Bad TV

Bad TV, America’s addiction: Why is ‘Gossip Girl’ so good?

Mar 28, 2012

It always starts so innocently—late night, nothing on, beer in hand and somehow your remote control wanders deep into the depths of the channel guide. You could put on a movie, but that takes commitment and effort, which is out of the question. You are looking for something mindless and entertaining. So you turn to bad television.

We all do it, there is no need to be ashamed. Everyone has a guilty-pleasure TV show that they rarely reveal to even their closest of friends. Normally people aren’t very proud of their potentially embarrassing addiction to bad television. They’ll refuse to admit their compulsion or pass it off as a joke. Make no mistake about it, we all have the appetite—and once it’s satisfied it becomes a quiet ceaseless, craving.

Now, don’t confuse my references to bad TV with reality television, that’s a completely different awful beast. There is no time or creative energy put into reality TV. It isn’t hard to put contentious guidos in a house and watch them feud, or find a herd of attractive people to compete for the love of an attractive person of the opposite sex. No, bad TV is a delicate art. It has to be accessible enough to attract an audience, sensational enough to keep that audience and just good enough to get through the first season. Bad TV needs attractive people, sex, asinine plot lines, violence, mystery and sex.

Which brings me to my personal example of addictive bad television. I watch “Gossip Girl.” Yep, there I said it. I’m not particularly proud to admit it, but I’m not utterly ashamed either. I watch a ton of television, and therefore I end up hooked on bad shows from time to time. I’ve seen every episode of “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Lost,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Seinfeld,” “Arrested Development,” “Homeland” (I know it’s only been a season, but its so damn good I needed to mention it) as well as countless others. I’d like to think I have pretty good palate when it comes to TV shows, but give me SOAPnet reruns of teenage melodrama a la “The O.C.” or early seasons of “One Tree Hill,” and my television taste buds go out the window.

These primetime soap operas simply sneak into my subconscience and the next thing I know I’m spending long hours streaming episodes on my laptop or renting DVDs from Blockbuster (RIP). It’s a strange phenomenon when a low-brow TV show takes a hold of you. My theory is we all start with low-brow tastes—no one is born high-brow. We become receptive to higher-brow forms of entertainment via conditioning such as our education, upbringing and environment. Deep down we all enjoy easy entertainment that lacks any and all substance. It’s similar to our animalistic tendencies when having sex or eating with our hands. Sometimes you simply revert to your basic instincts — aka low-brow bad television.

So is it bad that a portion of my TV preferences sometimes resemble that of a bitchy teenage girl? Probably. Should I be alarmed that I’m currently way too invested in the Dan and Blair storyline in “Gossip Girl,” and my girlfriend’s love of “Pretty Little Liars” is starting to creep its way into my subconsciousness? I don’t think so. Because the only reason I really watch any of these shows is because the girls are hot.

Well, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

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