Everyone has them: complete wastes of time. Guilty pleasures, as it were. Shows that don't necessarily add anything significant to our lives, but we can't keep from going back to them, over and over again. There's nothing wrong with them - in fact, some of them are pretty awesome. Since it's been a slow news week and I've had plenty of time to spend thinking on such things, I present to you my six favorite wastes of time.
In no particular order:
1. The Mole (ABC, 2001-2004, 2008)
For the most part, I loathe reality television; I've just never been all that interested in any of the series. The Mole, however, had me from early on, indulging the part of me that loves spy shows and almost had a career in the CIA. I was glad to have a series where I was forced to figure out clues that actually took effort to spot and decode. Even the celebrity editions of the series weren't half bad. The real keeper, though, was the revived season five, which is in my mind the best season. I was hooked on every episode, even if no one had any idea why I was taking notes and rewinding my DVR over and over again. I was pleased that I figured out The Mole, but not thrilled when ABC axed the series for the second time. I hope that it'll make a comeback (unlikely given how the ratings were relatively weak), or at least that season five will come out on DVD. At least then I could finally point out the hidden clues everyone else I knew missed.
2. The Omega Virus (1992)
It's not a show, I know, but I have to include this because I know this is where large parts of my childhood went. If anyone else remembers this board game, leave a comment, because I seriously hope I'm not the only person who remembers it. To this day, I don't think there's a game I've played more. I don't even recall how I got it, but my friends and I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing this sci-fi adventure where you race to stop a sentient computer virus before it stops you. When my friends and I weren't playing, I was playing it myself, at all hours. I can't help but smile when I think back to one game at near midnight, where I had to stack a few dictionaries on top of the speaker to keep the taunting voice of the Omega Virus from waking up everyone else in my house. Fun times, and a board game that I'll never get rid of, no matter how old it is. They just don't make them as fun as this one.
3. Legends of the Hidden Temple (Nickelodeon, 1993-1995)
I dare anyone to name me a game show that is as unique as Legends of the Hidden Temple. There just hasn't been anything like it, before or since; even today, if I mention it, at least three or four people immediately jump into the conversation with fond memories of Kirk Fogg and Olmec. We all remember how cool it was to learn about history and imagine participating in "Temple Runs" through an elaborately constructed set with puzzles and Temple Guards potentially hiding around any corner. The show had an atmosphere all its own and one of the coolest sets of any game show, ever. I actually have a Legends T-shirt. (I also admit to having a soft spot for other Nickelodeon game shows of the same period, including Nick Arcade and GUTS.)
This network has probably taken up more of my life than I want to know about. I have seen more SportsCenter than is healthy for a human being (even when it's the same episode being repeated four times in a row and I know it); I actually started my sports journalism career after auditioning for an anchor job at the network on a dare. I've sat up watching ESPN when I couldn't sleep and it was airing Inside The Senior PGA Tour. (I'm not proud of that, but it's true.) I was a huge fan of the 2 Minute Drill game show (I even had the computer game and used to beat it into submission to the awe of college classmates). Even now, every afternoon, I make time to watch SportsNation, Around The Horn, and Pardon The Interruption. I even went so far as to name a fictional character in one of my short stories after ATH host Tony Reali. I told you ESPN wasn't healthy for me.
5. Cheaters (2000-present)
This is the one that I feel legitimately embarrassed to put on this list, but I have to. Someone in my famiy stumbled upon this once and we haven't been able to turn it off - as in we actually sit up every Sunday night to see who's about to get busted next. This is, to me, the very definition of "trainwreck TV" - I can't believe I'm watching it but I can't stop either, mostly because I can't quit laughing at people's ridiculous behavior and the show's horrible puns (one guy is captioned as "overstocking his supply of women"). I also can't get away from it as it seems to be on G4 half the day anyway. If there's nothing else on, and I need background noise, I'm probably either watching Cheaters, one of the endless reruns of Cops, or another embarrassingly guilty pleasure in Maury. As you can imagine, this really doesn't help me in my quest to believe the best in most people. It seems there's no shortage of those who need paternity tests or chastity belts.
6. The Academy (FOX Reality, 2007-2008)
I'm biased here, because I have a background in law enforcement, but this is the only other reality series I've ever liked. The first two seasons followed two recruit classes for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (though there were officers from other agencies as well), and it gave people a really good look at just what it takes to be a sheriff's deputy. It also had legitimately interesting stories to tell: there were several recruits who had always wanted to be cops, others who were looking to change their lives with a new career, and one who was battling cancer. This is before you get to the face of the program, Deputy Dwight "The Ramrod" Miley, who was a character unto himself - and exactly the kind of guy I would have loved to work with. The third season, which changed gears to focus on firefighters, wasn't nearly as fun, but I admit to watching marathons of the earlier seasons whenever FOX Reality ran them. The only problem was that it usually made me wish I was there.
You've read mine, now it's time to fess up: what are your favorite wastes of time? Have you seen every episode of Celebrity Rehab? Have no idea why you spent all that time trying to figure out your Rubik's Cube? TV show, film, or pastime - tell me what you love but can't seem to find any justification for. Trust me, we've all been there.
For more lists and commentary from the desk, check out my personal blog at my site, DigitalAirwaves.net.