Summer, moreso than any other season or time of year I think, is about letting loose and just having fun. That mentality frequently carries over to summer television programming, when several ridiculous guilty pleasure series make their way to the air. For some reason I seem to have a lot more of them on my schedule this year than before, so I thought I'd let you in on some of these I tune into. Rarely are there any redeeming qualities about these shows; most are terrible reality shows without much reality to them at all. But they're a good time, even if you hate to admit you watch them.
Pretty Little Liars (Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC Family)
This is the kind of show that is completely embarassing to watch, unless you're a teenage girl. Seeing as how I am neither of those things, it's hard for me to admit how much I like Pretty Little Liars. It's gotten even more over-the-top with its plot since its premiere last summer: characters are dying and then coming back to life; everyone in town is apparently a suspect in Allison's murder, except for the people who might have actually done it; somehow a 23 year old high school English teacher has gotten a job offer to teach literature at a renowned college, thereby threatening his still-inappropriate relationship with one of his students; and 'A' continues to somehow be everywhere at once but never be seen... by anyone. It's all crazy and utterly stupid, but (like most ABC Family shows) it's a lot of fun to see exactly what ridiculous string the writers will pull next. Although they should get down to unveiling who 'A' is, because all of these red herrings and new mysteries are only making the plot convoluted; and the fanbase will eventually get bored and just want answers already. Till then, I'll still be watching the melodrama unfold.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey (Sundays at 10:00 on Bravo)
The show that started it all, the original Jersey reality series. Thanks to the instant success of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, we now have a slew of Jersey-inspired knockoffs: Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, Jersey Couture, Cake Boss, etc. But would so many shows try to capitalize on the success of this one if there wasn't something entertaining there? Anyone who's watched this installment of Bravo's trashy/delicious Real Housewives franchise can tell you that these ladies are nuts. Nene may be a walking sound byte; Camille may have separated from her famous husband in the middle of shooting; Bethenny may be the most popular housewife; but the Jersey girls bring the outrageous craziness in a way that no other city/place in the franchise can. From sex tapes to death threats, from court hearings to public auctions of the ladies' mansions, no show on television quite delivers that guilty pleasure feeling of "at least my life isn't this messed up" like this one does.
The A-List: New York (Beginning July 25, Mondays at 10:00 on Logo)
And now for something nearly the same. The A-List premiered in the fall of last year to what was apparently record ratings for the MTV-owned gay and lesbian centric cable network Logo. It was thought of as a sister show to Bravo's Real Housewives franchise, as one of the producers of the Atlanta edition of that franchise was on board for this one. I believe the tagline for season one was, "Housewives with balls." So yeah, that's the kind of show you're getting with The A-List: NY (so dubbed because a Dallas edition will debut this fall), a sleazy take on "everyday" gay life in the big city following such "prominent" gay men as The Amazing Race winner and current unemployed actor Reichen Lemkuehl; celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz, who often appears on America's Next Top Model and RuPaul's Drag Race; and a few other assored models, hairdressers, and bitches. This season adds a woman to the cast, but I really just can't wait to hear what "fabulous" new things these boring, lazy guys are up to now. Will Austin lose enough weight to pose for Playgirl? Will Rodiney and Reichen finally realize they don't work as a couple? Who will forget to say hi to Ryan at a party this year and then incur his wrath for the remainder of the season? It's all petty bullshit, but the ocassional witicisms and catfights make it worth the watch.
The Rachel Zoe Project (Beginning August 2, Tuesdays at 9:00 on Bravo)
For a network that attracts such a well-education and well-payed audience, many of Bravo's shows are just silly, mindless fun. The Rachel Zoe Project is the ultimate in that category. The show follows the mundane life of celebrity stylist Zoe and her ragtag employees as they style award shows, magazines, runway shows, and the like. Then you have Rachel's utterly clueless and obnoxious husband Roger, who only ever wants to watch football and have sex, throwing in his two cents. The breakout star of the show, gay assistant Brad, won't be back this year because he's moved on, so the new dynamic should be interesting for new viewers. It's a great show for the Bravo audience because it has the gay sensibility of the fashion world, plus a snappy assistant and enough ridiculous one-liners to make it quotable and ultimately memorable. But don't be fooled, it's not a good show. Even though I've seen every episode about six times.
Jersey Shore (Beginning August 4, Thursdays at 10:00 on MTV)
And here it is, the granddaddy of all embarassing guilty pleasures. Two years ago when Jersey Shore first debuted, it was unlikely that you'd run into someone who wasn't watching it. Whether that person then wanted to engage in a conversation about how amazing and crazy the show was, or if they wanted to debate how it was ruining the intelligence of America and the reputations of Italians everywhere is another story. It's become the cool thing to do to trash Jersey Shore for making top-tier celebrities out of nobodies. But the fact that the fourth season begins later this summer (and is being filmed in Italy, no less) and people are still talking about Snooki, The Situation, and the volatile relationship between Ronnie and Sammi is an indicaton of just how ingrained in our culture this show really is. So I'll be watching, and I'll freely admit it. Jersey Shore is one of the most entertaining shows on television, for all the wrong reasons.