— Summer is the perfect time to indulge our guilty pleasures. Whether it's a pitcher of frozen drinks poolside, a trashy novel for the plane ride, or a skipped work day spent at the baseball game, there's just something about these warm months that beckons us to be bad.
Some would say that television always encourages us to be bad, what with the plethora of niche channels, trashy reality shows and bad movies that abound. "Wipeout," that goofy game show where otherwise-normal Americans actually sign up to get whacked by enormous obstacles, could only be a summer show.
We bribed members of our own msnbc.com staff to 'fess up to their televised guilty pleasures. From heavy-metal mania to wedding-dress voyeurism, our secret shows cross all genres. Maybe you'll recognize one of your favorites, too, or pick up a new embarrassing addiction of your own.
‘Say Yes to the Dress’
I hate weddings. If I were to get married it would be in a normal dress in front of a judge. Despite this, I cannot resist TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.” The show follows the bridal consultants at Kleinfeld’s Bridal in New York. One moment I’m gasping as a bride declares her budget is $8,000 (this is just for the gown, mind you) and the next minute I’m cracking up when a mother-in-law-to-be makes a face at a hideous dress. And I even tear up, too, when a dad starts crying after seeing his daughter in her dress and exclaims that any man who isn’t touched by that moment must not have been a very good dad. Heck, I even have a favorite consultant: The wise and funny Keasha. I may not be buying a dress, but I’ll take this show. —Paige Newman
‘America’s Got Talent’
I don’t really watch “America’s Got Talent” to see the genuine talent, although it is fun to be astonished by a pre-teen who sings like Aretha Franklin or a doughy salesman who croons like a sea nymph. What really keeps me coming back is the variety and weirdness of talent and the earnestness and audacity with which contestants show it off. I’m genuinely moved by the elation or disappointment they exude as they leave the stage victorious or vanquished. I cheer along with the crazy fire-breathing couple ecstatic over their win. And I feel bad for the guy who used his big toe as a dancing puppet and who stands there — in utter befuddlement — as he’s savaged by the judges. I’m in it for the gutsy people who risk derision and step away from mundane jobs as checkout clerks and accountants so they can show America the inspired or zany things they do. It really does take courage to do that. Courage and an excessively limber big toe. —Michael Wann
My coworkers clowned me when they found one of my ringtones was Death Cab For Cutie’s “Marching Bands of Manhattan.” I die a little each time Wilco’s albums get worse. I take Stars seriously. But when I am channel-surfing late at night and I land on VH1 Classic's “Metal Mania,” that hour-plus block of 80s hair crap, I park. For at least a while. The show just delivers videos, no VJs to interrupt the music, which includes all the classics — Skid Row, Cinderella, Dokken, Ratt and more. I spent my teenage years as a sullen, eyelinered suburban Cali goth actively hating this stuff and Reagan’s America. Why listen now? Because, I’m ashamed to admit, I still know every word. —Rob Neill
‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’
When I confessed my Guy Fieri crush on Facebook, my niece was shocked. "Wow, really?" she posted. "Even with those backwards sunglasses he wears all the time?" Yes, even with those. Fieri (real name: Guy Ferry), won the second season of "The Next Food Network Star," and I can see why. He's got that bubbly, never-met-a-stranger personality that the camera loves and which amazes an introvert like me. On "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," the best of his two shows, he chows down on house specialties in restaurant kitchens and throws himself down at strangers' tables with enviable aplomb. Yes, his slang is weirdly dated ("that's so money"), but I just can't help it. The minute he rolls up in that '67 Camaro, I'm hooked. I'd join him for a burger in Flavortown any time. —Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
‘48 Hours Mystery’
I've long been a fan of true-crime books, but with the exception of Ann Rule, it seems as if the good authors have all retired or otherwise gone silent. So I have to get my fix in other ways. CBS's “48 Hours Mystery” is a good substitute. The best episodes always start with a ridiculously normal family or couple, always beautiful, often rich, usually living in a gleaming McMansion in some palm-tree decked paradise. Then he gets a drug habit, or she gets a boyfriend, someone gets the idea that they can plan the perfect crime, and all hell breaks loose. Keep an eye out for the inevitable family member or neighbor who remains in complete denial even after the confession and/or conviction. —G.F.C.
He was the most cluelessly brilliant man I have ever seen. His hair and overcoat were rumpled and I’m sure he reeked of cigar smoke. Yet a part of me was in love with “Columbo.” He was understated in his greatness, content to be underestimated right up until he said, “Um … just one more thing” and then brilliantly solved the crime, usually committed by someone in a leisure suit. Lieutenant Columbo was like Clark Kent would have been if he’d had the confidence to skip the superhero suit. He was above the flash of those TV cops on the competing TV show “CHiPs.” He was so smooth he didn’t even need a first name. I watched the original series as a kid growing up in Southern California in the ‘70s — and then later the Columbo movies. When I had my first son and was on maternity leave I stumbled across reruns on cable each weekday and began making veiled excuses as to why I had to be home each early afternoon. Now, Columbo and I are together again due to Netflix, each episode an hour-long oasis where guy who wears a salmon-colored two-piece suit, drives a Peugeot and has a lazy eye and can still make the world right. —Linda Dahlstrom