Trashy TV for you and me
January 4, 2011 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend to me some terrifically trashy guilty pleasure TV shows -- but not reality shows! -- that I can watch over the next few months. The shows can be currently airing on TV (preferred), online on a legit streaming website (Hulu, etc.), or on Netflix Instant Streaming. I'm thinking something along the lines of "Gossip Girl" or the new 90210 series or "Pretty Little Liars", none of which I have ever seen. What else is out there right now that's good -- which is to say, entertainingly bad -- that I can get into quickly?

(I just had a baby, so I'm going to need some not-terribly-cerebral distraction while nursing for the next few months...)
posted by Asparagirl to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Was just reading about Skins on MTV, premiering Jan 17th. Certainly looks trash as hell :)
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:35 PM on January 4, 2011

You must, you must, you MUST watch "The Secret Life of the American Teenager". It's written by Brenda Hampton of "7th Heaven" fame, need I say more?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

First, congrats on the wee one. Second, may I suggest Murder She Wrote? Not terribly cerebral, but there's some intrigue (and if you so wish, you can try and figure out whodunnit, though just going along for the ride is enjoyable). Otherwise, there's Soap, which is wacky and light (usually). Both are on Netflix Instant Streaming, though MSW is missing a few odd episodes on Netflix. Nothing you'll miss, as the show doesn't have any story arcs, but you should start at the beginning (wherein you learn Jessica Fletcher is a retired English teacher with an eye for details).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nip/Tuck on Netflix streaming.

at some point, i think they realize that they are just so over the top that they just go with it.
it is so ridiculous but very watchable.

the actress who played Jean Grey in XMen is in it as is the guy from Charmed who played Cole.
plus Vanessa Redgrave. and various other people show up from time to time which makes it pretty funny.
posted by sio42 at 1:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dead Like Me is on hulu.
posted by nadawi at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I watched HUGE amounts of Greek at some point -- this summer, they were all still on Hulu -- not sure if that's still the case.
posted by naturalog at 1:41 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Vampire Diaries has been a huge guilty pleasure in our household, though my wife doesn't even feel guilty anymore.
posted by kmz at 1:43 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Spartacus: Blood and Sand was my guilty pleasure in 2010. Over the top cheeze, a lot of fun to watch. Available on netflix streaming.
posted by ian1977 at 1:45 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Vampire Diaries, although I'd agree with kmz's wife that it's not even guilt-worthy. It's just a good, old-fashioned, teen vampire soap opera.
posted by something something at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2011

I love Gossip Girl and just discovered Veronica Mars is on Netflix's On Demand list, and I cannot stop watching it to save my life. It's not exactly trashy, but it's really funny and addictive and fits well into that soapy teen dramedy genre.
posted by Hwaet at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

The slo-mo bloodsplosions and egregious nakedness makes Spartacus: Blood and Sand an absolutely ridiculous delight to behold. The new prequel, Gods of the Arena, begins on 01/21/11 and I am pretty shamefully excited.
posted by elizardbits at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2011

Thirding Vampire Diaries. (Just got into it and mainlined all the episodes within a week.)
posted by sperose at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2011

I'm not sure if it ever made it to Netflix Streaming, but True Blood is my guilty pleasure. Over-the-top vampire gore, horrific Southern accents, and shirtless Alexander Skarsgaard? S'wonderful.
posted by bookgirl18 at 1:55 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

House (sadly not on Netflix streaming, though the latest 5 episodes are on Hulu) and The Tudors do this for me, though the political intrigue on the Tudors can get a touch cerebral. However, the great thing about that show is that you are free to tune the political stuff out and just enjoy the pretty dresses and sexytimes.
posted by Sara C. at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2011

The O.C. was so awful in such a perfectly great way, and Gossip Girl is from its creators. Skins was a fantastic British show before it crossed the pond. It'll make you very very nervous for your kid's teenage years. 90210 is pretty bad in a bad way, I think. True Blood is very much a guilty pleasure. If you never saw the BBC/HBO series Rome, check that out. 2 seasons of fantasticness, lots of sex and blood and intrigue.
posted by incessant at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also 30 Rock! How could I have forgotten 30 Rock?
posted by Sara C. at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Real Housewives of [insert city here] on Bravo. I made fun of them forever, until I finally watched it one day. Now I still make fun of them but I see every episode. Its strangely addicting schadenfreude.

Not sure if you would consider it reality, but Judge Judy and the other daytime court shows are trashy, entertaining, and can be viewed independent of the other episodes which make them a nice time filler.
posted by halseyaa at 2:00 PM on January 4, 2011

I enjoy Gilmore Girls, The Secret Life [...], Charmed, and pretty much all the classic 60's sitcoms (The Brady Bunch, I Dreamed of Jeannie, etc.) for this purpose.

Also, if you put a bunch of these shows in your queue, Netflix will suggest even more of them!
posted by SMPA at 2:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

After posting I just realized that Real Housewives is probably (definitely) considered reality. I guess I just view the lives they lead and the way they act so outside of reality that it doesn't really count... Plus I'm sure Bravo does plenty of backstage scripting.
posted by halseyaa at 2:04 PM on January 4, 2011

I enjoy CSI, in the sense that enjoy yelling at the TV, "Computer's don't work that way!" and "What the hell, is this set in the future?" So that's my vote for trashy fun TV.
posted by chairface at 2:07 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two and a half Men is hilarious, but not remotely PC. I also like Big Bang Theory. Both are pretty funny, and you don't need to know much backstory to get into them. Big Bang's writing is especially good.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:09 PM on January 4, 2011

I just finished watching Louie on Hulu. I thought it was good.
posted by CrazyJoel at 2:09 PM on January 4, 2011

Freaks and Geeks

I really liked Legend of the Seeker - I've only seen the first season. It fits your criteria of "entertainingly bad" and often trashy.

How about the old 90210? (I love you Dylan!)

What I Like About You - don't know why but I love this show.

CSI (any one of them) always sucks me in - easy to watch, and actually if I want to take a nap I just put on CSI and for some reason it relaxes me and I'm able to drift off . . . not saying it's boring, but it's just something that entertains me without forcing me to engage too much.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:12 PM on January 4, 2011

Damages! It's on Netflix Instant Streaming and is like the best soap opera ever made. With Glenn Close!
posted by grapesaresour at 2:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Forget about the MTV version, the first three series of the original UK version of Skins are available via Netflix streaming -- I thought the first two were quite well done. In addition to others mentioned here, I also liked Arrested Development. Enjoy baby!
posted by cgk at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Was just reading about Skins on MTV, premiering Jan 17th. Certainly looks trash as hell :)

I really liked watching the British version of Skins - seasons 1,2 and 3 are on Netflix streaming right now, and season 4 comes out in a few days. I was fully prepared to hate it, but got sucked right in.

A lot of people we know really like Bones - it's not necessarily trashy, but it doesn't involve a lot of thinking or serious plot.
posted by kerning at 2:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nip/Tuck is terrific trash, until it goes off the rails around the time they start working on a TV show.
posted by mkultra at 2:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

How has no one mentioned GLEE yet?
posted by dnash at 2:27 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I 2nd Dead Like Me.
Also mentioning Weeds, Dexter, Rescue Me, Californication... (all adult themed shows that stream on Netflix).

Stargate SG1 is streaming if you don't mind Sci-Fi...

Family Jewels with Gene Simmons... Firefly, Lie to Me..., Doctor Who...
posted by jillithd at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2011

Buffy / Angel / Supernatural.
posted by Tapioca at 2:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make It or Break It. Award-winning gymnasts deal with the new girl and love triangles abound.

But seriously, learn to speak Spanish and just watch ANY telenovela. Even the most innocent-looking ones are trashy as hell. Or better yet, use the novelas to learn how to speak (dramatic, tense, sexy, insane) Spanish.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:38 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was writing my PhD thesis this year, so needing some dumb, escapist entertainment, I watched Cougar Town and Glee. Both totally stupid but engaging. I also watched Bones and NCIS but I can't do that every week, they're too annoying. I don't know about legal streaming or currently airing etc because I'm in a different country, but none of them really need any backstory or catching up so you can pretty much start watching where ever.
posted by shelleycat at 2:39 PM on January 4, 2011

I was going to recommend Skins too. The original UK version is streaming on Netflix right now. I just started watching it and it's pretty trashy, but really well done and interesting. There are quite a lot of British comedies and other shows streaming on Netflix now. Saxondale with Steve Coogan is fantastic, Gavin & Stacy too.
posted by apricot at 2:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, Make It or Break It is awesome, definitely in the vein of Gossip Girl. I only ever watch random episodes when I remember it's on (they screened it at 5.30 or something stupid over here), but it's typically soapy enough that you can pick it up as you go. I definitely need to go back and catch up on that one.
posted by shelleycat at 2:42 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely agree with the UK version of Skins. I saw seasons 1 & 2 and thought they were great, and I'm not even much of a trash-TV lover. Also, Big Love is starting up again soon(?), and while I never never never thought I would get into a show like that, last winter I spent many a night uncontrollably sucking down the DVDs. It's HBO, so not on Netflix instant, but I believe they've started showing last season on TV again.
posted by hafehd at 2:42 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Good Guys makes me laugh. It's an intentionally cheezy fake-cop show.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:58 PM on January 4, 2011

Archer, an animated series for adults about a hapless, self-deluded secret agent and his fellow agents. Some of the dialogue is almost unbelievable but is generally also very sharp and clever. Jeffrey Tambor, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, and Jessica Walter do some of the main characters' voices. It's had one season and is supposed to return sometime this year.

Nip/Tuck is terrific trash, until it goes off the rails around the time they start working on a TV show.

Couldn't agree more. The producers/writers probably thought they were being all meta with the "show within a show" but it really didn't work to have Sean basically turn (or at least try to) into Christian. The show didn't jump the shark, it leaped right into the shark's mouth and barely survived. But up until around then Nip/Tuck was some great trash.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:11 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think much of Weeds is on Netflix streaming. Some would say it's not trashy, but it seems to get more so as the seasons go on.

Also look for Fringe.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:14 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Consider 'Castle' - it's a fun police procedural/whodunit with Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Housewives, Dr. Horrible) and Stana Katic. Good cast, fun to watch, definitely not cerebral, and you can watch an episode at a time no problem - there's no seasonal arc. You can even watch the episodes out of order and I doubt you'd particularly notice. It's on ABC Monday nights (9 or 10?) and recent eps are on Hulu. And while it is made for adults and on during prime time, it's pretty harmless (despite the dead bodies and murder).

I'd second The Good Guys (having only seen one episode) and Gilmore Girls. I'd veto Two and a Half Men (cross the line between trashy and just bad, IMHO) and Louie (watching Louie with an infant in your arms seems weird somehow).
posted by maryr at 3:17 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Love, love, love Dexter. We raced at accelerating speed through Season 1 and are now trying to ration our intake of Season 2 episodes, because they give us such a buzz we don't want to rush through them. Not cerebral, just really entertaining.
posted by bearwife at 3:17 PM on January 4, 2011

Nthing the Tudors. I still have major reservations about skinny Jonathan Rhys Myers playing hefty Henry, but he's certainly got the demeanor down. Plus, lots of people behaving badly and beautifully dressed while doing it.

Mr. Leezie and I have also enjoyed some of the older miniseries like North and South, the Thorn Birds, etc. Don't know if they are on Netflix streaming.

When I was nursing Baby Leezie or just not moving an inch while he slept on me, I really enjoyed 16 and Pregnant. I know its reality, but it helped me feel a little less alone in the baby twilight zone that is having a new born.

I also enjoyed Grey's Anatomy, until about season 4 and then it just kind of went off a cliff because they didn't kill off Izzie when they had the chance.

Congrats on the little one!
posted by Leezie at 3:25 PM on January 4, 2011

I think it's nice that Mefites think that these shows are the guiltiest "terrifically trashy" pleasures on TV. If the guiding examples are "Gossip Girl", "90210", and "Pretty Little Liars", I'm pretty sure the answer is "Hellcats", which my otherwise excellent GF watches.

And congratulations Asparagirl!
posted by nicwolff at 3:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drop Dead Diva.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:45 PM on January 4, 2011

Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty are both on Hulu+ in their entirety.
posted by FlamingBore at 4:13 PM on January 4, 2011

I came in to suggest Drop Dead Diva as well. It's about a vacuous model who dies but ends up back on Earth... in the body of a fat lawyer! It's really trashy, but I am not ashamed, no small tag for me!
posted by yellowbinder at 4:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about its availability, but the late-90s The WB two-season wonder Popular is absolutely perfect guilty pleasure television. It's from Ryan Murphy, the guy behind Glee and Nip/Tuck, but far, far superior to either of those.

Ahh, Mary Cherry...
posted by 1901gunner at 4:59 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dallas. Dallas, Dallas, Dallas, Dallas.

That show is so damn fun - trashy and very, very addictive. My girlfriend and I have been working our way through the DVD's, which she's been picking up insanely cheap (less than $10 a 20+ episode season) on Amazon.

posted by item at 5:11 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite brainless shows has to be Top Gear. Sure, it's a show about motoring and motorists that ostensibly reviews cars, but it manages to be hugely engaging even if you have no interest in cars. They do stupid challenges and there is something hilarious in each episode and the interactions among the hosts are always amusing. Everyone I have introduced it to seems to enjoy it--I really think it is just a good entertaining show.

Some seasons appear to be on Netflix streaming and others are available on DVD.
posted by that girl at 5:47 PM on January 4, 2011

Nthing the original UK Skins. If you love teen depravity, that show is going to provide and provide. True Blood is so hilariously awful that my boyfriend and I watched the entire campy, terrible firt season in one glorious week. Veronica Mars, while not really trashy, once got me through a rough break-up when I needed something addictive and teen-related to escape my own brain.
posted by pineappleheart at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2011

Oh! And congratulations on your baby!
posted by pineappleheart at 8:11 PM on January 4, 2011

Your friends at Gizmonic Institute's Deep 13 facility would like to know if you have tried Mystery Science Theater 3000. Have you or anyone you know experienced Deep Hurting™ for themselves?

It's not trashy nor a guilty pleasure but it sure qualifies as entertaining, schlocky and requiring little cognition or attention to enjoy. They're all over Google Video and Hulu is carrying some episodes. Here is a guide to get you started with your poopie.

Happy babying!
posted by Appropriate Username at 9:49 PM on January 4, 2011

You've got to watch The O.C., bitch. Marissa and Julie Cooper were just the silliest characters, although the rest of the show was pretty half-decent. And the original Beverly Hills, 90210 is MUCH more satisfying than the remake! Both are great and are currently on SOAPnet. Melrose Place used to reallllllly hit the trashy tv spot, but, for some reason, it doesn't appear to be on cable now. It is on DVD and very well could be streaming somewhere online. If so, check it out. Rumor has it that even Jerry Seinfeld watched it, but he's denied it! Just wait until we hook him up to a lie detector, though. Then we'll know the truth!

Also, may I recommend Degrassi: The Next Generation? That's on Teen Nick constantly. Before this last year, I used to watch EVERY teen and/or prime-time soap from the 1980s-now. This is a subject that's very close to my heart, ha.

Gilmore Girls (SOAPnet and ABC Family) was wonderful, but absolutely positively NOT trash.
posted by Mael Oui at 10:04 PM on January 4, 2011

Highly recommend Being Erica, which is on Hulu. This is a Canadian show, broadcast on SoapNet in the USA. The premise is that a 32 year old woman who regrets her choices in life gets a chance to repeat them. I thought it was kind of cheesy sounding, but it turned out to be highly addicting. The main character is great, which is why it works. If you went to high school in the 90's, it's also awesomely nostalgic.
posted by smalls at 6:21 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Undressed was a weird little series that ran on MTV a while ago. The episodes were made up of three, I think, separate stories that resolved independently across various episodes. The entire premise of the show was hot young guys and girls trying to hook up with each other in various permutations, and it stuck to its premise with laser precision.

It's a complete distillation, IMO, of trash TV. Masterminded by Roland Joffe, of all people. You can also check out before-they-were-famous performances by people like Christina Hendricks and Katee Sackhoff.

You can watch the first season online.
posted by mkultra at 5:16 PM on January 5, 2011

Thanks, everyone -- these suggestions are great! Looking forward to rotting my lil' brain with these terrible-wonderful shows...
posted by Asparagirl at 10:42 PM on January 13, 2011

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