For many people, TV shows provide a way to relax after a busy day. They offer the opportunity to delve into a compelling story that absorbs the viewer’s attention and satisfies their thirst for quality storytelling (unlike some ill-conceived shows). Other viewers seek the remote not to be swept up in a story, but to indulge themselves in guilty pleasures that provide superficial entertainment value but offer little — or nothing — in the way of substance and value.
Hey, we’re not judging viewers who watch TV shows on the list below. After all, everyone has series they watch in secret. These are six of the most notorious yet popular series that only the bravest souls own up to actually watching. For the record, we’re limiting this list to series currently on the air (sorry, Jersey Shore) and tried not to include only reality shows (too easy). So, if you dare, let’s explore some of the most shameful shows you might watch. Don’t worry, you don’t have to fess up.
1. The Bachelor franchise (2002–present)
It’s hard to imagine that the original version of this show debuted on ABC nearly a decade and a half ago. Then again, it’s hard to imagine a world without it at this point. Of course, The Bachelor is a dating reality show in which a collection of female contestants vie for the affection of the titular man. Since its debut, it has become a staple of ABC’s lineup, leading to spinoffs like The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, and Bachelor in Paradise. With no signs of slowing down, we’re likely many years away from the network executives neglecting to give this flagship show a rose of its own.
2. The Real Housewives franchise (2006–present)
Somewhere around the time of MTV’s The Real World, television began to embrace the fact that people would watch seemingly ordinary citizens (i.e., non-celebrities) just living their normal lives, or at least what they consider to be normal. The Real Housewives franchise — at this point, there have been nine U.S. incarnations of the show, each set in a different city — has become so popular that it has spawned international versions as well. However you feel about the show’s success, it has become indicative of the franchise potential for reality television series.
3. Keeping Up with the Kardashians (2007–present)
Speaking of reality franchises, you didn’t think we would get through this list without giving Kim Kardashian and her family some attention, did you? So much of our fame-obsessed media culture is reflected in this series’s popularity. Before it, the Kardashians barely registered in pop culture and now they’re a force to be reckoned with and a bottomless pit of ancillary ventures. Take, for instance, the countless spinoffs this show has inspired.
4. The Vampire Diaries (2009–present)
Right after the Twilight film franchise kicked off, The CW scooped up this supernatural drama based on L.J. Smith’s novels. The premiere instantly drew in viewers, becoming the highest-rated premiere the network had seen up to that point and remained the most watched premier until the release of Arrow a few years later. Still, despite its success, the show’s blatant soap opera elements and cheesy melodrama qualify it for guilty-pleasure status. Naturally, it spawned a spinoff, The Originals, in 2013.
5. Pretty Little Liars (2010–present)
Loosely based on the young adult novels by Sara Shepard, this show follows four girls whose queen bee is mysteriously murdered. One year later, they start to become terrorized by an unknown assailant who threatens to ruin their lives. It’s the perfect gossip-driven premise for tween girls, but it also doesn’t have a ton of narrative weight behind it, hence its inclusion here. The lack of socially redeeming value means that adult viewers may be justified in being closet fans of this TV show.
6. Fuller House (2016–present)
Even though Full House was a hit for ABC in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the show never caught on with critics, who critiqued its schmaltzy tone and lack of real depth. This recent update restores those exact same ingredients, centering on recently widowed D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure) and her efforts to raise her three kids with help from her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and best friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber). Despite its flaws, fans of the original show will be sucked into this spinoff considering how closely it recaptures the feeling of the original Full House. Others will avoid it like the plague.
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