and others on the A minus through D list), the comedian and his invited compatriots offer the kind of insult bliss that would make Don Rickles writhe with glee. They even do the unheard of - taking on the audience. No matter one’s race, color, creed, condition, or consciousness, Ross rules the day. This is the real politically incorrect. Bill Gibron


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My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Cast: Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, Cathy Weseluck, Nicole Oliver

(The Hub)


My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
The Hub

While shows like South Park and Adult Swim have proven that cartoons aren’t just for kids, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a show meant for children that can be enjoyed just as much by adults. Updated for the new millennium, the current incarnation of the ‘80s cartoon / merchandising shill-staple brims with beautiful animation and dialogue that winks at viewers over the age of 18. (Name another kid’s show that lampoons fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld in pony form.) Legions of 20-something male fans of the show who call themselves “bronies” are just one faction of adults enamored with the kicky musical numbers sung by Technicolor talking ponies. While sugary sweet, there’s something reassuring about the life lessons imparted by the residents of Ponyville, reminding us of the little things we may have forgotten along the way as “adults.” Lana Cooper


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Cast: Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, Joe Bastianich




The concept behind this entry in the Gordon Ramsay TV empire is another riff on his overall TV theme of looking for diamonds in the rough to elevate to chef status. The twist here is that none of the contestants are currently working in a professional kitchen in any capacity. These are the home cooks, the foodies moved by sheer passion to learn and explore their creativity on their own. And some of them are scary good, giving the bonafide professionals a run for their money. Take season three’s winner Christine, a blind academic from Houston, with a palette so refined that she made a perfect apple pie completely from scratch that not only tasted amazing, but looked stunning. Ramsay was flabbergasted with the results of that competition and so were viewers. The show has always been a fun one with Graham Elliot’s upbeat encouragement of the home cooks, Ramsay’s perfect critiques and even Joe Bastianich’s grumpy digs. But this season rose to the top of the pile as we were glued to our screens all season to see if a genius blind chef—yes, she deserves the title—could rise past every challenge to claim the crown. And in the perfect ending that we so desired, she did.
Sarah Zupko

//Mixed media