MEDIAWATCHER: Guilty pleasures live up to their name

2014-03-05T00:00:00Z 2014-03-12T23:00:16Z MEDIAWATCHER: Guilty pleasures live up to their nameBy Kathy MacNeil
March 05, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Last week, I was entertaining a group of friends at my home, and one of them asked to see a snippet of a show we were discussing that happened to be recorded on my DVR. When I turned on the TV and accessed the menu of my recorded shows, one of them exclaimed conspiratorially, “Ooh, let’s see what she watches!” and I found myself becoming flustered as I raced to exit the screen containing my list.

In retrospect, I had nothing too serious to hide—no episodes of “The Bachelor,” “Big Brother” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” were lurking there alongside the more universally accepted “Parks and Recreation” and “Parenthood” entries. (And since “Access Hollywood” is essentially a continuation of the local news, that makes it serious journalism, right?) But still, I felt open to judgment.

Sure, there are lots of trends we can hide behind these days (“hate-watching” is the new “not-watching,” and “binge-watching” is…well, just new), but the type of program that has really stood the test of time is the notorious “Guilty Pleasure,” a catch-all description for a show that we know we shouldn’t watch because it’s either too uncool, racy, mainstream, violent, old-fashioned, poorly written/acted, derivative, or just plain bad. In other words, we just can’t seem to get enough of it.

Wacky guilty pleasure shows may go back to such gems as “Gilligan’s Island,” 1970’s Friday night double billing of “The Brady Bunch”/“The Partridge Family” and the back-to-back late ’70s Saturday night delights of “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.” I spent a large portion of the ’80s watching “Dynasty” and “Dallas,” and I was keeping up with the long-suffering casts of “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives” long before anyone considered keeping up with the Kardashians.

Like many, many, many people, I went through an embarrassing singing competition phase as well. It started innocently enough with the mother of them all, “American Idol,” peaking during the epic Kris Allen/Adam Lambert Season 8 showdown (full disclosure: I may or may not have actually spent a couple hours voting after the finale…and my guy lost).

Of course, “American Idol” turned out to be a gateway to even more singing competitions, and before I knew it, I was mixed up with the hard stuff: “The Voice,” “The X-Factor,” and even the occasional episode of “The Sing-Off.” I knew it was time to get help after I watched the entire abysmal second season of “The X-Factor” because I wanted to see if newly minted judge Britney Spears could provide the star-struck contestants with any insightful advice (spoiler alert: she couldn’t). I will never get back those hours of my life.

So—emboldened by the helpful disdain of my young-adult children—I managed to quit the singing shows cold turkey. No more “Idol,” “Voice,” or “X-Factor.” As with any addiction, I had to avoid enablers, which mainly consisted of the morning-after “water cooler” performance dissections with colleagues.

I felt liberated, and stayed clean for what seemed like an eternity… although as I look back now to count the number of seasons of “American Idol” that I missed, it comes to a grand total of…one (Season 12). Which brings me to my confession: I fell off the wagon a couple of weeks ago.

I am a big fan of Harry Connick Jr., and have followed his music, film and television career for years, so when I heard that he was going to be the new judge on “Idol,” I was intrigued. It started innocently, as so many relapses do: I was alone, bored, and flipping through the TV listings when I noticed that “Idol” was premiering. Wanting to sneak a quick peek at HCJ’s judging style, I tuned in, and just like that…I was hooked again.

But in my defense, it turns out that I’m not alone. Entertainment news stories have been rife with such superlatives as “Six Reasons Harry Connick Jr. Will Save American Idol” and “Harry Connick Jr. Steals ‘American Idol’ Spotlight.” In short, HCJ is hilarious, has a great connection with the contestants, crew and other judges, is honest to a fault (earning his nicknames “Harsh Harry” and “Hatchet Harry”), and exhibits an impressive technical musical proficiency. Overall, the new season boasts sharper editing and fewer sob stories in the audition phase, which bodes well for the performance shows.

So I’m all in, watching this season of “Idol” with enthusiasm again. Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m pretty sure I can still manage to avoid “The Voice” and “The X-Factor.”

Just don’t ever ask me to give up “My 600-Pound Life” or “Say Yes to the Dress.” I’m only human, after all.

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