Editor Reports: Guilty Pleasure TV

In this Editor Reports we delve into some guilty televisual pleasures.

To mark the release of Gossip Girl’s second season on DVD in the UK, and the show’s forthcoming return in American, our editor Doug Lambert has decided to take a look back at some of our other favourite guilty pleasures from the past few years. From Gossip Girl itself to Footballers Wives via the history of The Tudors and the shameless antics of those naughty Dante’s Cove boys.

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl is the television drama that perhaps defines modern teenagers of the day who are technology dependent and use it against each other. The rise of social networking sites has allowed teenagers to spread even more gossip, lies and rumours about each other and form even more of a pack-like culture with a pack eying up and tearing down its victims.

In many ways this is exactly what Queen Bee Balir Waldorf [Leighton Meester] does on a regular basis in Gossip Girl – and don’t we just love it? We love every plot, every scheme, every rumour that ‘Gossip Girl’ blasts out. So this may not be Shakespeare but its dam good television with bitchy girls looking fabulous and sexy men behaving badly. It’s got plenty of eye candy, it’s got plenty of one-liners and it’s got plenty of bitch…..what more could you ask for?

Footballers Wives

It’s not hard to see why this ITV drama quickly became very popular and everyone’s favourite guilty pleasure. It had the glamorous and deadly Tanya Turner [Zoe Lucker] who would plot, scheme, manipulate and pout her through entire episodes while looking stunning in fake nails and Gucci dresses. It had lots of naked men hitting the showers several times an episode and it even had some gay action in season three. Add to that barmy and bonkers plots with barmy and bonkers characters like the very jealous Amber Gates [Lalia Roauss] and you have one hell of a guilty pleasure.

It even had a crossover with fellow guilty-pleasure series Bad Girls in which Tanya ends up serving time after Amber planted drugs on her. When Footballers Wives was on top it was bloody good stuff and even its last season offered up some classics such as Tanya bitch-fighting with Eva DeWolffe [the ever wonderful Joan Collins] and Amber wearing very little but high-heels while using a metal detector to find evidence her beloved, and bisexual, husband Conrad [Ben Price], had been murdered by nasty Bruno [Ben Richards].

The Tudors

Historical drama chronicling the many marriages of King Henry VIII [Jonathan Rhys Meyers] starting with the collapse of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon [Maria Doyle-Kennedy] after the seductive Anne Boleyn [Natalie Dormer] arrives at court. Why is this a guilty pleasure? Because its full of sex, plotting and rich and powerful people acting outrageously, it’s more or less Rome just in a different setting. King Henry sleeps his way through most the women at his court while those around him make power plays and have affairs of their own.

Throw in a couple of beheadings, including Anne herself at the end of season two, and you have one unmissable drama. It’s also a drama that we all know very well, unless you didn’t study history at all, and we all have our own opinions on Henry and his wives. We know how the story will end, for each of his wives, but we’re still fascinated by it all. The series has also managed to attract some real talent with Sam Neil playing the infamous Cardinal Wolsey in the first series and Jeremy Northam playing Sir Thomas Moore in the first two seasons.

Dante’s Cove

Camp, trashy, gothic-supernatural series from America which loosely revolves around a coven of witches but the storylines aren’t as important as the sex scenes which are spread across its episodes. Treasum witch Grace [Tracey Scoggins] is due to marry Ambrosius [William Gregory Lee] but discovers him having sex with his male servant. A vengeful Grace kills the servant and locks Ambrosius in a dungeon for over a hundred years until he’s rescued by Kevin [Gregory Michael]. Ambrosius falls in love with Kevin but he has a boyfriend, Toby [Charlie David].

Toby teams up with his friend Van [Nadine Heimann] to try and stop Ambrosius. Van meanwhile begins to learn the ways of Treasum as Grace, reluctant at first, begins to teach her. The vendetta between Grace and Ambrosius is the driving force of the first two seasons of Dante’s Cove and in the second Grace’s sister Diane [Thea Gill] is introduced. The third series saw Grace and Ambrosius forced to work together in order to battle an ancient evil that killed Van in the gap between seasons two and three. As stated the storylines are irrelevant really as the series is more about its sexy cast acting outrageously with the supernatural elements often an afterthought but we love it anyway.


After Torchwood: Children of Earth the series doesn’t feel so much of a guilty pleasure now having grown up considerably, but its first two outings were. The first series was very hit and miss but thankfully it second year was much better. Torchwood mixed aliens and sex in together and the result was the Torchwood team shagging aliens left right and centre. Well that might be a slight exaggeration but that’s certainly the perception people got from the first two years.

This is very unfair because along the way there were some very good episodes such as the return of the psychopathic Suzie [Indira Varma] to Jack’s touching relationship in 1940s war-torn Cardiff with the man whose identity he stole. There are also episodes that include shape-shifting, vampire-like aliens gate crashing Gwen [Eve Myles] wedding and nasty big flies killing people. As it’s a Doctor Who spin-off Martha Jones [Freema Agyeman] appeared in three season two episodes while in Season One a “Cyber-Woman” was the enemy of an episode. To be fair the entire episode felt it was just for “the dads” as the Cyber-Woman costume didn’t leave much to the imagination. The season two finale saw the drama grow up considerably and perhaps was a warning of what was to come in Torchwood: Children of Earth.

The Lair

Originally intended as a spin-off from Dante’s Cove this series deals with vampires instead of witches and while there’s been hints that both shows are set in the same “universe” as yet there’s been no official confirmation as such. The Lair is exactly like Dante’s Cove in the sense that its camp, trashy, a guilt pleasure in which all of its storylines are merely a device to allow its cast to get it on with each other. A series of ‘John Doe’ murders leads investigative journalist Tom [David Mortetti] to meet a janitor called Frankie [Brian Nolan] who works at a sex-club called The Lair and who claims the club is connected to the murders.

Tom’s boyfriend Jonathan [Jesse Cutlip] is watching Tom and Frankie’s meeting and later goes to The Lair to confront Frankie, suspecting an affair, and ends up being attacked by a vampire there. As Tom and his friend Laura [Beverly Lynne] investigate what happened to Tom they uncover the secretive and dangerous world of the vampires at the sex club. Like Dante’s Cove its enjoyable fun if not taken seriously and has run, so far, for three seasons. Two of which are available to on DVD in the UK.

Bad Girls

It started off as a gritty and hard hitting drama about the lives of female inmates, and their prison officers, at Larkhall Prison in London. Early storylines included drug addiction, bullying, corruption and suicide and for a few years it remained quite normal but slowly the OTT storylines creped in. For a start the crazy antics of the unstable Shell Dockley [Debra Stephenson] pushed the boundaries of believability with her love affair with the corrupt Jim Fenner [Jack Ellis] turning bad when she tried to stab him.

Shell then escaped from Larkhall, with Fenner’s help, and held hostage another prison officer Bodybag [Helen Fraser] prisoner in her own home. Throw in the Costa Cons, a bomb plot, various escapes, love affairs, drug addictions, a murder or two, ghosts, exorcism and a suspected terrorist attack with actually turned out to be legionaries disease and you have one crazy prison drama. The main arc was the corruption of Jim Fenner and his many escapes from justice despite how tight the situation seemed. Fenner went to any length to save his own skin including murder [twice], framing, drug planting, violence and plenty more. Eventually Fenner’s nasty ways caught up with him when pretty much everyone planned his murder, including his own barmy wife Di [Tracey Wilkinson] who was charged with it.

The downfall of Bad Girls was the overdue comeuppance of Fenner which for many fans came several years too late. Its eighth and final series underwent something of a revamp as it tried to move away from the legacy of Jim Fenner but it was axed. The final episode was a Christmas Special in which Bodybag [Helen Fraser] was visited by the ghost of dead inmate Natalie Buxton [Danielle Brent] to show her the error of her ways.

The Tudors returns to BBC One this Friday for its third season. For a picture preview of the new series click here >> . All the shows featured in this article are out on DVD in the UK and available to buy from all good DVD retailers and internet sites.