Thursday, June 03, 2010

Guilty pleasures for summer when TV is all re-runs

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I'm not sure what to do with myself now that the regular TV season is over. What am I supposed to do with all this free time? What am I supposed to do with no new episodes of Modern Family, 30 Rock, The Office, American Idol, How I Met Your Mother, Cougar Town or my new favourite show: The Middle?

I've always loved TV — a little too much, actually. If you could earn a PhD in sitcoms and reality TV, I wouldn't even need to study for the final exam. Heck, I've even written several columns on various seasons of American Idol and Canadian Idol and got to interview several of the contestants on Canadian Idol. Talk about a dream come true for a TV buff like myself!

Now that the summer TV season is here, I'm going to have to find new shows to watch. These will no doubt be reality shows, since the networks are rolling those out all the time. Hell's Kitchen is starting again — you know, the show where British chef Gordon Ramsay swears constantly, throws food around and calls everyone who makes a mistake a "donkey." I live vicariously through him, since having temper tantrums at work is not exactly looked upon kindly. When I watch Hell's Kitchen, though, I daydream about the possibilities because, let's face it, once in a while you just want to call someone a donkey.

But there's nothing like my biggest guilty pleasure of the summer: Big Brother. I only started watching it recently and am hooked. It's completely void of any intellectual value. It's ridiculous from start to finish. It's entirely vacuous and without cultural merit of any kind. It brings out the worst in people. To win the grand prize, you need to lie, cheat and bully. You need to throw people under the bus to save yourself. And, of course, I can't stop watching it.

Big Brother is the kind of show you watch while plopped down in front of the TV unshaven, wearing your rattiest time-to-do-a-laundry underwear, with a cold drink in one hand and the remote in the other. Not to mention your jaw hanging open with drool running down your chin. Not exactly a sexy moment. No, this is not the show to watch while you're trying to attract a potential mate. I'm embarrassed to even say I watch it. Don't tell anyone, OK?

During the summer months when routines are turned upside down, it's a good opportunity to indulge a bit in other guilty pleasures, too. When I was a kid, we always went on Sunday drives as a family. We never knew where we were going — well, maybe my parents did, but we kids didn't. We just hopped in the car and went.

For some reason, we always took apples with us. If we were particularly good at nagging, we would manage to talk our parents into stopping for ice cream somewhere. Of the three kids, at least two of us would fall asleep and be cranky when we woke up. Usually I never slept in the car, but that never stopped me from being cranky anyway. (Being a gifted child, I didn't need a nap to make me cranky.)

To this day, I still love to go on drives, especially on Sunday mornings when there's not a lot of traffic. I buy a couple of extra-large coffees (yes, a couple) and head off on an adventure down roads I've never travelled. I either listen to satellite radio or a business audio book — another couple of my guilty pleasures.

There's no use going on a trip in your car if you're not going to learn something along the way. Get yourself in the habit — like I have — of picking up a copy of a good audiobook to listen to along the way. I love doing this. Often, I'll go for a drive just to listen to an audiobook. It's relaxing and educational at the same time.

When I bought my new vehicle last fall, I got a free three-month subscription to satellite radio with the purchase. By the time the free three months were up, I was so addicted to certain specialty channels that I ended up buying a one-year subscription. I can't imagine being without it now.

My literary guilty pleasures are celebrity-centric tabloids and biographies. While I don't advocate criticizing someone just because they're rich and successful, I don't mind partaking in a bit of print voyeurism regarding some of the lewd and crude details of famous people's lives.

I don't necessarily believe it all, but hey — if I'm stuck in front of computer working most of the time, then I can at least fantasize about some of the nasty things those beautiful, young and rich celebrities are doing — right before I look down next to my computer chair for a reality check only to see a furry little feline brat pointing toward its mouth to remind me that feeding time was — oh — 30 seconds ago. Well, excuse me for being late, your majesty! What next? Want me to clean up your droppings? Oh yeah, you already have me well trained in that area, too.

Actually, another guilty pleasure of mine is just walking around the mall. Yeah, you heard me right. Sometimes it's just nice to get out and walk around to see what's new out there. I also love visiting ethnic grocery stores to look at some of the fascinating things people from other cultures eat. That is — if they even want my business. I was in an ethnic grocery store a few days ago that had a sign posted saying, "If you are just looking around, please leave. — The Manager".

Refreshingly honest. Astoundingly rude. Insanely bad entrepreneurship.

Have fun with your guilty pleasures this summer. And remember not to come knocking at my door when Big Brother is on. You might not like what answers the door.

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