As Charged - Top 10 TV Guilty Pleasures of 2008

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.

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: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: Airtime: Mondays, 10pm ET

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List number: 10

CSI: Miami


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: 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: MPAA rating: N/A Airtime: Sundays, 11:45 pm ET

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List number: 8


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: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: Airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm ET

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List number: 7


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


TV Show: Wipeout US release date: 2008-06-24 Network: ABC Cast: John Anderson, John Henson, Jill Wagner Image: Website: MPAA rating: N/A

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List number: 6



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: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: Airtime: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9pm

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List number: 5

So You Think You Can Dance


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: MPAA rating: N/A Airtime: Mondays, 8pm ET

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List number: 4

Prison Break


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: Website: MPAA rating: N/A

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List number: 3

Flipping Out


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: Website: MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET

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List number: 2

True Blood


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: Website: MPAA rating: N/A

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List number: 1

The Hills


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

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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