Before reading this list on television shows that aren’t very good despite their popularity, we want to make one thing clear: there’s nothing wrong with guilty pleasures. We all have them and the shallow and sometimes mindless entertainment is a necessary evil that helps us appreciate some of the more compelling series found on television. The intention here isn’t to shout atop a soapbox on what viewers should be watching. We all have different tastes.
There are, however, a list of series that appear determined to reach mass audiences with banal and sometimes out of touch depictions on genders and character types. Guilty pleasure can take many forms, especially when it enters “it’s so bad it’s good” territory, and some are tongue-in-cheek about it, but others are so depressingly adamant with their subject matter that it’s meant to be taken seriously. This doesn’t benefit anyone except the people involved raking in obscene amounts of cash.
What’s frustrating about these shows is that they possess a platform on which they can promote constructive change. No, not every show has to be smart and engaging, but it would be nice if some could avoid perpetuating gender roles and outdated stereotypes. The idea isn’t to transform television into some elitist playground of entertainment, but to avoid unjustifiable landmines that only set us back as developing viewers. Therein lies the difference between guilty pleasures and simply awful television.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 television shows that are guilty of poising the well and giving guilty pleasures a bad name.
10 Two and a Half Men
Two and a Half Men had its moments, we’ll give it that. Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer delivered some laughs in the earlier seasons of this Chuck Lorre sitcom, but it quickly went off the rails as off-camera drama mounted. When the show pulled Sheen in favour of Ashton Kutcher, the show hit its lowest point and simply went through the motions as the stars counted stacks of cash. Things got so messy that even Angus T. Jones departed the show, leaving Cryer as the only original cast member remaining. If the show had ended earlier, perhaps it would have been remembered more fondly.
9 Sex and the City
Sex and the City is guilty of many flaws, but the worst has to be having its lead characters pretend to be independent when they are in fact completely reliant on men and being loved. It’s the equivalent of empty calories, offering nothing but a guilty pleasure to its fans—which is fine, if that’s what you’re into. It becomes an issue, however, when its characters serve as role models for a younger generation. Much like Twilight, it is grounded in an archaic and unproductive philosophy that can be harmful to the modern woman. Perhaps we’re over analyzing here, but consider the plethora of television shows of this ilk that continue to air on a nightly basis.
8 Desperate Housewives
The title alone has an immediate negative connotation. In this day and age, the term “housewife” should be abolished. Modern women are independent and career-driven, which has shifted the notion that men should be the breadwinners. Still, that didn’t stop Desperate Housewives from having an eight-season run of crippling morals and demeanor. This show will be ridiculed as years pass for its ridiculous depiction of women as always having perfect hair and home cooked meals for their family. Seduction was a regular occurrence on the show as the characters consistently pursued the attention of males. It’s a mind-boggling premise that should have ended after a single season.
7 Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl was plagued by bad acting and terrible writing. Its lead characters portray woe-is-me behaviour and are entangled in unimportant and shallow dilemmas. It’s guilty pleasure television in its truest form, which is fine, but the appalling writing makes it difficult to give it any sort of credit for what it attempts to accomplish. The series finale was also under heavy criticism for its misogynistic and morally defunct ending, leaving another black mark on a show that struggled to muster up any positives. Viewership declined as seasons passed, so perhaps that’s a sign of things to come for such series.
Dammit Glee, stop ruining good songs. If there is one thing bad television shows have in common, it’s perpetuating stereotypical characters. I mean, why use their platform to open minds when they can portray cookie-cutter characters and plots? It’s easier, I suppose, and aligns with the many gripes critics of the show acknowledge. Glee is excessively cheesy to the point that it checks all the essential points of a predictable and tedious story. Rather than break free of the traditional mold, it comfortably finds its niche in repetitive and common subject matter. Like many of the shows on this list, Glee find its place as a guilty pleasure for some.
We were reluctant to add a series only a single season matured, but Scorpion marks a special inclusion. There is no upside here, no potential for a miraculous turnaround in future seasons. It is now CBS’s top drama in the early going, meaning it should stick around for a lengthy run. It’s surprising considering just how awful this series has been. Shockingly, the characters are walking, talking stereotypes of how society apparently views nerds. Swing and a miss. Why these series are compelled to insert stock characters rather than create something unique and realistic is baffling and frankly needs to stop for the well-being of primetime television. We blame The Big Bang Theory.
4 The Big Bang Theory
Please stop what you’re doing, Chuck Lorre. The Big Bang Theory is the unfortunate amalgamation of overused laugh tracks, stereotypical characters, and endless clichés. The show thrusts its nerdy leads in typical sitcom predicaments and perpetuates an outdated stereotype that depicts nerds as sheltered, socially awkward individuals. It’s a travesty that could have been overlooked if the show had been, you know, funny…but it’s not—check out the YouTube clip that removes the show’s laugh track to reveal its shallow writing, if you haven’t already. One of the sitcom’s most unforgivable crimes is its penchant for laughing at nerds rather than with them—which demonstrates how little they understand of nerd culture.
3 Keeping Up With The Kardashians
Shallow. Superficial. Overprivileged. These are all words that describe Keeping up with the Kardashians. It’s yet another reality TV show unconcerned with human decency and respect. These people exist, we are well aware of that, but perpetuating their behaviour with a popular television show is the stuff of supervillains. Reality television is inherently shallow and designed to be a form of cheap laughs, but Keeping up with the Kardashians crosses the line between shameless and destructive television. There isn’t a sliver of upside in watching this mess unless you get your kicks from truly awful television—perhaps there’s an argument in “it’s so bad it’s good.”
2 Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was cancelled after one of its stars was caught in the middle of a scandal surrounding her relationship with a convicted child molester. It was an unfortunate, if not predictable, development but the reality show should have been cannoned into the sun long ago for different reasons—mainly that it caters to spoiled, ungrateful children and unfit parents. It’s profoundly depressing that shows of this ilk embody entertainment in contemporary media. That TLC, or "The Learning Channel," carried this abomination is a testament to how badly television has deteriorated in terms of airing reality TV over shows with actual substance. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo will forever remain a black mark against television’s history.
1 Duck Dynasty
Another reality show, this one centered on rednecks and their eccentric and simplistic lifestyle. The only thing funny about Duck Dynasty is the cringe-worthy and awful subject matter. It’s a depressing thought that a producer somewhere thought such a premise would provide compelling television. That the shotgun-wielding, critter-exterminating hicks have garnered so many viewers is a troubling trend for the future of quality television, but luckily the ratings have dropped since one of the cast members expressed his disapproval of homosexuality. Duck Dynasty seems hell-bent on anchoring modern television into an archaic and obtuse environment. It needs to go away.