Trashy telly: so bad that it's good

Sarah Thompson looks into the highs and lows of the classic trashy TV.

Sarah Thompson
24th April 2023
Image: IMDB
With an increase in streaming services and platforms we are spoiled for choice when it comes to what to watch. From critically acclaimed films and genre pushing dramas, why do so many of us turn to trash TV?

From Love Island to Too Hot To Handle and more recently The Masked Singer, as a nation we love a bit of a guilty pleasure watch.

Image: IMDB

I have fallen victim to the enchantment of an evening in front of the telly, watching episode after episode of trash TV. The most recent of these mild obsessions is The Masked Singer.

Some of these immaterial shows can have real negative material impacts on their casts and viewers alike

Probably the most objectively unsalvageable of the mentions in this article. The show focuses around garish costuming, C-list celebrities, and too much Jonathon Ross for any self-respecting viewer.

However, after a few episodes of mocking, you get sucked in, arguing whether Elton John or Kylie Minogue is likely to take the offer of prancing about on ITV.  The answer is a simple no, but if you're a fan of Emmerdale you're in luck, half the cast seems to be hired.

Shows like this exist as a form of distraction; from busy university schedules to the past lockdowns. They provide entertainment from your own living room and especially reality TV shows offer a form of escapism.

I also can’t deny the inherent bias in the way we talk about trash TV. The programmes we generally associate with this genre are reality TV and dating shows, where the audience is made up mostly of women.

A topic that has been decently prevalent within feminist discourse, is exactly this demonization of specifically female interests.

Starting from when girls are young, the colour pink is deemed inherently feminine and therefore most women I know had a stage of rejecting the colour altogether. Same goes for One Direction and other boybands, popular music targeted to a female audience is trivialised. These are examples of the way patriarchy represses female interests as less intellectual.

Image: IMDB

This is not to say that these shows only attracts female audiences, stick Love Island on the telly with my dad in the same room and lets just say he definitely won’t make an effort to leave.

Even though I think the way we categorise trash TV has inherent sexist biases. This doesn’t stop there being times where trashy TV takes pole position over the last 'Tarantino' venture.

Shows like this exist as a form of distraction

Especially in the case of Below Deck. The show provides viewers with a sort of unconscious ego boosting feature. Any viewers of the show are aware of its famously rich and ungrateful guests.

By watching reality TV such as Below Deck, audiences not only can get a sense of how the other half live, they can also be glad that they belong to the majority of society that aren’t completely out of touch with reality.

Alternately, shows such as Love Island and Too Hot To Handle have been scrutinised consistently for their unrealistic portrayals of the beauty standard.

The modern dating show structure is famous for its glitz, glamour, bikinis and unrealistically ripped bodies. This lack of diversity does not stop people from becoming truly invested for 8 weeks in lives of total strangers.

I know I spoke previously about The Masked Singer being bottom of the metaphorical bin of trash TV. However, I don’t think this article can be complete without reference to one of the most outrageous TV shows of this generation, Riverdale.

Image: Twitter @CWRiverdaleNews

I watched up until about the end of season 2, by that point I was exhausted. However the show came back into the limelight after its creation of some musical based episodes.

But then again despite my personal damming of the show, it is entering its 7th season. This means some people put there must be deriving a sense of joy from it.

Maybe then, there are both cases where TV shows are so bad that they become good again and ones that I don’t think truly recover. Either way I don’t think this will stop me, or anyone else watching them.

It is just important to talk about and be aware of how some of these immaterial shows can have real negative material impacts on their casts and viewers alike.

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