Guilty pleasures

Before Christmas, kindred spirit and fellow blogger about whatever-takes-his-fancy Mr Shev wrote this post about his guilty pleasures in life, which he introduced as follows:

Everyone has things that they enjoy which they feel they shouldn’t. I don’t know why it is that people are sometimes embarrassed to be seen reading a Harry Potter book if they’re over the age of 13, or grabbing a sneaky Big Mac when they should be having a feta and anchovy salad or watching Dawson’s Creek when they really must watch the History of the Modern World on BBC4. But they do. I do.

Come on, admit it. We all have our guilty pleasures, don’t we? The things that we would hate to give up, even though we would never own up to them in front of anyone but our closest friends (and even then maybe not).

I have been mulling over my favourite guilty pleasures ever since, and have finally decided to put finger to keyboard and record them for posterity (and, no doubt, no small amount of piss-taking at a later date). So, here goes.

1. American Idol

Season 10 of the US’s most popular TV series returns to our screens tonight (ITV2, 8pm Thursdays and 9pm Fridays) for its tenth season, but its first without Simon Cowell. Now I’ve never been a fan of X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent – largely because Britain hasn’t got much talent – but Idol is a different beast. The talent pool is deeper – Idol has made international stars out of Kelly Clarkson and Dreamgirls Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson – and the programme remains largely focussed on being a singing competition, rather than a vehicle for the egos and machinations of the judges.

Yes, there are the usual early shows showcasing the desperate wannabes, the hopelessly self-deluded and the just plain awful. Yes, the formula is a tried and trusted one, and we have seen pretty much every variation on a theme in prior seasons. Yes, the franchise as a whole is running out of steam a bit. But Idol remains compellingly mindless end-of-the-week viewing, just what you need for a lazy Friday night in with a takeaway and a bottle of wine. In that respect, it remains the perfect reality show.

2. Chick-fic

I have always been an avid reader, across a multitude of genres: fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, sports, travel, serious stuff, not-so-serious stuff. But I have always had a weakness for trashy chick-fiction. I can’t explain why. I just do. I’m not into the Mills and Boon, Barbara Cartland type slush. Nor do I have a huge amount of time for the more salacious bonkbuster style typified by the likes of Jackie Collins. But throw something a bit more modern and a bit sassier at me – Louise Bagshawe (a contemporary of mine at university, now a Conservative MP), Freya North, Lisa Jewell, the list is endless – and I will quite happily while away a few hours in a world of Machiavellian machinations, impossible glamour and fashion labels I am barely aware of which is a million miles away from the humdrum of normal life.

3. KFC

Don’t get me wrong: I love good food. I have been fortunate enough to eat in the kind of restaurants you need a second mortgage to pay the bill for – and evidence of either a sizeable inheritance or a recent lottery win before they will even show you the wine list – and would gladly go back to any of those in a heartbeat. But there have been times – many moons ago when I weighed considerably less and had a faster metabolism – when I would like nothing better than to buy a family-sized KFC bucket, take it to the park, and consume the whole lot myself in a leisurely fashion as if it were a condemned man’s last meal.

Nowadays, of course, I am older, fatter and a bit more sensible. But even so, there are times when the lure of the Colonel’s secret recipe is nigh on irresistible. Finger lickin’ good, indeed.

4. The Incredibles

What is your favourite film of all time? The Shawshank Redemption, perhaps? Schindler’s ListThe Godfather? Or maybe something even more old school – 12 Angry Men or Casblanca? All are great films, and would certainly rank in my personal top 20 list. But my favourite film of all time is a Pixar animation which IMDb currently lists at number 194 in its list of Top 250 films, slightly behind Gandhi and just ahead of Good Will Hunting; a film about an extraordinary family struggling to live an ordinary life: The Incredibles.

As a film appealing to both children and adults, it works on so many levels. Lovingly referential to its comic book roots and yet beautifully original, The Incredibles races between outrageous action set-pieces and moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, all wrapped up in a story which is overflowing with pathos and heart. I once watched it five times in a row on a flight between Singapore and London, and laughed just as hard on the fifth viewing. I can’t imagine ever doing that with any other film.

5. The Eighties

It was the decade which saw me through from primary school to university. How could it not hold a special place in my heart?

For me, it was a golden age of television, especially if you were a teenage boy: Knight Rider, Airwolf, The A-Team, Miami Vice, the peak years of Grange Hill. It was also a golden age of music – the New Romantics, electro-pop, goth, Sonia (okay, maybe not that last one) – the pinnacle of the singles market before it began its painful and inexorable decline. And it wasn’t a bad era for cinema either: E.T., the Indiana Jones trilogy, Top Gun, Back to the Future. I’m not ashamed – well, not that ashamed – to admit that I have rewatched many of the aforementioned series thanks to God’s gift of multichannel TV, and own several of the decade’s favourite films on DVD. And I’ve been to watch many of my favourite Eighties bands perform at various revival gigs. (Although it is slightly disconcerting to realise that your boyhood idols have aged by just as much as you have in the intervening period.)

Okay, I can live without the leg-warmers and the shoulder pads. (And Sonia.) And I know that my rose-tinted view of three decades ago is a hopelessly romanticised one. But do you know what? I don’t care. I still love TV, music and film as much as I did back then, and nothing contemporary gives me quite the same thrill as hearing the opening bars of Money For Nothing, or watching the bicycle chase in E.T., or glimpsing the intro of Knight Rider.

If liking the Eighties, or American Idol, or any of the deeply personal pleasures listed above is worthy of a laugh at my expense, then I’m happy to plead guilty as charged.

Right, that’s me done. Now that I’ve revealed some of my guilty pleasures, are there any you would care to share?


By the way, if you like the random peregrinations that constitute the contents of this blog – and if you don’t, why are you still reading? – I would heartily recommend you give Mr Shev’s blog a go. If nothing else, I find it reassuring to know I’m not the only guilty one out there.