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The Top Ten Guilty Pleasures, Part 1

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There comes a time in every reviewer’s life where they have to step back and face themselves. It is so easy to get caught up on analyzing art and discussing its significance. Movies like “Casablanca” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” can excite our minds to find meaning. A bad book can make us critical, picking apart everything that could have been better. Then there are the things that we inexplicably like despite the flaws. And, let’s be honest, we all have those things we come back to time and again. They may not be the cleverest thing we ever watch or read, but they are fun. With that in mind, I am getting a little personal this week. These are my top favorite guilty pleasures, organized in order of the one’s I find least embarrassing to the ones I find most hard to admit that I like. (Note that none of these are things from my childhood because then it would have the justification of nostalgia.)

Here are my top ten guilty pleasures of TV, film and books part one(0f two).

Number 10) “Fast and Furious Franchise”

Fast cars, big explosions and implausible, but awesome, moments –this has been the signature of

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in the fifth installment of the franchise, "Fast Five." Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

the “Fast and Furious” movies since day one. They chronicle the high speed exploits of Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) as he goes from cop to fugitive to FBI agent and back to fugitive. The first film, “The Fast and the Furious,” is a fun action movie with some surprisingly good dialog between Brian and the crew of thieves he infiltrates led by Dom (Vin Diesel). The characterization was fantastic and it instantly drew me in. The plot was contrived, but I did not care as long as I could see what happened to the people in it. The second movie, “2 Fast and 2 Furious,” much like its title, was a sillier and more over-the-top version of the first. It was undeniably enjoyable, but it was not interested in being taken seriously. If the creators had ended with these two movies, this would be higher on my list as slightly more embarrassing popcorn movie fun. But then came four and five.

The later “Fast” movies have an entirely different feel than the original two. There are still the fast cars and explosions that the series was based on, but the plotlines became far more deeply thought out. Even more importantly, the creators really used these films to explore the characters. In four, they showed the old friends in conflict with each other, dealing with the ramification of the first movie. This movie really brings out the subtle brotherhood between Brian and Dom, and uses it as the force propelling everything forward. Then in the fifth movie, they brought back every significant character that has appeared through the series. It is the kind of moment that fans clamor for, and it was well worth the hype.

There is so much to love about this series, and as the writing keeps maturing in each film, I am more than excited to see if the upcoming sixth and seventh installment lives up to what the others have begun.

9) “Thunderbirds”

Cult Classic is the name given to any brand of entertainment that has a completely fluke fan-base. Cult Classics are unpredictable and unexplainable. Why do some bad movies end up in the five dollar bin at Walmart and others get screenings at movie theaters long after their original release (as was the case with “The Room,” a truly awful film that many people still collect together to watch and throw spoons at the screen in honor of a very bizarre silverware motif featured subtly in the film)? I do not think there is a formula for which movies will take off in this way, but it is this phenomenon that keeps “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in our common conscious, and it is this that brings us “Thunderbirds.” This movie was a family adventure summer release based on a children’s puppet show that came on TV in the 1960’s. I was actually the target age when the movie released and I distinctively remember seeing the trailer and thinking, “that looks terrible.” This was even before I knew it was based on puppets. Yet, years later when I saw the movie, it genuinely surprised me.

The characters of "Thunderbirds" prepare for a mission. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Don’t misunderstand me, this movie is really bad. There are small problems with it that could easily have been solved with a little thought, like the moment when one of the characters reads fashion news out of a business newspaper. Yet, the fans are loyal even years after the movie was released. The plotline itself is well paced but simple. There is a thriving fan-fiction community and websites devoted entirely to explaining the movie and the original series. This is a case where the creation really has gotten away from the creators and the fans have taken off on their own, creating collective ideas that have no founding in either version of the story.

What is it the fans are latching onto? Is it the concept? The movie focuses on a father and his five sons as they save the world and then return to their amazing island base, which is imaginative and fun. Is it the characters? Though overacted by even the usually skilled actors in this film (Sophia Miles plays the lovely secret agent Lady P), there is a lot of heart. It is clear that the actors are having fun, and the characters they are playing are distinct and interesting. Is it any of those things or something else entirely? I honestly do not know, but I still come back and watch it time after time.

8 ) “The Hardy Boys”

Par the criteria for this list, I never read these books when I actually was the target age. In fact, I never cracked the cover before I was in college. It started when I spent a month reading through popular children’s novels, and before I knew it I was hooked. “The Hardy Boys” have been a part of our fictional culture since 1927 when the first book was published. The series is written by Franklin W. Dixon, the collective pen name for many writers throughout the years, and there have

Frank and Joe Hardy in the "Undercover Brothers" graphic novel. Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster

been many continuing the stories on – even to the present. Since the original series (that ran for 190 books), the series has branched off in several directions. In the eighties there was a series known as “The Casefiles” that tried to hit an older audience with its darker and edgier side, even going so far as to kill off a long time character from the original series—which really is the only logical conclusion to all the trouble they got into. Sadly, this series is difficult to get a hold of, so I instead mostly read the not remotely dark or edgy “Under Cover Brothers” series. This series is the newest, with books still coming out now. In it the brothers are no longer detectives, but under cover teen agents now solving problems such as domestic terrorism. Which makes the question all the more pressing: why was Mr. Hardy alright with this? The series is shameless fun with characters that are enjoyable.

7) “The O.C.” and 6) “Gilmore Girls”

I wanted to discuss these two TV shows together because they are quite similar. Both of them fall

Ben McKenzie, Peter Gallagher and Adam Brody as the Cohen family on "the O.C." Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Television

tentatively under the umbrella of dramaedy (a mix between drama and comedy). This label is shaky at best, “Gilmore Girls” leans on the comedy side and “The O.C.” teeters toward drama. Imagine self-aware soap operas with better writing, acting and lighting, plus a strong sense of humor, and you have a pretty fair idea of what these shows are like. Relationship dramas can be a big turn-off for me in TV shows—as I inevitably route for the guy who loses out—but it is the family dynamics that draw me back every time. “Gilmore Girls” features a strong relationship between the single mother, Lorelei, and her daughter, Rory, as well as a more strained relationship to Lorelei’s parents, all of which is fascinating to watch. “O.C.” is focused on a family in Orange County that adopts a kid straight out of juvie. For both shows, these dynamics are the heart and the believably written crust that makes everything else seem plausible.

These are my first five guilty pleasures, part two will contain the ones that are far more embarrassing so be sure to return for that article. Leave a comment or tweet @QuillChris to tell me your favorite guilty pleasures.

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