As Charged – Top 10 TV Guilty Pleasures of 2008

TV Show: CSI
Subtitle: MiamiSeason Seven Premiere
US release date: 2008-09-22
Network: CBS
Cast: David Caruso, Emily Proctor, Adam Rodriguez, Jonathan Togo, Rex Lin, Eva La Rue, Elizabeth Berkley
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/c/csi-miami.jpg
Website: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/csi_miami/
MPAA rating: N/A
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puZHMrzw3EQ
Airtime: Mondays, 10pm ET

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List number: 10

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

CSI: Miami

Display Artist: Ken Mok and Tyra Banks
Creator: Ken Mok
Creator: Tyra Banks
TV Show: America’s Next Top Model
Network: UPN
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/a/americas_next_top_model_ver.jpg
MPAA rating: N/A
Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm ET

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List number: 9

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

America’s Next Top Model

TV Show: Metalocalypse
US release date: 2006-08-06
Network: Cartoon Network
Cast: Tommy Blacha, Mark Hamill, Laraine Newman, Brendon Small
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/tv_art/m/metalocalypse1.jpg
MPAA rating: N/A
Airtime: Sundays, 11:45 pm ET

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List number: 8

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 GibronMetalocalypse

TV Show: 90210
Subtitle: Series Premiere
US release date: 2008-09-02
Network: The CW
Cast: Shenae Grimes, Tristan Wilds, AnnaLynne McCord, Dustin Milligan, Rob Estes, Jessica Walter
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/9/90210.jpg
Website: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/90210
MPAA rating: N/A
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU7EjzF1RJk
Airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm ET

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List number: 7

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

90210

TV Show: Wipeout
US release date: 2008-06-24
Network: ABC
Cast: John Anderson, John Henson, Jill Wagner
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/w/wipeout.jpg
Website: http://abc.go.com/primetime/wipeout/index?pn=index
MPAA rating: N/A

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List number: 6

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 ConatonWipeout

TV Show: So You Think You Can Dance
Network: FOX
Cast: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Dan Karaty, Shane Sparks, Cat Deeley
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/s/so_you_think_you_can_dance.jpg
Website: http://fox.com/dance/
MPAA rating: N/A
Trailer: http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2745246
Airtime: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9pm

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List number: 5

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 SuarezSo You Think You Can Dance

TV Show: Prison Break
Network: Fox
Cast: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Amaury Nolasco, Sarah Wayne Callies, Rockmond Dunbar, Robert Knepper, Muse Watson, Wade Williams, Robin Tunney
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/p/prisonbreak_poster.jpg
MPAA rating: N/A
Airtime: Mondays, 8pm ET

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List number: 4

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

Prison Break

TV Show: Flipping Out
US release date: 2007-07-31
Network: Bravo
Cast: Jeff Lewis, Jenni Pulos, Ryan Brown
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/f/flippingout.jpg
Website: http://www.bravotv.com/Flipping_Out/season/2/index.php
MPAA rating: N/A

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List number: 3

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 SuarezFlipping Out

TV Show: True Blood
Subtitle: Series Premiere
US release date: 2008-09-07
Network: HBO
Cast: Anna Paquin, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Michael Raymond-James
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/tv_art/t/truebloodcard.jpg
Website: http://www.hbo.com/trueblood/
MPAA rating: N/A
Trailer: http://mefeedia.com/entry/true-blood-trailer-hbo/10997703
Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET

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List number: 2

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

True Blood

TV Show: The Hills
US release date: 2006-05-31
Network: MTV
Cast: Lauren Conrad, Audrina Partridge, Heidi Montag, Whitney Port, Spencer Pratt
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/t/the_hills.jpg
Website: http://www.mtv.com/ontv/dyn/the_hills/series.jhtml
MPAA rating: N/A

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List number: 1

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 LaScalaThe Hills

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