My Guilty Pleasures of Summer TV

With it being May, many of the regular fall TV fare is shutting down for the summer. So, I thought I would share some of what I watch during the summer months to keep myself entertained. Keep in mind, this is guilty pleasure TV, which I define as shows which are either not widely followed (and hence don’t come up much in conversations) or which I watch rather sheepishly and do not bring up in casual conversations. These are in no particular order:


I stumbled upon this one a year or two ago. It’s a British show. The premise is pretty simple: the inner workings of the staff at a local grocery store. As this is UK TV we’re talking about, they can get away with more swearing, etc. than the average American or Canadian show, so depending on how you feel about that, this may not be one to watch with little ones in the room. However, the characters with all their quirks grow on you. Plus, they have some fairly well-known actors, as well as fresh faces. As another interesting tidbit, characters are always rotating in and out (much like an actual retail store), and the opening credits usually change according to who is currently on the show.

Mr. D

I know this one usually runs during the fall, but it’s never too late to start watching it. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard more people talking about this show. The premise here is a slacker teacher and his relationships with the other faculty, who are also quite a cast of characters. It’s a Canadian show, but if you can watch it elsewhere, I’d recommend it. The titular character is always up to something (usually not what he is supposed to be up to). The supporting cast bring their own hilarious quirks to the table, as well. Mark Forward, who plays high-strung librarian Mr. Leung, is one of my favourites to watch. He amazingly manages to deadpan some really awkward and hilarious lines.

Top Shot

Top Shot (2010) Poster

I don’t mind reality competition shows. But at the same time, I really don’t care if Kevin and Maria are at each other’s throats at the cast housing, or if David is super homesick right now. I just want to see what they do. If I’m going to watch a reality competition show, I also tend to gravitate towards the ones that have obvious, definite results. (I’m sorry America’s Next Top Model, posing this way instead of that way may be obvious to you, but it’s over my head.) I used to regularly watch Project Runway because it was interesting to see the work they put out. But even that show has grown more and more behind the scenes drama focused instead of design focused. Top Shot doesn’t really do that. The show is about expert marksmen (markspeople?) demonstrating how to accurately launch all different kinds of weapons. Some are more typical, and some are more tribal. Sometimes the marksmen are the ones learning. It’s no muss, no fuss, just watching people who are great at what they do, do it well. I mean, one of their famous challenges is shooting a gumball off a golf tee. It’s crazy. Oh, and explosions…usually, you’ll have a healthy dose of those sprinkled in, too.

Cooking Shows: Worst Cooks in America & Kitchen Nightmares Kitchen Nightmares (2007) Poster

I do not normally watch cooking shows; they tend to be more or less my last resort when it comes to searching for something to watch. I love to eat, but I am worthless in the kitchen. Which is why the short but sweet Worst Cooks in America is a show I always keep an eye out for: it makes me feel (slightly) better, and it’s free basic cooking knowledge–because, let’s face it, I’m not even sure I’m cutting the onions right, so please don’t try talking to me about flambe. So, if you’re a fellow useless cook, I’d recommend tracking down some old episodes. My main complaint with the show is that it’s so short. I think each season is over in like 2 months.

Recently, as my regular shows have been dropping off for the summer, I’ve started watching Kitchen Nightmares. Okay, actually binge-watching Kitchen Nightmares. Seriously, I had a dream the other night that Gordon Ramsay and I were friends and he was giving me life advice. But I’m still watching it. For those who don’t, it’s a show about poorly run, practically deserted restaurants being given “restaurant therapy” by Chef Ramsey. The problems do tend to fall into the same basic categories: food is not fresh (may be microwaved/frozen); food storage is not maintained (nasty stuff in the fridge that shouldn’t be); staff and owners don’t get along; if the owners are married, their marriage is in trouble; restaurant decor is ugly, etc. I realize this seems contradictory to my statement about not liking tons of drama in reality shows. However, in this case, the drama directly effects the outcome. It doesn’t feel as frivolous as with some shows. Anyway, Ramsay balances multiple roles of food critic, chef, inspector, decorator, and therapist quite well (the therapist part is surprising if you’ve ever watched Hell’s Kitchen…), and it shows in the results he brings out of these situations. Usually people stick with his suggestions, but you’ll have the occasional controlling owner or unforeseen circumstance that makes for a surprise in the update part at the end.

Tattoo Nightmares

Tattoo Nightmares (2012) Poster

This is probably the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures. I have exactly one tattoo, which I chose and contemplated for at least a month, and then got while I was completely sober. Apparently, that story isn’t as common as I thought. These guys deal with some pretty messed up tattoos, and it’s fascinating to see how they manage to cover them up every time. What makes this better than other “terrible tattoo” shows? For one, the tattoos really are terrible. I watched the America’s Worst Tattoos show on TLC one time, and those tattoos were nothing compared the ones on Spike. Plus, on the Spike version, as Spike is known to do, actors re-enact the scenarios that brought about these terrible tattoos. Be warned, certain tattoos and scenarios would definitely not be appropriate for children to watch, but come on–this is Spike, so you should know that already. One thing that I’ve always wondered about this show is if each season is filmed in a day. Because every episode, the tattoo artists are wearing the same clothes. Weird thing to notice, I guess, but it makes me wonder.

I should also admit that I watch Ink Master, too. I guess I figured if I’m going to see what terrible tattoos look like, I may as well see what great ones are supposed to look like. The show’s okay. You can definitely tell it’s pros judging, because what looks fine to me is easily dissected and criticized by the judges. The show tends to dabble in frivolous drama more than I’d like, which is why I never watch the finale. The finale is basically a tattooed version of The Bachelor:*watch a clip* How did you feel when…? *watch a clip* Do you agree that…? *watch a clip* Who ended up being your biggest competition? Etc. Snore. I thought I was supposed to be watching the creation of great tattoos, not a study of Reality Show Politics and Infighting 101. So yeah, I’d say that show is “meh.” But it still can be interesting.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Whose Line Is It Anyway (2013) Poster

Can I just say that I miss the old Whose Line? Is that allowed? Because I do. I miss it because the old one had more audience interaction, more interaction between the host and the cast, and a wider variety of games per show. I do like that the new version draws from a wider net of comedians, as well as the original cast. And, the new version has also brought on some interesting new games. But, I miss seeing audience members in Props, for example. I miss seeing the host on stage doing improv with the rest of the gang (although I do not miss that being in the context of an insidious hoe down). I miss not knowing exactly what games would be played each night. Now, every episode, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see Props (with a guest), Hollywood Director, etc. Some of the spontaneity that made the show so fun to watch seems to have left with the 90’s. But it’s Whose Line, and enough of the classics (people and games) are still there that we still watch.

Hopefully these suggestions will provide some unexpected summer entertainment. Please let me know if you have any recommendations, or what you thought of mine.


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