Our writers confess their guiltiest streaming pleasures on TVNZ OnDemand. But is it really guilty when the pleasure is this good?
We’ve all been there. You get home after a long day at work, you pop your feet up on the couch and you can’t do anything but look at the television screen. You don’t wanna watch the gritty drama that everyone’s talking about at work. You don’t want to watch the quirky comedy with the relatable-but-flawed protagonist because that involves having feelings. You don’t even want to watch the news because there’ll just be another episode tomorrow to catch up on.
So instead you watch some guilty pleasures. We understand that, so The Spinoff has collated our most pleasurable guilty watches for you to stream if you’ve run out of your own. We get you, we understand you, we’re here for you. Here are our favourite guilty pleasures.
My Restaurant Rules has fairly well-worn elements – five duos take turns hosting and cooking for one another at their restaurants, with a pair of judges joining the group to grade the hosts on their culinary skills. Yet the show shines as a kind of reality television throwback – everyone is there for the right reasons, beaming with pride at their businesses and not there to boost their Instagram following. The casting is superb: Tyson and Denise from Waioru, Daniel and Julia from Katikati, and the thick Italian accents of Raf and Susanna from Nelson are particular highlights. That they all come from relatively smaller towns isn’t unconnected to the show’s charm – this is a slice of New Zealand we don’t often see on our screens, and their prickly relationships and keening ambitions are a huge part of why it succeeds. That and the irresistible charm of judge Colin Fassnidge. / Duncan Greive
Forget about the absurd high-minded idealism of it all where hard and savvy political operatives try and find the magical line between electability and effectiveness. Forget the ludicrous notion that those who work in any White House might actually be good people at heart. Forget the fact that the characters are terribly drawn avatars for Aaron Sorkin to route his own intelligence through. Forget all of that and realise that the West Wing is one of the greatest pieces of wash-over television ever made. The pace is cracking, but if you miss a detail don’t worry, the plot will probably circle back to it, and at the end of every episode, the fantasy world of the show is left intact. It’s perfect to have on in the background while you’re doing something else – incidentally, that’s how most people experience real life politics too. / Alex Braae
How many dramas feature three strong female leads? And of those, how many are about a gaggle of middle-aged northern women? Girlfriends is an entertaining romp through the lives of Linda (Phyllis Logan), Sue (Miranda Richardson) and Gail (Zoe Wanamaker), who are variously enduring feckless men, financial ruin and the slings and arrows of life in general. The old school friends are reunited when Linda’s husband mysteriously disappears off the side of a cruise ship. These are three actresses at the top of their game, and they draw their endearing characters deftly as the six-episode long first series takes some highly unexpected plot twists. / Maria Slade
Look, my love of The Nanny is well-documented on this site. I do not apologise for it. Few sitcoms of the 90s were created and lead by a woman who gave a fully committed, truly bizarre performance that turned that woman into a worldwide icon overnight. There’s not a single person with a television screen who doesn’t recognise Fran Fine’s laugh, and that’s because of Fran Drescher going full ham. Like full Christmas ham. But more than that, the rest of the show has actually aged surprisingly well, especially the banter between C.C. and Niles. It’s sharp, a bit mean, and has a commitment to both physical and character-based comedy that means that the dust hasn’t settled on any of Nanny Fine’s frankly iconic outfits. / Sam Brooks
Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m putting this on the internet, but I have watched Nip/Tuck in its entirety about four or five times. I became obsessed with the glossy plastic surgery drama as a teenager after reading an interview with Nicole Richie (lol) where she said she watched it on the weekend to relax. Naturally, I bought all the DVDs straight away and became entranced by its salacious, grotesque, preposterous world.
Despite knowing objectively that Nip/Tuck is a completely twisted and quite bad show about corrupt plastic surgeons in a city of superficial demons, every now and again I still check back in with the Carver serial killer storyline that wouldn’t die, or the organ harvesting, or the teddy bear making machine, or the time that Joan Rivers shows up and starts selling jars of jizz to people. The theme song goes off too – guilty as charged. / Alex Casey
Friends is, for all its problematic 90s glory, my ideal comfort food. It’s the show where I can sit down, put on any random episode, and find myself located in a cosy place in time. Within a few moments, I can figure out whether we’re in Ross and Rachel’s first relationship, whether we’re in the period where Chandler and Monica were hiding their relationship, or whether we’re even in that weird fling that Joey and Rachel had. For all the shit that the show gets, it’s hard to deny that the show holds up a lot better than most sitcoms of its time – the chemistry between all six characters is off the charts and the performances that everyone is gives (especially the women) hold up to scrutiny. It’s the television equivalent of two minute noodles – zero nutrition, but always warm, always welcoming and always best when I’m half paying attention to it. / Sam Brooks
Run me a bath under a squeaky windmill and let me soak in the warm waters of McLeod’s Daughters, the epic Australian drama that will live in my heart forever. McLeod’s is about love and belonging, it’s about female solidarity and second chances and never giving up even when your prize cow has trapped wind. It might be corny and cliche, and they did eventually run out of McLeod relatives to run the farm, but I still bawl like a colicky newborn whenever I watch Claire’s funeral. She died wearing an itchy turtleneck. A tragedy on every count. / Tara Ward
Did you know that there are teenagers sitting end-of-year college exams right now who weren’t born when the first season of Grey’s Anatomy aired? Way back in the distant past of 2005, Grey’s Anatomy mastered television. It combined the non-stop emotion and tragedy of soap operas with the set and effects budget of prestige drama. Remember Izzy, George, Denny, and even McDreamy? Well, they’re all gone now. In its 16th season, few original cast members remain. But the drama, the tragedy, and the annoyingly good soundtrack are still going strong, and that’s why I find myself always turning back to the comforting, emotionally manipulative embrace of Grey’s Anatomy. In the oversaturated world of television, Grey’s is a friendly reminder of what was once enough. / Madeleine Chapman
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Go to TVNZ OnDemand, where you’ll find a ton of other great shows (…way beyond just what’s played on TV)