As Charged - Top 10 TV Guilty Pleasures of 2008

by PopMatters Staff

11 January 2009

If television is indeed a vast cultural and artistic wasteland, then the 10 examples of culpable amusement selected by our staff must represent something significant -- or perhaps we're just way too addicted to the old boob tube.

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MiamiSeason Seven Premiere
Cast: David Caruso, Emily Proctor, Adam Rodriguez, Jonathan Togo, Rex Lin, Eva La Rue, Elizabeth Berkley
Regular airtime: Mondays, 10pm ET

US: 22 Sep 2008


CSI: Miami CBS

There is nothing else I love more on the television than the first five minutes of each episode of CSI: Miami, by which I mean that I love the notoriously stilted and hammy acting stylings of David Caruso as head CSI Horatio Cane. Watching him stride in slow motion to a gruesome crime scene, assess the situation with supreme condescension, stare off steely-eyed into the distance with absolute moral certitude, address his colleagues at a 45 degree angle, deliver a groan-inducingly pun-filled pithy one-liner after an obvious setup assist by said colleagues and a measured pregnant pause, and then punctuate the whole affair with the deliberate donning of his trademark sunglasses, and then quickly walking off camera. This all followed by the yowl of Roger Daltrey as the opening credits roll. It is one of the supreme joys of all of television, and one I’m not alone in sharing. Jake Meaney

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America’s Next Top Model

Director: Ken Mok and Tyra Banks
Creator: Tyra Banks
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm ET



America’s Next Top Model The CW

It’s hard to believe that Tyra Banks has managed to pull off 11 seasons, excuse me, cycles, of a reality series focused on modeling. Yet it remains as addictive as ever. Banks is one of the key reasons to continue to tuning in. Over the years she has become more and more narcissistic and self-important. Her advice is usually one of the highlights of the show, as it usually entails a story from Tyra’s own life.  Always hilarious and often crazy, America’s Next Top Model uses its formula to perfection in making modeling this fun to watch. Jessica Suarez

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Cast: Tommy Blacha, Mark Hamill, Laraine Newman, Brendon Small
Regular airtime: Sundays, 11:45 pm ET

(Cartoon Network)
US: 6 Aug 2006

Review [16.Aug.2006]


Metalocalypse Cartoon Network/Adult Swim

Spinal Tap proved that heavy metal was a subject ripe for parody - self or otherwise. This amazing Adult Swim series (part of Cartoon Network’s nightly programming), uses the musical genre as the backdrop for the adventures of gloom and doom cockrockers Dethklok. It is by far the smartest, most insightful statement concerning the music business ever conceived. Toss in the mysterious cabal out to stop the band, a selection of songs that turns the power of parody on its pointed little head, and a style that’s best described as The Evil Dead meets anime and you’ve got a remarkable example of satiric sturm und drang. Bill Gibron

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Series Premiere
Cast: Shenae Grimes, Tristan Wilds, AnnaLynne McCord, Dustin Milligan, Rob Estes, Jessica Walter
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm ET

(The CW)
US: 2 Sep 2008

Review [31.Mar.2009]


90210 The CW

I was prepared for the new 90210 to be laughably horrible and unwatchable. Unsurprisingly, the series is marred by overblown acting and outlandishly soapy storylines, yet despite these negatives (or more likely, because of them) the series is undeniably fun. Whether following Walsh rip-offs, the Wilsons, Annie and Dixon, as they try to reconcile their Kansas roots with their new flashy Beverly Hills life or drug-addled Adrianna’s battle with rehab or Naomi’s awesomely histrionic portrayal of the school’s resident mean girl, it’s impossible to not keep returning each week to see what new drama will outdo all the others. Jessica Suarez

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Cast: John Anderson, John Henson, Jill Wagner

US: 24 Jun 2008


Wipeout ABC

Who knew that a goofy action game show would become the summer’s biggest hit? I’m sure ABC’s Wipeout is dirt-cheap to produce, but it provides some of the biggest laughs and excitement on television. The setup is strikingly similar to Spike TV’s old MXC, except that it’s fully American instead of a goofily dubbed Japanese import. Ordinary people attempt to navigate their way through a four stage obstacle course for the relatively minor grand prize of $50,000. Along the way, they inevitably screw up and fall into the mud, or bounce off of the “big balls” and into the water, or miss a jump and smash themselves into a rotating platform. There’s a lot of falling down here, and hosts John Henson, John Anderson, and Jill Wagner are there to mercilessly make fun of all of the competitors. Chris Conaton

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So You Think You Can Dance

Cast: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Dan Karaty, Shane Sparks, Cat Deeley
Regular airtime: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9pm


Review [26.May.2008]
Review [10.Aug.2006]


So You Think You Can Dance Fox

One of the most important things that sets So You Think You Can Dance apart from other performance-oriented competitive reality shows is that the contestants are given actual constructive critiques by the judges. Unlike, say, American Idol, where every judge’s response is a variation on the same comment, SYTYCD offers aspiring dancers real advice and honest opinion. The series also benefits from the wonderfully diverse group of guest choreographers and dancers versed in styles as varied as ballroom, hip-hop, modern, etc. Essentially, SYTYCD succeeds in bringing dance to a wider audience with real performance and genuine talent, rather than celebrities trying to recapture their fame. Jessica Suarez

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Prison Break

Cast: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Amaury Nolasco, Sarah Wayne Callies, Rockmond Dunbar, Robert Knepper, Muse Watson, Wade Williams, Robin Tunney
Regular airtime: Mondays, 8pm ET


Review [1.Sep.2008]
Review [17.Sep.2007]
Review [11.Sep.2006]
Review [3.Apr.2006]
Review [12.Sep.2005]


Prison Break Fox

Prison Break started off ridiculous and passed into ludicrous territory somewhere around the end of season two, when most of the cast ended up in a different prison deep in Panama. At that point, you could either go with it or give up on the show. I chose to go with it and stop worrying about how silly the overarching plot became, because the show consistently delivers some of the best action and tension on TV. And that has continued in the show’s fourth and presumably final season. You never know which direction the story is going to go, because it long ago went off the deep end. No character is safe beyond the main brothers Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll make it through the end of the series, either. It’s that uncertainty that gives the show its pop and makes it so thoroughly entertaining. Chris Conaton

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Flipping Out

Cast: Jeff Lewis, Jenni Pulos, Ryan Brown

US: 31 Jul 2007


Flipping Out Bravo

Like many of Bravo’s successful reality series, Flipping Out focuses on a completely over-the-top personality, one who goes a long way toward creating a completely ridiculous and often bizarre television show. Jeff Lewis is an obsessive compulsive house flipper surrounded by a motley staff of mostly incompetent assistants. The dramas surrounding all of their lives are heightened by Lewis’ ridiculous demands and impossible standards. Insanely addictive, Flipping Out always delivers with absurdly hilarious moments between Lewis and his staff and the frequent crises that seem to be perpetually looming over all his business deals. Jessica Suarez

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True Blood

Series Premiere
Cast: Anna Paquin, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Michael Raymond-James
Regular airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET

US: 7 Sep 2008

Review [14.Jun.2009]
Review [7.Sep.2008]


True Blood HBO

True Blood started off as a way to cure my post-Entourage depression. In denial my favorite half-hour on the couch had come to an end, True Blood worked its way into my subconscious. Vampires and southern stereotypes took hold of me while I was gullible and up for the taking. Soon I was craving pastiche special effects and a hilarious, yet overly ambitious plot about the coinciding of the general public and vampires into that society. Take the civil rights movement—insert vampires. You pretty much get the premise in a nutshell. John Bohannon

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The Hills

Cast: Lauren Conrad, Audrina Partridge, Heidi Montag, Whitney Port, Spencer Pratt

US: 31 May 2006

Review [1.Jan.1995]


The Hills MTV

The Hills is a reality show that bears not a whiff of reality. We watch the moony-eyed Lauren Conrad slaving at her entry-level fashion job, only to read in tabloids that she already has her own clothing line. Not to mention the show’s seemingly number-one rule—never, ever mention the show (sort of like Fight Club)—even though it’s often the only common element between the players. All of this artificiality creates something that splits the difference between reality and fiction: a more relatable, attainable fantasy world. And, shot more gorgeously than other reality shows, it’s a more glamorous one, too. Marisa LaScala

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