You’ve been anticipating this moment since last week. You plop down on the couch and for an hour, your eyes are glued to the screen. The following day, a friend asks what you did last night and you can’t bring yourself to tell the truth. You weren’t watching something fascinating like Survivor or thought provoking like Parts Unknown; you are watching something you don’t want other people to know you watch. It’s your favorite guilty pleasure reality television show.
Here are ten of the guiltiest pleasures shown on the small screen. Some are about rich people with major first world problems. Some of these shows are about people struggling emotionally with problems that can’t be easily cured. Two of these shows cover “hard news,” or rather the hardest news that an unscripted show can cover. Whether you watch these shows because you aspire to be like the subjects or their tragedies make you feel better about your own life, all of these shows have one common element; you never want to reveal to anyone that you watch them.
10. The Real Housewives
What do you get when you combine women, plastic surgery, money and too much free time? All of the Real Housewives. While their lifestyles and shoe collections are aspirational, their drama most certainly is not. In 2006, the Real Housewives of Orange County debuted and the franchise soon expanded to New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, New Jersey, DC (now cancelled), Beverly Hills and Miami. There are also international versions of the show shot in Vancouver, Athens, Melbourne, Brazil, Ireland, Sweden and Israel.
There is also a French version, but it is actually shot in Los Angeles. The off-screen drama of some of the housewives is often far less glamorous than can be edited down to sixty minutes. In 2011, Russell Armstrong, the husband of Beverly Hills housewife Taylor Armstrong committed suicide. Most recently, the worst possible tragedy happened to one of the French Housewives, Soumaya Akaaboune. Her stepson, Elliot Rodger, went on a rampage murdering six people and wounding thirteen others before taking his own life near Santa Barbara, California . Sometimes reality is tragically too real.
9. MTV True Life
MTV’s True Life has been airing since 1998. The docu-series has covered a myriad of topics from the ridiculous such as, “I’m Horny In Miami,” “I’m A Staten Island Girl” and “I Don’t Like My Large Breasts,” to the serious like, “I’m on Adderall,” “I Have A Husband in Iraq,” and “I’m Obese.” True Life accurately taps into the viewers voyeurism. Since every episode is different, we know the subjects want to share their story more than they want to become reality stars. This show is not just a guilty pleasure, but for those of us who have been watching since the beginning, not wanting to admit we’re too old to watch MTV, is a guilty pleasure all in itself.
8. Wife Swap
Wife Swap sounds like it’s a show about sex, but it’s actually a show about families. Two wives (or occasionally girlfriends or partners) swap lives and chaos ensues. By swapping families of opposing values, like poor with rich, religion with atheist, clean freak with filthy, etc, the show attempts to illuminate what each one does wrong. For the past three seasons, they’ve featured celebrity swaps like Andy Dick swapped with Lorenzo Lamas and Kate Gosselin with Kendra Wilkinson. This has brought in an entirely new audience, viewers who wonder what ever happened to their favorite D-list celebrities.
7. Dr. Drew On Call
Dr. Drew On Call is actually a news show and not technically a reality show, but it’s a nightly guilty pleasure nonetheless. Dr. Drew and his “Behavior Bureau” cover the relevant and irreverent stories of the day from Casey Anthony to the girl on YouTube that hit her friend with a shovel. Co-hosting is the genetically blessed Samantha Schacher (pronounced Shocker, seriously). While it is clear the DDOC is heavily influenced by the format of the other shows on HLN, all of which seem to cover the same exact topics, it’s Dr. Drew’s heart and medical knowledge that puts the interest in human interest stories.
Hoarders is a great show because it motivates the viewers to do what the subjects of the show clearly can’t: throw their stuff out and clean their homes. While Hoarders clearly exists to exploit the mentally ill, it encourages the viewers to improve themselves with scare tactics. “If I don’t throw out the ketchup in my fridge that expired two days ago, I will end up like the people on Hoarders,” we think. Watching people who haven’t cleaned their homes and most likely themselves (there is no one person on that show that looks like they shower on the regular) in years is just the push we need to clean up our own lives.
5. Keeping Up With The Kardashians
This show should really be called You Kan’t Avoid The Kardashians. You can’t flip through the channels without passing by the show or any one of the spinoffs, Kourtney and Kim Take New York, Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami, or Khloe & Lamar. They are currently shooting a spinoff with Khloe and Kourtney in The Hamptons. So what makes this family who is famous for being famous, so interesting? The Kardashians are loud, tacky, and annoying. The men they date/marry (Bruce Jenner, Scott Disick, Lamar Odom and Kanye West) are difficult and can’t stay out of the headlines. The girls are as superficial as they are attractive, but since 2007, we can’t get enough of their drama. No one wants to admit they like the Kardashians, but not a day goes by when they aren’t in the news.
4. Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant
There’s nothing like watching the baby mama drama of 16 and Pregnant or it’s spin off, Teen Mom, to make you feel like you’ve made the right life choices. The teen pregnancy rate has actually gone down since these baby mamas took over the tube. While the original Teen Mom and Teen Mom 3 have been cancelled (Teen Mom 2 is coming back for one more season), all of the moms have managed to move on with their lives. Backdoor Teen Mom, Farrah Abraham, has been ubiquitous in the media for her two best selling porno flicks. However, not all the teen moms have had Farrah’s success. Last year, Amber Portwood was released from prison for assaulting her baby’s father and not a week goes by when Jenelle Evans doesn’t get arrested, pregnant or has another miscarriage or abortion. With all of this juicy drama, who can’t keep tuning in for more. Better in their lives than ours right?
3. Say Yes To The Dress/I Found The Gown
Say Yes To The Dress and I Found The Gown are basically the same tv show except for that the people on Say Yes come from a higher income bracket. Viewers delight in watching women search for their dream wedding dresses while they argue with their mothers, sisters, bridesmaids or fathers over whether it’s too revealing, over budget or makes the bride look like awful. For ladies in relationships, it’s a fun fantasy to watch. For single ladies, it can only make you feel more desperate to find a man. Either way, it’s fun to watch and judge.
A&E’s Intervention ran from 2005-2013 for nearly 200 episodes. It’s now re-run on LMN (Lifetime Movie Network), allowing viewers to re-live every fight and nod off. Intervention is simultaneously hard to watch and hard not to watch because it’s about severe drug addicts and alcoholics that hit their bottoms. No matter how crazy your weekend was or no matter how bad your life seems, watching Intervention makes us think, “At least I’m not that person.” The syndicated version currently running on LMN includes some new updates at the end of each episode, giving us new reason to watch this old favorite.
1. Sex Sent Me To The ER
Sex Sent Me To The ER is certainly the guiltiest of all the guilty pleasures. There is probably not a single viewer who will openly admit to watching this show, which features re-inactments of sex incidents that land people in the hospital. One episode included a woman who achieved something most women can only dream of: a two-hour orgasm. Another episode featured the story of a 440 lb man who, while losing his virginity, rocks his 110lb lady so hard, he pushes her head through a wall, rendering her unconscious. A recent episode told the tale of a not so smart lizard who accidently crawls into a man’s penis. While many people want their lives and stories to inspire reality shows, Sex Sent Me The ER isn’t one of those shows.