My Top 10 TV Catnips And Guilty Pleasures

The Fall TV season is winding down and new Mid-Season premieres have been launched, save for a select few, so I think it’s safe to say that it’s time for us to make another list. 🙂 And of course when I say “us”, I mean me.

I watch television for a number of reasons, and one of them is for pure mental escapism. Hey, life is tough and sometimes we all need a little trip to a fantasy land that doesn’t require hallucinogenics. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share a list of my favorite TV catnips and guilty pleasures. TV catnips are shows that should turn me off but instead got me addicted, or my “weakness” shows (hence the term TV Catnips) while guilty pleasures are well, guilty pleasures. I shouldn’t be watching them but I can’t help myself.

And why am I sharing this with you? Because I can! 🙂 And also, I’m sure I’m not the only one who watches these shows religiously. So without further ado, here they are:

My Top Ten TV Catnips & Guilty Pleasures:

10/ Pretty Little Liars

Category: Guilty Pleasure
Network: ABC Family
Genre: Teeny bopper “mystery” drama
Stars: Lucy Hale (Privileged, Bionic Woman), and a bunch of other newcomers no one over 17 would recognize. Also; Holly Marie Combs (Charmed), Laura Leighton (Melrose Place) and Chad Lowe (Hilary Swank’s ex) play the parents.

Truthfully, I am a bit embarrassed to actually admit that I watch this show. Not only am I waaay to old to be watching it, the show itself is quite ridiculous. Okay, the show is about four best friends in a sleepy Pennsylvania town who are being haunted and harassed by a mysterious random texter/e-mailer who goes by the initial “A” immediately following the discovery of their missing friend Allison’s body. The whole mystery/suspense itself is rather laughable, not to mention the fact that this show thrives on one ridiculous plot after another, and yet I can’t stop watching. Why? I don’t know, maybe to laugh at the contrived plot and silly storylines, or maybe because the show reminds me of being a teenager again, and how we all pretended we were adults dealing with adult things back then. The reasons are unclear, but there’s no denying: I can’t stop watching this show and in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to put this in the number 10 spot.

9/ Flashpoint

Category: TV Catnip
Network: CTV, CBS
Genre: Police procedural
Stars: Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars, Just Shoot Me), Amy Jo Johnson (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), David Paetkau (Whistlers), and a bunch of Canadian actors who are probably famous in Canada.

There are not many Canadian shows being aired in US networks, least of all the Big Five (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW). But Flashpoint, a Canadian police procedural show set in Toronto, Ontario has been airing in CBS for three seasons and counting. And there’s a good reason for that; mainly, that the show is actually good. Flashpoint is about a team in the Strategic Response Unit, a SWAT-like elite branch of the Toronto Police Department and how they deal with each high-risk case they encounter everyday. However, for a show that could easily be about boys and their guns, this show opts to show humanity and the moral choices we all have to make through compelling storylines and the inter-personal relationships of the team. I didn’t think I would like this show (I wasn’t that crazy about SWAT back in the day) but I gave it a shot one Summer and now I’m positively hooked. And after the awesome season 3 finale last February, I think this show definitely deserves the number 9 spot in this list.

8/ Gossip Girl

Category: Guilty Pleasure
Network: The CW
Genre: Teen/adults who refuse to grow up/NY socialite drama
Stars: Leighton Meester, Blake Lively, Ed Westwick, Chace Crawford, Penn Badgley, Jessica Szohr, Taylor Momsen, Kelly Rutherford, Matthew Settle – all virtually unknown until this show skyrocketed their careers

This show first premiered in 2007 and in an instant changed the way we watch television forever. It did not only garner a following, it practically became a worldwide obsession. Everyone was talking about the show and just like that, the cast members became the hottest stars in Hollywood who frequently grace the covers of various glossy magazines like Vogue, Elle, W and of course New York Magazine. The show has always been borderline soap opera, but by its fourth season, the quality continues to dwindle and it’s now almost as ridiculous as our #10 show Pretty Little Liars. A lot of fans have given up on the Upper East Side gang, but I find myself to be among the ones who continue to watch even after the show jumped the shark multiple times. Why? Nobody knows. Maybe I just can’t resist seeing pretty people in pretty clothes being nasty to each other. In any case, this show is a guilty enough pleasure to earn the number 8 spot.

7/ Being Human

Category: TV Catnip
Network: SyFy Channel
Genre: The awesomely Supernatural
Stars: Saw Witwer (Battlestar Galactica, Smallville), Sam Huntington (Superman Returns, Fanboys), Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Supernatural) and Canadian TV actress Meaghan Rath, a virtual unknown prior to this show.

After the massive success of The Office, networks began jumping on the adaptation bandwagon. In this television season alone, there are three new shows all adapted from popular British series: the controversial Skins on MTV, the successful Shameless on Showtime and our #7 show: Being Human on SyFy. Adapted from the BBC show of the same name, Being Human tells the story of three “unique” friends and roommates; a self-loathing vampire named Aidan (a nod to the actor Aidan Turner, who plays the vampire Mitchell in the original series), a self-loathing werewolf named Josh and a self-pitying ghost named Sally. The show itself pretty much sticks close to the original, with the first two episodes being almost a carbon copy of the British version. And I was not supposed to like this show. But I do. It has its problems, but the characters slowly win me over, especially Josh, who’s played by the totally underrated but always wonderful Sam Huntington. And what do you know, just like The Office before it, the more this show finds its footing, the better it gets. I’ll always love the original, but the adaptation is good enough to earn the #7 spot.

6/ Hawaii Five-O

Category: Guilty Pleasure
Network: CBS
Genre: Police Procedural
Stars: Alex O’Loughin (Moonlight, The Back Up Plan), Scott Caan (Ocean’s Trilogy, Entourage), Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) and Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica)

I am never a big fan of remakes, but I have to say that out of all the remakes that the networks have forced down our throats over the last few years, this is the only one that I find enjoyable (sorry, 90210). Sure, the quality is a little lacking in this show. The plots are never that inspired, and some of the storylines are more than a little tired, not to mention there seems to be very little character developments so far in the season, but I’m not complaining. I get to see Alex O’Loughlin kick ass every week and that is more than enough reason to justify watching this show. Not to mention, this is a show about the beautiful, lush, bikini-happy islands of Hawaii. To hate on it would just be cruel. Who could hate Hawaii? 🙂 And that, my friends, is the reason why this show gets to sit pretty at #6 in this list.

5/ The Vampire Diaries

Category: TV Catnip
Network: The CW
Genre: The Awesomely Supernatural
Stars: Ian Somerhalder (Lost), Paul Wesley (24), Nina Dobrev (Degrassi) and a slew of other hot young actors who became household names thanks to this show.

If you’re no stranger to this blog then you already know how I feel about this show. But for all you newcomers, let me break it down for you: if you can only stand watching one “supernatural-themed” show, make sure you watch this one. Sure, True Blood over at HBO has more buzz surrounding it, but if season three has taught us anything is that the show is slowly dwindling in quality. And the sophomore season of The Vampire Diaries is the exact opposite. It’s addictive, suspenseful, thrilling, fun and it’ll – excuse the pun – suck you in. This ain’t your average teen vampire show; in the first season alone show runners Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec have shown that they are not afraid to be edgy and gritty. The quality of this show has gotten so good that I’m not even embarrassed to profess my love for it, and that’s why it earned the #5 spot.

4/ White Collar

Category: Guilty Pleasure
Network: USA Network
Genre: Sleek “Con man” Procedural
Stars: Matthew Bomer (Chuck), Tim DeKay (Carnivale), Thiffany Thiesen (Saved By The Bell), Willie Garson (Sex and The City) and Marsha Thomason (Las Vegas).

USA Network should really call itself “the guilty pleasure network” because not only does it have the best summer shows like Psych and Burn Notice, it also has so many guilty pleasure shows that we all love to indulge in like Royal Pains, Fairly Legal and this sleek, sexy procedural in our #4 spot. The premise of this show is a brilliant con artist assisting the FBI in solving various white collar cases, and it could easily get tedious and boring but the show is smart enough to not only hire the always smoldering Matthew Bomer to play con man Neal Caffrey, but also to build a show mythology that they can easily expand and build on for many seasons. Add clever banters to the mix and you have a smart, guilty pleasure show you’re actually not embarrassed to show your love for. Thus, I bequeath the show the #4 spot. Hey, you gotta give Jeff Eastin credit for turning boring, white collar cases into something sexy and adventurous!

3/ Being Erica

Category: TV Catnip
Network: CBC, SOAPNet
Genre: Soul-searching Drama
Stars: Erin Karpluk (Life Unexpected), Michael Riley (This Is Wonderland), and a bunch of other Canadian actors that we’re not too familiar with.

I actually have only stumbled on this show very recently, and in one month I devoured all three seasons of this delicious Canadian show simply because I couldn’t stop watching. This show should have been ridiculous, I mean, it has a somewhat ridiculous premise; a single, unemployed and generally pathetic 32-year-old woman, Erica Strange, decides to participate in a therapy where her doctor sends her back in time to fix her regrets. Ridiculous, right? Not so much. The show is actually far from it, because the lessons Erica learns in each episode and the way her character grows over time actually eclipse the ridiculousness of time travel therapy. And I think that’s the whole point. It’s not a sci-fi time traveling show (it made very little effort in explaining the whole time travel therapy part), instead it’s an introspective show about growing up and making better choices even if you’re already so used to making bad decisions. For that and more, I decided to award my new TV catnip the #3 spot in this list.

2/ Skins (Original UK Series)

Category: Guilty Pleasure
Network: E4
Genre: Raunchy British Teen Drama
Stars: Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy) and a ton of young British actors and virtual unknowns prior to the show

This raunchy teen drama is such a hit in the UK that MTV cannot resist in attempting to do a US version, with horrifying results. Not only was the US version an insult to the original, but the show also enraged the Parents Television Council, forcing many sponsors, such as Subway, to pull out. But the original UK series is something completely different than its shoddy adaptation: the storylines are fresh, the conflicts are real, the actors are talented and every episode we get a glimpse of what life is like at seventeen; tumultuous, angsty but at the same time a lot of fun. Those are the years of no consequence and Skins does a pretty good job balancing between the hardships of being a teenager in an adult world and the fun of it all. It’s also pretty genius in rebooting with a whole new castmember after two seasons to keep the plots fresh and at the same time, attract new viewers. Not to mention, it is the only show on television (that I know of) that devotes each episode to each different individual characters, which is more effective in the long run because we get to see each episode from a different character’s point of view. Even though I don’t think the second (and now third) generation can quite live up to the first, this show is still guiltily pleasurable (sex! Parties! Pills! And oh, all that angst!) enough to perch nicely on the #2 spot.

1/ Parenthood

Category: TV Catnip
Network: NBC
Genre: Family Drama
Stars: Peter Krause (Six Feet Under, Dirty Sexy Money), Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), Erica Christensen (Traffic, Swimfan), Monica Potter (Patch Adams, Along Came A Spider), Dax Sheppard (Punk’d, When In Rome), Mae Whitman (Independence Day), Joy Bryant (Spiderman 2, Bobby), and Craig T Nelson – along with a bunch of other really talented actors, children and adults alike.

I’d like to think of my number one TV Catnip as “the little engine that could”, because by all accounts this show should be Dead On Arrival but instead, it has thrived, nay, soared even though all odds were against it. Let’s see, first, early in production, their star Maura Tierney, who was originally set to play Sarah Braverman, pulled out after being diagnosed with breast cancer. This caused the show to postpone all the way to mid-season to give producers time to recast the role, which then went on to the awesome Lorelai Gilmore Lauren Graham. Then, after the show premiered, the numbers didn’t turn out to be that great. However, it had a passionate fanbase (yours truly included) that somehow got it picked up for a second season. And still, the numbers, though steady, weren’t all that great either. But luckily for the show, none of NBC’s new shows did great in the ratings department either, and some are even canceled early (so long, Undercovers), giving this show a boost in their chance of survival, and -fingers crossed- might even get picked up for a third season. How’s that for the little engine that could? And I think the reason why this show continues to survive is the fact that it’s probably the only show in NBC right now with the right amount of heart, truth and reality. Parenthood is a show we all can relate to, a show about family that is honest and real – that doesn’t rely on ideals and instead approaches the concept with a realistic, yet hopeful, point of view. Add an amazing cast (they’re all so amazing, including the child actors) and you’ve got an hour of unforgettable entertainment, all courtesy of the dysfunctional yet lovable Bravermans. And that’s why they have received the Top Honors in this list. Congrats, guys. Now let’s just pray that more people will watch this show so it will not be canceled too soon.

So there you have it, My Top 10 Favorite TV Catnips and Guilty Pleasures. Now it’s your turn, what’s your TV catnip and guilty pleasure? Sound off below!


Binky Bee

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