This is why you can't stop watching 'guilty pleasure' TV now more than ever

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Judge Mary Berry of The Great British Bake Off. (Photo: Victoria Dawe/Comic Relief/Getty images)
Judge Mary Berry of The Great British Bake Off. (Photo: Victoria Dawe/Comic Relief/Getty images)

TV viewing has become more important during the pandemic, but a sense of shame still lingers around it. Even TV scholars still use the term "guilty pleasures" to describe their enjoyment of reality TV or series which attract some of the biggest viewing audiences, such as I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, The Voice or Dancing With the Stars.

Some even call comforting, escapist dramas like Death in Paradise or Bridgerton their "guilty pleasures". Such television still attracts the same negative labels ("unchallenging", "low brow") that were given to its antecedents in the 1950s.

I remember the pleasure my father took in 1950s gameshows like Double Your Money which featured ordinary people like him taking on minor tasks in a good natured way. His life was not an easy one, marked by a childhood spent mostly in an isolation hospital for tuberculosis patients which left him with a permanent disability. So as I child I understood the consolation and inclusion that such programmes brought him. They were a source of comfort precisely because they were "unchallenging" for someone whose everyday life brought plenty enough challenges.

"Consolatory entertainment" is a better term for such programming. There is consolation in the simple pleasures of ordinary conversation, shared enjoyment and of laughing together that underpins the success of panel games, quiz shows and even celebrity chat shows.

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