The Guilty Pleasure TV Shows of 2011

Anthropomorphized food... insane soap opera creeepshows... and at least one example of the 'Unhappy Englander" on holiday. Must be time for the guiltiest of TV fare.

TV Show: Aqua Unit Patrol Squad

Network: Cartoon Network

Cast: Dana Snyder, Carey Means, Dave Willis, Matt Maiellaro, George Lowe


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Display Width: 200Aqua Unit Patrol Squad
Cartoon Network

Aqua Teen Hunger Force always defied and redefined expectations. Along with South Park and the seminal Simpsons, it stood as one of television's best and brightest experiments in anarchic animation. The premise originally was to spoof Saturday morning cartoons from the '60s and '70s, shows where unusual objects (cars, monsters, cavemen) acting like detectives, solving mysteries and righting wrongs. Quickly dispensing with such a limiting foundation, creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis decided to expand and pervert the Aqua Teen's universe. Now, they've even changed the name, not that much else has been altered. We still get the classic characters doing their subversive, surreal bit. But with the beefed up moniker, many hoped for something more... serious? Thankfully, it remains the silliest show on TV. Bill Gibron

TV Show: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Network: Food Network

Cast: Guy Fieri


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Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
Food Network

When someone says the words "food porn," they are more than likely referring to a show like this. Host Guy Fieri, he of the spiky dyed white do and Jimmy Buffet meets beer barrelled polecat persona, travels around the US looking for the best, most gluttonous food one can purchase on the fly. Avoiding most fancy restaurants for what he calls "funky joints," the results offer up mouthwatering (and waste expanding) examples of America's love affair with early onset diabetes. Everything looks so good, so appetizing, and so artery clogging that a single sampling isn't enough. Food Network obvious knows this. Along with the various Housewives of differing urban locales, Fieri is a daily fixture on flatscreen across this great land of ours. Bill Gibron

TV Show: Outsourced

Network: NBC

Cast: Ben Rappaport, Rizwan Manji, Sacha Dhawan, Rebecca Hazlewood, Parvesh Cheena, Anisha Nagarajan, Diedrich Bader


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In September 2010, NBC’s “More Colorful” advertising slogan caused a stir in the sense that the network seemed to be both admitting its prior lack of diversity and none too subtly trumpeting their small correction of course with shows such as Undercovers and Outsourced. Both shows have been canceled after one season, and it’s a shame they were framed by the debate surrounding the motives of NBC. Outsourced, in particular, could be called a guilty pleasure because its first season used ethnic jokes as a way of expressing the clash of cultures between outsourced Midwestern manager Todd (Ben Rappaport) and his call center employees in Mumbai. Yet that early establishment of the cultural divide was merely the gateway to a season full of heartening (if often bawdy) lessons in the ambitions, passions and pitfalls that bridge us all, regardless of background. The supporting cast including Parvesh Cheena, Rizwan Manji, Anisha Nagarajan, and Diedrich Bader consistently stole the show from its leads, and their characters almost certainly would have grown in depth and humor had the show been given a second season. Thomas Britt

TV Show: Holmes Inspection

Network: HGTV

Cast: Mike Holmes

Damon Bennett


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Holmes Inspection

Mike Holmes was an unobtrusive Canadian building contractor on a personal (and professional) mission. Wanting to address the wrongs in his industry, he agreed to a TV series where he would investigate bad workmanship and, as he loves to put it, "Make It Right." Now, nearly a decade into his career as a major media darling, the defiant construction king has taken on a new challenge -- the bad home inspector. Coming in to save families who've been fooled/foiled by idiots within the occupation, he discovers faults and flaws that would make any new homeowner blush. With his crack team, he tears down and rebuilds -- and in the process, proves that not every renovation has to be a question of unpainted walls and cracked tiles. Sometimes, someone does it correctly... that is, as long as Mike Holmes is giving his guarantee. Bill Gibron

TV Show: Burn Notice

Network: USA

Cast: Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, Coby Bell


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Burn Notice

It’s sad that it’s come to this. For its first three seasons or so, Burn Notice was a plain old pleasure. It was a fun action show with a great hook, as burned spy Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) tried to clear his name while helping out ordinary people. But now, five seasons in, the series is showing its age. The weekly plots aren’t nearly as breezy as they used to be, and it’s getting harder and harder to care about Michael’s quest to rejoin the CIA. Still, this year was enough of a rebound from the lackluster season four to at least make the show watchable again. Reducing the role of fourth wheel Jesse (Coby Bell) made him a more likable character, and finally putting Michael and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) together as a couple ended their annoying will they-won’t they subplot. It was also a good decision to have Michael finally get to the bottom of the conspiracy, only to run afoul of the for-real, honest-to-God (we think) man who was behind it all, played by the unsettling Jere Burns. Still, even this season’s improvement wasn’t enough to really recapture the fun and excitement of the show’s early years. Chris Conaton

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