Sure, everyone can name a few of their "guilty pleasure" TV shows, but some are guiltier than others. From "this is going to pinch a little" to "oh my god it hurts," here are some of the best shows for experiencing human pain and suffering on TV.
Pain threshold 3, or, "This is going to pinch a little"
Vicariously experiencing the cast's hangovers, punches to the face, and general loss of dignity and innocence makes me glad there's more to my life than the gym, tanning, and laundry, and that the dumbest and most embarrassing things I've done while intoxicated were not caught on camera—I hope.
Nobody's paying me to go on an adventure vacation in an exotic location, so it's nice to see someone else's amazing trip get complicated by constipation, sunburn, sand-wrestling, and dealing with jerks and slowpokes.
I can admit it: I am strangely fascinated by kids throwing tantrums and embarrassing their parents. (You too? Try the Nanny shows as well.) But there are also the twisted humiliations of spray tanning, fake eyelashes, flammable hairdos, embarrassing dance routines, and frozen smiles. (Not to worry, though: Many of the kids actually seem to enjoy the pageantry, almost as much as their stage moms.)
Pain threshold 2, or, "Whack! Please sir, may I have another?"
There's something rather Roman Colosseum-esque about the way the contestants are tossed into increasingly complex emotional and physical challenges. The contestants willingly subject themselves to intense "last chance" workouts, screamed encouragements from trainers Jillian and Bob, the public humiliation of having to weigh yourself on TV half-naked, and maybe worst of all, those horribly awkward product placements. I can't decide whether the sight of Jillian screaming at an overweight person about his or her impending death is horrible or amazing.
The biggest hazard of my job is digging food particles out of my keyboard. But these guys? Awful weather conditions, grave danger of death and dismemberment, separation from family, all for a career that most people take for granted. And I don't even like seafood that much. (RIP Captain Phil!)
Pain threshold 1, or, "Oh god it hurts. Don't. Stop…"
It's hard to find something funny to say about the way people are fascinated by emotionally unprepared young people giving birth and then struggling to give their children a halfway decent life. Then again, Farrah got smacked in the face by her mom, and I hear that was kind of awesome.
Every now and then on the addiction shows, a person comes along whose demons have made them strangely compelling and entertaining (like Alison, the huffer on Intervention), and the more attitude they give the intervention process, the better the drama. Sometimes, however, the endings are not happy and it's hard to find the bright side. Even Dr. Drew can't always convince me this is all a great idea.
This is where the fun factor of the physical and mental pain of reality TV starts getting less entertaining: A lot of the people on this series are obviously mentally ill. Sometimes I can laugh and say, "Now my basement doesn't look so bad!" but mostly I just feel the desire to switch to an episode of What Not to Wear where the biggest challenge is... shopping. For more stuff.
What's your guiltiest TV pleasure?