The Guilty Pleasure TV of 2009

It's here where you will find those unmentionable entertainments that keep us suckling at the glass teat for much longer than we need to. It’s not for mental nourishment or relaxation. It’s like an addiction, and going cold crappy TV turkey is just not an option.

TV Show: Cougar Town

Network: ABC

Cast: Courteney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Philipps, Brian Van Holt, Dan Byrd, Ian Gomez, Josh Hopkins


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Cougar Town

By all rights, Cougar Town shouldn't work. The premise -- Jules (Courtney Cox), a divorced woman in her early 40s, attempts to date younger men while raising a teenage son and wackiness ensues -- sounds like an awful idea on the face of if. Well, the show is silly, but gleefully, hilariously so, and the cast is great. Cox is willing to do anything for a laugh, and Busy Phillips and Christa Miller play off of each other nicely as Jules' two friends (whom she once referred to as "blonde friend" and "mean friend"). Dan Byrd is perfectly deadpan as son Travis, and Brian Van Holt is a hoot as Jules' dim-bulb ex-husband. Series creator Bill Lawrence seems energized by not having to run Scrubs anymore, and the result is an over-the-top broad comedy that manages to have heart, too. Chris Conaton


TV Show: Snapped!

Network: Oxygen

Cast: Various


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The best performances of the past decade haven't belonged to any of Hollywood's great actors, but to some of the cold-blooded killers of reality series Snapped (cue 911 call: "Oh God! Hurry! Someone (read: I) shot my husband!"). Each episode of Snapped features the story of a woman who has "snapped" and killed someone, usually a husband or lover. The stories are laid out in a manner that quickly makes clear the producer's opinion of the alleged killer -- cold-hearted bitch, sympathetic victim of abuse, gold-digging black widow, and so on. In addition, the series establishes that women are far more creative in planning, executing, and covering-up murders. My favorite story was the woman whose lover lived in her bedroom closet for three months without her husband's knowledge before they killed hubby. You can't get that kind of stuff on fictional TV. Michael Abernethy


TV Show: Sit Down, Shut Up

Network: FOX

Cast: Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Kristin Chenoweth, Will Forte, Tom Kenny, Nick Kroll, Cheri Oteri, Kenan Thompson, Henry Winkler


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Sit Down, Shut Up

As an animated follow-up to Arrested Development, co-created by Mitch Hurwitz and voiced by several key cast members, Sit Down, Shut Up is indeed disappointing, and it’s easy to see why it was banished from Fox’s Sunday animation block onto late night Saturdays to burn off its 13 episodes. But seen simply as a goofy throwaway with rapid-fire jokes (including way too many meta winks) in the vein of so many other Adult Swim cartoons, Sit Down has its deranged charms. If you’re interested in amusingly bad puns, teachers portrayed as unsympathetic dolts, or the lovely tones of Will Forte’s voice, Sit Down has some not-particularly-artful amusements for you. Jesse Hassenger


TV Show: The City

Network: MTV

Cast: Whitney Port, Olivia Palmero, Roxy Olin, Eric Kaplan


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The City

Finally, New York has an awful MTV reality soap to call its own! As a resident of NYC, I’m happy that my frame of reference for the MTV version of my city consists primarily of asking if I’m about to run into cast members whenever I find myself in a particularly douchebaggy section of the meatpacking district. Of course, I’d be a better person if I didn’t know enough to make those jokes at all. More manufactured than even its more successful sister show The Hills, The City follows professional sycophant Whitney as she listens to idiotic advice from her new old friend Roxy, abrasive advice from her attention-hungry sorta-boss Kelly Cutrone, and content-free advice from everyone else. Oh, and there’s some horrible chick called Olivia who used to work with Whitney and now has an infinite number of chances to make it working in the editorial department of Elle magazine despite a demonstrable lack of interest in magazines, editorial departments, or work. Despite its glossy inanity, I watch this show just to make sure that I’m never the stupidest single person in New York. Jesse Hassenger


TV Show: Harper's Island

Network: CBS

Cast: Cast: Elaine Cassidy, Christopher Gorham, Katie Cassidy, Cameron Richardson, C.J. Thomason, Harry Hamlin, Cameron Richardson, Adam Campbell, Victor Webster


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Harper's Island

If you've ever happened upon a soap opera, particularly of the prime-time variety (hello, Melrose Place!) and wished that a serial killer would just show up and murder all of these awful, awful people, then Harper's Island is the show for you. A couple plans to have their wedding on a small island in the Pacific Northwest, but the celebration quickly turns tragic as someone starts killing the guests using a large variety of gruesome methods. The show had its share of problems, such as sloppy writing, unlikable characters, and the decision to wait until episode five before anyone on the island realized that people were dying. But it managed to deliver the goods throughout, offing people in creative ways each week. By the time the series reached its second half, it had found its footing enough so that we actually started to care about the characters. Even though the story is nicely self-contained, the show's end left us wanting to see a second season with all-new characters in an all-new setting. Unfortunately, audiences understandably fled from Harper's Island early on without giving it much of a chance. Chris Conaton


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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

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Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

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"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

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