overthinking the idiot box

June 27, 2005

Summer is a time for indulgences, laziness. Beach reads, blended coffee, long afternoons in the sun. But if you're trapped at a desk or behind a counter during the breeziest June days, at least there's TV waiting for you when you get home. How does the SMRT-TV Staff beat the heat? By dipping into usually neglected guilty pleasures.

Summer Vacation's Guilty Pleasures

by the SMRT-TV Staff

I won’t necessarily say that children’s cartoons are anything bad; as a 23-year-old, it is wise to embrace one’s child-like nature. The Berenstain Bears bring back fond memories of my childhood, and Arthur is just plain hilarious that I don’t feel infantilized while watching it. However, I am mortified to admit that a few pique my interest when they really, really should not. I admonish my sister (older, by the way) for starting the day with her daily dose of Dragon Tales and he-of-the-whiny-voice, Caillou. But while I outwardly cringe at the horror of what is being spoon-fed to today’s youth, I have been known to linger in the living room for just a little while longer, sitting on the couch’s arm near the door, ready to bolt and yet never actually departing, eyes firmly set in the direction of the television screen. It has taken quite a few guts to admit to this; I reckon my SMRT-TV badge needs to be turned in ASAP.

-Vicki Karigiannis

Dancing With the Stars

Dancing with the Stars has become a weekly ritual for my mother and I. At the end of each episode, we sit ready with phones in hand... her on the land-line, I on my cell phone. At the moment of truth it is a flurry of dialing... her, for John O'Hurley and I, for Joey McIntyre. My father hangs his head in shame and wishes he had had a son.

-Jenni Powell

Degrassi: The Next Generation

Let me just say that there is nothing wrong with liking a show as thoroughly enjoyable as Degrassi: The Next Generation. if you're 13 and a girl. However, if I were, say, 24 and a male, I might have some 'splainin' to do (at least I'm in good company - the show counts among its fans Kevin Smith, everyone at Entertainment Weekly and several of my friends). So how do I love Degrassi? I'm never sure whether it's sincerely or ironically. often I think it's both at the same time. I mean, I was genuinely affected by the school-shooting episode, but at the same time, the kid doing the shooting was so goofy (he'd just literally been tarred and feathered). That right there encompasses everything I love about the show - it tackles serious issues in a not-too-preachy manor, all the while featuring some truly cheesy (Canadian-accented!) dialogue and awkward teen actors (who aren't 34 and could never pass for models). If finding pleasure in that is guilty, then I don't want to be tried in California!

-Joel Bergen

A couple of years ago, I was home alone for a few days during the winter holidays. Many know these as "Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year's." Strange and bizarre, I know. Anyway, I was discovering all the many joys of our extended cable TV package -- particularly, The N. What made this Nickelodeon off-shoot so great at this particular time of year? How about a little show called Degrassi: TNG? Oh, and how about broadcasting a three day long marathon of that show? My, my. I've never felt so sheepish, yet so compelled to watch every second of that teeny-bopper, painful high school moment-filled marathon. "Oh my God! Paige and Spinner are hooking up?" Until now, nobody but the dog knew that I uttered those words. Feelings get hurt, high school is awkward, and if dimming the lights and laying out on the couch under a blanket with the dog lying by my feet while noshing on chips and salsa and cursing Craig for cheating on Ashleigh is wrong, then I don't know if I want to be right.

-Alan Bloom

Diff'rent Strokes

"Whatchoo talkin' bout, Roberts?" Did you know that every time you sing along with the Diff'rent Strokes theme song, a terrorist is captured? At least, that's what I tell myself so I can keep watching the shamefully hackneyed, outdated adventures of Arnold, Willis, Kimberly and Mr. Drummond. Like any die-hard fan of this cornball sitcom melodrama, I have two rules: 1) Never watch that episode with Gordon Jump as a child molester before watching him play Maggie's dad in Growing Pains; and 2) Never let anyone tell you Mary Ann Mobley is anything but vastly inferior to Dixie Carter.

-D. Roberts Keenan


Man, this show got me through some rough times, all sweet melancholy and quirky charm, and now that TBS is rerunning the Letterman-produced genius, my life is a little better for it. Up to seven episodes at a time sit on my TiVo, waiting for the biweekly SMRT-TV-induced all-nighter. But sometimes, I cheat. Sometimes, I enjoy some delicious ten-dollar bets, some pastoral New Jersey scenery, even when I'm not up all night formatting HTML. This is not one of those times, but man, I look forward to them.

-Liz Shannon Miller

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Not a Sunday goes by without my entire family huddling together in front of the set to watch the latest hard luck story turned love fest, each of us in various states of sobbing openly (I take the more stereotypically macho "There's something in my damn eye" route, of course). I mean...I'm as cynical and jaded as the next disenfranchised and openly hostile tween, and I am acutely aware of the corporations practically sparring with each other to see who can get their name on the screen the most often during this philanthropic orgy, but I can't bring myself to care. The corporate marketing analysts have finally found the exact level of fluffy-snuggleness that they have to hide behind before I lose the ability to be angry with them, and there's nothing I can do about it, because they're about to move the bus and I have to shut up now.

-Richard Jeter

The Magic Bullet Blender Infomercial
Since I work crazy hours, I often come home late at night resigned to the fact that I WILL get sucked into the enchanting story of this magical contraption that melds together a food processor, blender, electric juicer and coffee grinder into something that looks like a spacepod but sounds like a sex toy. I estimate that I've seen the same hour-long bit at least 50 times and it never gets old because the two actors (in all their overacting pizazz) never fail to get me excited about their guacamole dip. Or their non-alcoholic strawberry daquaris. Or their chicken salad.

-Justin Winters


Stopping off on a Friends ep and watching just to hear Joey say, "How you doin?" And laughing every single time.

Dragonball Z and Vegeta. Goku can kiss my ass. He's such a big dork. Just don't tell Mike I said that. Cranky Vegeta is where it's at, man.

Farscape, "Beware of Dog." Because the answer to that is No! 88 amazing episodes, and I love the goofy almost ET and the parasites and "Sorry about the mess."

X-Files, "War of the Corprophages." "Are you sure it wasn't a girly scream?"

-Andreanna Ditton


Discuss this article (and your own guilty pleasures) in the SMRT-TV forum.

Return to Vol. 1, Episode 7.