Strange that we have to cubbyhole some TV shows into the 'guilty pleasures' category. Shortland Street is what some describe as their GP, but half a million others are daily abusers of that contraband, so unless you're watching it sky high on P, while drawing swastika's on a bible, or putting the finishing touches to your hand sewn "Free Rolf" t-shirt range, then you really have nothing to be guilty about do you? It's a stupid idea, so naturally, it's one I run with myself.
To qualify the show has to be one that some people in your life will roll their eyes at or make unhelpful statements such as "reality TV crap" or "how the hell do you find the time to watch that shite?" Others will claim that they don't usually watch such a show but they were "just changing the channels", or at their parents house, or involved in a BDSM scenario and their mistress made them watch it. More fanciful liars used to invoke alien abductions but such claims have sadly dwindled in recent years, now that even school kids have a solid grasp of the distances involved in such an enterprise.
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The excuses for watching TV may not be as inventive as those heard by emergency departments when faced with a life coach with food processor up his bum, but the need to make them fascinates me. "God, Mike Hosking annoys me, not that I watch him" is one of those things you hear, along with, "yeah I know the show, but I never watch it" followed by detailed information than only a lifelong addict to The Bachelor would know.
Being addicted to a soap based on a street, say a Shortland or a Coronation, is a special thing, and these people come to learn to lie about the extent of their pleasure taking. It's often the televisual equivalent to smoking a pack a day, while claiming that you have one occasionally at a party.
Likewise "I never watch Border Patrol" is often followed by a detailed description of a Chinese man who tried to smuggle mincemeat in his undies or a parrot inside his mum. A Masterchef denier is often capable of the creating the meanest Croquembouche, or at least knowing what one is.
There are of course universally admired shows that transcend the GP label. "Yes I am watching Broadchurch" is said freely, though it may now be updated with the new coda "even though it's a bit soapy". As if there's anything wrong with being 'soapy'.
Anthony Starr wasn't the best thing about our favourite soap, Outrageous Fortune, but he was two of the best things. His Hollywood prize, Banshee, which has just begun a run on Soho, feels more like a guilty pleasure than most. Now in its third season, it's a successful one too. It's a graphic novel of a show with an adolescent sensibility. Puerile and violent as it is, and that would be best described as monumentally puerile and violent, it also somehow works. Starr is a big part of this concoction and his vulnerability is a magic ingredient. His use of the sideways sad eyed glance is among the best in the business. The soft porn is also of the highest quality and clearly aimed at pleasing both men and women, though could be tricky if you want to watch it with your mum and dad. The madness of the slaughter is tempered by the blackness of the comedy, and above all else, Banshee is tremendously funny.
Another kiwi has also become the star of another guilty pleasure I endured over the summer months. I say endured because I watched as part of the trade negotiations one enters into when watching with a partner, if I was one my own I may have taken in an episode but it would not have made the series link. Project Runway was a weekly treat. "American shit" as a friend of mine oft says of this type of show as if Seinfeld or The Wire came from Palmerston North. Former Hawera High School student Sean Kelly went on to win the series and even managed to accidently slag off New Zealand in the process. Good on him. He only implied that we are a hick town in the middle of nowhere, which is true enough. The fact that the show was on Vibe only adds to its GP credentials. Al Jazeera viewers on the other hand, don't consider themselves to be shallow time wasters.
Perhaps the guilt part of the guilty pleasure equation comes from the knowledge that watching most TV is a form of failing at life. Masturbating by comparison seems productive. "Where do you get the time?" I am often asked, which I translate as, "you are a loser and you are wasting your life".
This hurts, mainly because it's also true. I could probably formulate a stunning argument to shut the naggers up for good, maybe make a cutting remark about their obsessive Facebook habits etc, but I'm too tired, I've been up half the night watching tennis.
Set the recorder for these guilty pleasures:
• Tuesday Jan 27: Fat Tony & Co. 9.35pm (TV1) Crime cheese.
• Wednesday Jan 28: Salem. 8.30pm (The Zone) Witchy nonsense.
• Thursday Jan 29: Downton Abbey Xmas Special. 8.30pm (Prime) Bad butler.
• Friday Jan 30: Rambo 3. 8.30pm (Four) Soviet silliness.