From Gilmore Girls to tragic country music: Our writers share their guilty pleasures, now tell us yours
PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:51 10 March 2017
Cereal and serials, spaghetti and mash, American TV trash, mum-rock and chocolate cornflake cake eaten straight from the mixing bowl, these are our guilty pleasures
Just sometimes, sandwiched (in white, non-artisanal, roughage-free bread) between earning a wage and earnestly intending to do something improving, I find myself in Stars Hollow.
It’s astonishing I haven’t bumped into people I know, crossing the fairy-light-twinkling, pumpkin-strewn, wholesome and wholly fictional town square.
My daughter first alerted me to the existence of this Netflix nirvana and despite initially mocking the cosy concept I found myself intrigued enough to turn on, tune in, and drop out of prosaic everyday existence.
I used to watch the news with my breakfast, now I snatch a few minutes with Lorelai, Rory, Luke, Dean, Emily and Lane.
I used to get home from work ready to talk to whichever grown or nearly-grown family were in the house, now I am thrilled if the lights are out, no-one is in, and I can sneak off to Ideal-ville, Connecticut, and meet up with my new friends and family.
Right now my middle son is travelling in America. As he set off from Boston I was more interested in knowing how close he would get to a town that does not exist, than the world-renowned places he was actually visiting.
My name is Rowan and I’m addicted to Gilmore Girls.
And I’m not alone. As soon as I admitted my affliction, colleagues began ‘fessing up to a fascination with the quirkiness, the quips and how the Gilmore women can eat so much and stay so slim.
What makes this a guilty pleasure, as opposed to simply a pleasure, is that the plots are as thin as Taylor Doose’s hair, most of the characters are caricatures, and almost every plot twist is resolved with the liberal application of money. The scenes of funny, clever, single-mum-and-only-daughter team, Lorelai and Rory, struggling to cope with the latest mini peril to hit their cosy, glossy-haired, friend-filled, fun-filled, world (whether it is termites, school fees, work stress or relationship woes) are a little diminished by almost always being magicked away with a wave of Grandma and Grandpa’s wallet.
And yet I still love it and want to live in a house with a wooden porch, in a town with a gazebo on a grassy central square and a festival for every week of the year, in a community where “If you need, you need me to be with you, I will follow where you lead…”
Well, there or in Ambridge. Yes, it’s not even as though I had a gap in my life for another guilty pleasure.
For two days this summer Norwich’s Carrow Road will be proving How Deep is our Love for Take That. Never Forget, the first concert sold out in 90 minutes and (Could It Be Magic) the announcement of a second date was a chance to Relight My Fire and actually get tickets.
Going to see Prince at the O2, Elvis Costello in Thetford Forest, Billy Bragg at The Open – all were concerts to be talked about, even bragged about, beforehand. I’m just as excited about seeing Gary, Mark and Howard, but might not have mentioned it before…
And I’m not alone in feeling slightly guilty about my musical choices.
“I like to take the Mary Poppins approach to chores,” says Emma Lee, of Norwich. “You find the fun and, snap, the job’s a game. So when there’s a boring trip to the supermarket on the agenda, I hop in the car, crank up of The Best of Hall and Oates and sing along at the top of my voice.
“With their smooth yacht-rock sounds in my ears, I’m not stop-starting at every set of traffic lights on Norwich’s outer ring road in a sensible Volkswagen - I’m cruising along a freeway in an old time convertible.
“The course of true love never did run smooth – especially if you’re Hall and/or Oates in the 70s and 80s. They always seem to be having some sort of drama – their girl has left them (She’s Gone), they’re being pursued by various temptresses (Maneater, Family Man – “leave me alone…my bark is much worse than my bite”) or they’re giddy on romance (You Make My Dreams).
“I really feel that my vocals - especially the crescendo on She’s Gone – “she’s go-on-on-on-one-oh-why?” - add an extra dimension. Daryl, John, if you’re ever short of a backing singer, call me.”
Columnist and group features editor Liz Nice admits her guilty pleasure is deeply tragic.
“I like nothing more than a mournful tale where everyone dies except the dog and then the dog dies as well but somehow you just keep rollin’ along,” she said.
“My passion for country music has been partially assuaged by the TV series Nashville on Sky Living which, tragically, now seems to have come to an end. But fear not. Some of the Nashville cast are coming over to the UK for a concert in the summer and I will be attending with my sister-in-law, who is equally in love with Nashville. We discuss it in quiet corners, when the rest of our (entirely male) family are watching the football, a passion they, for some reason, feel no guilt about whatsoever.
“None of them understands our love of country, and are actually a little ashamed of us. They fail to see the appeal of wandering about with nothing but your trusty guitar, and turning every painful moment of your life into a love song. It’s not much different to being a columnist really, but with a cowboy hat and boots for added pazazz and a tinny tune accompaniment and a southern catch in your voice, it just seems so much better.”
Suffolk entertainment and feature writer Wayne Savage also has something to confess.
“I’m not sure a nearly 43-year-old man should admit this but I love the High School Musical movies. Well, the first and third. The middle instalment’s country club setting and clumsy preaching about the evils of money didn’t do it for me. Oh, and the songs were rubbish.
“Perhaps it’s because I grew up watching Fame the TV series. Perhaps it’s because I’m tone deaf and can’t dance so I’m subconsciously living vicariously through Troy and Gabriella. Either way, there’s something comforting, uplifting even, about watching a group of disparate people solve their problems via a song and dance number. Once a wildcat; always a wildcat.”
Newspaper editor David Powles is going to have to try harder with the hard-bitten hack act after this exclusive admission of guilt in the case of TV v his street-cred.
“As a child my mum and I would hunker down and watch trashy American drama Knots Landing. I also had a weird love for the comedy The Golden Girls,” said editor David. “During my late teens that TV obsession moved on to Neighbours – so much so that I’ll challenge anyone to come up with a mid-90s character that I can’t give you their back story for. In terms of TV my guilty pleasure as an adult is costume dramas. It hardly befits the gruff 6ft2in image I like to portray (I wish) but I can’t help it. They are ace, especially early Downton Abbey.”
Food is another rich vein of guilty pleasures. Food writer Charlotte Smith-Jarvis loves the seasonal and locally sourced, the imaginatively combined and cooked, all the usual foodie flourishes – and chocolate cornflake crispy cakes.
“If I’ve had a hard day, week, month, there is only one thing I can find solace in chocolate cornflake crispy cakes,” she says. “My friends are always laughing at how much of a food snob I am (my kids like truffle oil for goodness sake) but that all goes out the window if I’m stressed. Reverting back to childhood, I grab a box of cereal, load of syrup, dark chocolate and butter, melt and mix. But rarely does the concoction make it into paper cases. The ultimate slob that I am, I can often at these times be found in my pyjamas, chocolate around my face, eating the stuff greedily out of the bowl with the wooden spoon. But shhh…don’t tell anyone!”
Susie Kelly, of Norwich, begins with a rather sophisticated-sounding guilty pleasure, before also lapsing into high calorie, less high brow, recipe suggestions.
“One of my guilty pleasures is a large frothy cappuccino to take away and a slice of chocolate fridge cake from Caffé Nero every Saturday,” says Susie. “It doesn’t sound like anything particularly out of the ordinary I know, but I wander into the city and get my goodies just as the city is starting to calm – post shopping but before the nightlife starts to emerge. I love that lull where the crowds start to clear as it gets dark. I sit outside the Forum (purely for the view and definitely not because of the free wifi…) and admire the church opposite while perched on a step. I lick the foam off the lid and sip my coffee. It’s the perfect place for reflection and it makes me really happy. I first discovered this spot when I was at university – 10 years on, I still frequent it and its charm has never once faded.”
And then spag bol and mash and microwaved kitkat sandwiches ruins the magical dusk atmosphere.
“Well, there goes my feigned romantic portrayal of me perched daintily in the crowds, lightly tapping the top of a crème brûlée with the back of a silver spoon like some sort of Norwich-hailed Amelie. It’s time to meet the real Susie Kelly.
“Spaghetti bolognese with mashed potato: double carbs all the way. And if you add some melted mozzarella, then all the better. Oh, and if I’m truly honest, I don’t even feel guilty – BOOM.
“Microwaved kitkat sandwiches: white sliced bread, kitkat, 20 seconds in the microwave. Melted chocolate, squidgy warm bread and crispy wafer. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
“Espresso martinis: A good slosh of vodka mixed with a shot of strong coffee – what’s not to like? It’s what my housemate and I like to call ‘an appropriate amount of alcohol.’ I think I should end it there.”
But with every guilty pleasure admitted, more long-suppressed yearnings for sugary snacks and even more sugary tunes and telly, come spilling out, along with weird childhood collections, unfashionable hobbies, far-from-trendy playlists, strange crushes. As soon as I broached the concept of cereal as a main meal, followed by wine for pudding (which therefore has no units of alcohol) when left alone (by my carers), Courtney Pochin came back with: “I absolutely LOVE Gilmore Girls and I definitely eat cereal for dinner far too often. Someone should really stop me from buying Cheerios!
“My guilty pleasures would probably include watching films on Netflix that only have a one star rating, just to discover how bad they really are (spoiler alert: they’re just as bad as you’d think), continuing to buy/read young adult fiction even though I want to read more classic literature, and listening to 90s/00s pop music – I still can’t resist a bit of The Spice Girls and when they finally do tour again, I will definitely be front row!
“Jacqueline Wilson was my favourite author growing up. She did a book signing at The Assembly House while I was at university a few years ago and I couldn’t help myself, I had to go along and listen to her talk. I was literally the only adult there without a child, but I had a great time!”