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9:47 p.m. - September 01, 2005
Guilty - As Charged
Everyone likes to think they have good taste in something. Everyone thinks that at some point they watch the right television shows, read the right books, drink the right drinks and listen to the right music.

Well, everyone also has a secret side of things they like that they know isn’t ‘right’. Once in a while you drink Schlitz instead of Sam Adams (and who amongst us has not downed a Schlitz or an Old Style when the situation called for it?).

These are our guilty pleasures. You may not be proud that you enjoy them, but enjoy them you do. You savor each delicious minute of them - sometimes secretly, sometimes with a select group of friends.

And don’t say you don’t have them. You there, who drinks a fine pinot noir, who reads the New Yorker, the Utne Reader, and Commentary, who listens to opera, and watches only the smartest of television, if any television – yes you – we know you have every Laverne and Shirley episode committed to memory – so don’t hide it, buster. Otherwise we’ll send the Big Ragu after you.

I have many guilty pleasures. I should be embarrassed – I know better. But I take great joy in the following items, and no one can browbeat me into not liking them. So here are a few of my guilty pleasures, warts and all.

(Note – I was thinking about my literary guilty pleasures and I couldn’t really think of any. I mainly read non-fiction (baseball, music, history) and people like Hunter S. Thompson so I don’t dip into the trashy dime-store novel genre. My Dad loves to read westerns, so I may borrow that one later.)

Survivor and the Apprentice - I know reality TV is vapid, and I don’t watch a lot of it. I stopped watching American Idol this past year, and have resisted starting the Amazing Race because I know it will suck me in, but I must say I do enjoy both Survivor and the Apprentice.

Actually, to be honest, my favorite reality show of all time was the original Joe Millionaire. However, I do believe that was because you could watch the show and act like you were on Mystery Science 3000 and crack wise throughout. It was perfect for snarking along. Oh, and Zora won, and she was my favorite! I would have picked her and not that trashy Sarah with her slurping in the woods and her bondage photos….

These shows basically offer real people the chance to act like conniving, backstabbing fools and idiots in front of millions of people. The real people who appear on them take that chance and run with it, all in the name of fame-whoredom.

Survivor is compelling because it is so primal. I do think the show has downgraded quality because they make it relatively easy on the contestants now, but that’s a minor quibble. It’s basically a primer in Machiavellianism – and nice guys rarely finish first.

The contestants on Survivor are probably perfectly normal people in the light of day, but once on a show it seems they take a pill labeled “evil schemer” or “under the radar dweller”. There’s really no middle ground anymore. So you have three or four people trying to out evil the others, and the rest are just trying to become so much tree bark that one morning they’ll wake up and discover they’re in the final four!

OLN now has Survivor repeats on, and Katie has taken to watch it with us. Maybe that was a mistake. It’s bad enough Katie air guitars like Daddy, but now, she walks around the house shouting: “Survivors ready! Go!” Not only that, but she has the accompanying Jeff Probst arm movements down pat. Oh, what are we doing to that child?

The Apprentice is compelling because it takes a group of smart and successful business people and allows them to become as moronic as possible. The women become all catty shrews that claw each other to death, and the men become lumbering idiots that can’t get out of their own way. By the fourth show of the season you know who is going to go all the way, because the others will do or say something stunningly ludicrous that the Donald will just pick at and pick at and pick at until it festers and the sap gets fired.

The Donald is the star of the show – he and his hair and his gaudy apartment and his trophy wife and his hair and his limo and his buildings and everything is Trump and his hair. Seriously, he’d have us breathing Trump Air on the Trump Earth if he could get away with it. (I hear he is negotiating as we speak – Allah and Yahweh are in, he’s just waiting on Vishnu to return his call.)

There is no one worse on TV than Donald Trump, and that’s what makes it great. Do you notice how many voice over edits they have to do on that show? Hysterical! His henchmen are terrific as well – they take no BS from the morons. It’s so funny to have Carolyn get in the middle of a catfight and one of the women say something catty towards her – the stare of death ensues. The men then would just drool and grunt and try to hide.

I do realize that these shows are not Upstairs, Downstairs. They’re not trying to be. It’s entertaining to watch people act like cretins on TV in a quest for fame and fortune.

Coming this season on NBC, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. Hell yes, I’m watching that too!

Game Shows - The original reality TV! Many times I cruise by GSN and see what they have on. Password is always good, as is Jeopardy, Blockbusters, or the Family Feud. Who can resist a half hour of the Newlywed Game? No one!

I even watch those game show specials that they use to fill time on NBC or VH-1. You know the shows - they string together clips of fabulously heinous answers and double and triple entendre questions.

I’ve always enjoyed game shows ever since I was a child. I just thought it was great that you could answer trivia questions and win fabulous prizes or cold hard cash. Since I was a trivia maven at an early age (in third grade I was dubbed Encyclopedia Brown) game shows always had an allure to them

The two game shows that stand out for me are the Match Game and the Pyramid.

The Match Game was just classic TV. Snarky host – snarky panelists – double entendre questions – seventies fashions. What could be better? What could be better than watching Gene Rayburn in the burnt orange suit and a long, thin microphone making lewd comments to Brett Somers as Charles Nelson Reilly camps it up right next to her? Nothing, really, that’s as good as it gets! Come back, Old Man Periwinkle! We miss you!

The Pyramid is my favorite because the final round is so challenging. You really have to know your stuff. The top square in the pyramid might as well be “Things tangentially related to each other that only I know about” because it gets so hard. Some other categories: “Squishy Things” or “Things Colored Raw Sienna” – that kind of nonsense. Difficult and challenging does make good TV. Perhaps other shows should copy it.

70’s Pop Music - There was some good music made in the 70’s: Big Star, the Ramones, the Raspberries, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Rush, etc. But then there were the one hit wonders, and they are oh, so delicious.

“Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”, “Dancing In The Moonlight”, “My Baby Loves Love”, “Beach Baby”, “The Angel In Your Arms”, “Wham, Bam, Shang A Lang” – you know those songs. You can still sing every word of those songs. They’re now played in the dentist’s office and the grocery store and you can’t contain yourself. They're delicious pop nuggets. Yum!

When someone says Shannon – do you think of the Henry Gross song? I do. When you see a Chevy Van, do you automatically sing the chorus (Like a princess she was laying there / moonlight dancin’ across her hair / she woke up and took me by the hand / we made love in my Chevy van and that’s all right with me.)? (Side note: It better be alright with you, bucko! Getting a little somethin’ somethin’ in your van when you didn’t expect it because her mind was draggin’ doesn’t happen every day!)

In my iPod, at any moment, I could get “Stuck in the Middle with You”, or “Moonlight at the Oasis”, “The Night Chicago Died”, or “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” served to me, and I’ll eat it up. My co-workers think I’m nutty, but I just break out a verse of “Ariel” by Dean Friedman and they run away in fear.

Iron Maiden and Judas Priest - I am a music collector and connoisseur. I pride myself in having challenging and bold tastes – Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. I know and appreciate punk rock and alternative music like the Husker Du, Superchunk, and the Minutemen. I had an R. E. M. album before I went to college. I adore the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Yet I can’t shake my heavy metal jones. Bring me Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Sepultura, Metallica and Slayer, and I shall rock out and bang my head! Yet the two bands that get me more air guitar for the money are Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

Frankly, there are only a few Maiden records I love, but I do love them so. I bought “The Number of the Beast” in high school and almost wore it out. Mom was freaked by the cover, but so be it. Many of my friends couldn’t understand my love of Maiden. Oh, sure, they liked Van Halen, and grooved to some Ozzy Osbourne. But Maiden was different – it was complicated, complex and dark. Perhaps they didn’t want to handle it or acknowledge their dark side. Ah, well. But then they didn’t walk to the movies with Moose, singing the guitar riffs from “The Prisoner” at full volume. And who can resist “The Flight of Icarus”? No one who wants a degree in rockology, that’s who!

Judas Priest also held great allure for me. Perhaps it was their style – sado-masochistic studded leather and chains was quite a unique look (and as we found out later, a bit telling for the preferences of the lead singer!) for people in BFE Indiana. Their music was simple, yet direct. “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, “Breaking the Law”, “Living After Midnight”, “Electric Eye” – they told simple stories and rocked out hard and fast. This was music for teenage boys without girlfriends and yes, I fit that role more often than not. To this day, I put on the “Hell Bent for Leather” CD (that’s the “Killing Machine” record for you Brits) and rock out with a big smile on my face! (Well, except for the no girlfriend part.)

Those are just a few of my guilty pleasures. Am I truly sorry I like them? No. Do I realize that others may find my choices daft and cringeworthy? Yes! So be it – I don’t laugh at others who may have a love of Greg Evigan, the Smurfs or Donny Osmond. Well, at least not to their faces. Much.


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