Guilty Pleasures

We all have guilty pleasures — entertainment that defies your usual tastes and aesthetics, offers lighthearted fun, and is maybe even so bad that you love it, or at least can’t resist the kitsch appeal. Here are a few of mine.

TV: Nash Bridges — I dig cop shows, and this one has been a longtime guilty pleasure. Don Johnson stars as San Francisco police detective who drives a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda muscle car, dresses stylishly, lives in a funky yet chic loft apartment, and always gets his man and the girl. In a fun bit of irony, his partner is stoner comedian Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame. The plots sometimes have gaping holes and there are lots of shoot ’em ups and dead bodies scattered throughout the six seasons of this series that ran from 1996 to 2001. Yet there’s a breezy insouciance to the show that I find appealing as well as often corny and even silly humor. And on occasion there is also a touching interpersonal warmth and human wisdom and a cool liberal Frisco attitude threaded through its episodes. Left-field guest stars like Geraldo Rivera, Willie Nelson, wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hunter S. Thompson, baseball player Barry Bonds, drag queen RuPaul, rock star Glenn Frey of The Eagles and porn stars Ron Jeremy and Traci Lords pop up now and then. The show currently airs on the Crime & Investigation cable network and is light and fun entertainment with heart that I find ideal for those moments when I want a TV snack.

Movie: Spice World — Yep, the Spice Girls movie. I was turned on to this flick by a film buff friend who worked at my local video store, and touted it when I scoffed at the box displayed on the new releases shelf. Surprise! I rented it and was charmed. Another film critic peer is also a fan. And why not? It’s the sort of breezy and silly comedy that the British do so well, and it has its knowing and witty moments of homage to everything from James Bond films (007 actor Roger Moore plays the group’s mysterious manager in a Bond villain mode) to other pop music movies (Meat Loaf, who starred as a rock tour equipment truck driver in Roadie, drives the Girls’ English double-decker tour bus). Cameos include Elton John and Elvis Costello And the music of The Spice Girls is the sort of modern bubblegum pop that is catchy and fun musical fluff. Sure, it’s not great cinema, yet Spice World is nonetheless an appealing romp that actually offers a good bit more than an exploitation on the group’s massive 1990s fame.

Movie: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — One of the great film disasters of all time that I recently caught on cable after reading an old Mojo magazine article about the debacle. And it’s definitely something to be watched with your finger on the fast forward button, though this putrid stinker of a film is not without its few small merits. What is most entertaining is just how horrid it is. I marveled at its cheap and amateurish look in spite of the many millions that went into its making and the utter inanity of its plot. One is thankful that the Beatles songs that loosely tell what passes for the story precludes any dialog by the three Bee Gees and Peter Frampton who play — a word I use here very loosely — the Lonely Hearts Club Band, as even wordlessly they all show not even a scintilla of acting ability. On the other hand, the trademark Bee Gees vocal harmonies on the redone Beatles songs have their musical appeal and show why they were serious pop music competition to the Fab Four in the mid 1960s, and Earth Wind and Fire’s hit version of “Got To Get You Into My Life” is a standout cover of a Lennon/McCartney tune. It’s fun to watch a professional like George Burns gently step through the mess yet still retain his class in the film’s sole spoken part of the narrator, and spot in the final group chorus scene both the tacky Hollywood types (like Wolfman Jack, Monte Rock III and Carol Channing) and the credible musicians who probably wish they hadn’t been there (such as Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Wilson Pickett, folk singer John Stewart and English blues icon John Mayall).

From The Progressive Populist, March 15, 2010


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2010 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652