Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stu's List of Shame

I like the idea of guilty pleasures. Not of a carnal kind, but the temptations of pop culture's bottom rungs: the unhip, the widely derided, the acquired tastes of the world. Everybody has something stashed in their mental closets that they won't share with anyone else, and I'm no exception. In the opinions that I've made in six-plus years of writing this blog, there may have been times where I might have come off as elitist or picky or snobby, but rest assured I don't ignore trash culture altogether.

What that said, here are five things I'm ashamed to admit I like:

The Police Academy movies. As odd as it sounds, in the mid-1980s Steve Guttenberg was deemed a bankable movie star, and ex-Colts defensive end Bubba Smith was considered an "actor." I caught onto the series fairly late in the game, when I rented the first movie from Blockbuster on a lark and discovered what I thought was a comedy goldmine. (To be fair, I was also seven years old.) Are these movies chock full of corny dialogue, dumb slapstick, and moments that most credited thespians would consider career lows? Yes. It is also a randomly sentimental memory of my childhood? Yes. Will I stop in my tracks if one of the sequels airs on basic cable? Sure, for a few minutes.

Funky Winkerbean. In a parallel world where Julius Dithers has been harassing Dagwood Bumstead for eight decades and the Apartment 3G girls shamelessly attempt to marry for money, Funky trumps both of those irrelevant relics as the most depressing comic strip currently in syndication. Originally a flyweight but amiable cartoon about high school life, the primary characters earned their diplomas in the late '80s. Since then, the gang has largely aged in real time, and the lighthearted laughs gave away to maudlin, will-it-ever-end storylines about suicide, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and most infamously, cancer. Funky was dropped by my local paper nearly 15 years ago, but I still read it online almost strictly out of habit. The only strip that comes close in matching Winkerbean's cold grasp on mortality is Crankshaft, an equally bipolar, dry as a soupbone, lighthearted/sobering look at the elderly's role in society... that was spun off from Batiuk's strip in 1986.

Billy Joel. The hipsters of my generation have given the musical dreck of years past a renewed relevance. After a 20-year lull Barry Manilow is packing houses coast-to-coast again, The Monkees are on yet another (likely profitable) reunion tour, and Parrothead Nation has never quite turned away from Jimmy Buffett. So where does the Piano Man play in all this? A respectable singer-songwriter in the '70s, Joel's musical output has been lambasted by critics and historical revisionists alike. Too cliche, too trend-hopping, too saccharine, the haters cry. Granted, a fair percentage of Joel's work is pure cheese, but his best songs --"She's Got a Way," "Goodnight Saigon," the entire Turnstiles and Stranger albums-- do have a certain emotional resonance.

The Drew Carey Show. I'm not sure if this counts as a guilty pleasure or not, though there is much for people to dislike. Once touted by TV Guide as "'Friends,' but with ugly people," the Cleveland-based sitcom's first five years were actually pretty decent. However, when the show traded script quality and character development for wacky stunts and unnecessary surrealism, fans tuned out in droves. ABC renewed the show through its ninth season, a long-term deal it quickly regretted, and the sorry corpse of a once-serviceable comedy was burned off as time filler during the summer. When you see a TDCS repeat nowadays, there's a 44% chance that episode will be awful. As a fan, this is a great example of when good shows should quit when they're ahead.

White Castle. It occured to me last weekend that since I started going to my trainer, I haven't devoured in Slyder in about 2 1/2 months. I've had fast food in that time, but in small morsels: a snack wrap at McDonald's here, a Burger King Tendercrisp there, but I'm practically on a first-name basis with Subway and Jamba Juice nowadays. I miss "The Crave" dearly, but what hasn't killed me has only made me stronger. WC might be the only restaurant on the planet that can make grade-B burger meat seem appetizing, and their fries are a last vestige for trans fats. Maybe it's the deceptively small portions, who knows? Personally, I have a weak spot for their chicken rings, which are just as questionable in nutritional value yet I could probably polish off a dozen of 'um in less than five minutes.

So those are my guilty pleasures. On a semi-related note, it appears that six-plus years of hard work has paid off. The Weekly Updates has finally made TV.com's list of blogs they love. Never mind that forum traffic is at a record low tide, this belated honor totally made my day. :)


  1. What the fuck is Funky Winkerbean?? :O I'm 33 and I can't believe I've never heard of this.

    I always liked the Drew Carey Show, tho it did hang on way too long and I even stopped watching the last few seasons, which seemed to last 6 years. I always thought it was a respectable franchise back in the day. "Friends" on the other hand, is the most massively popular lamest piece of shit that ever existed.

    White Castle, a few things:

    I read from an employee that the meat itself contains high amounts of liver, which on top of it being soaked in tons of grease & onions gives it unique flavor. Also I should warn you a single chicken ring (which is indeed delicious) has 0.75 grams of Trans Fat, and we should only have 2 grams worth a day. That's why I had to stop eating at Long John Silvers (guilty pleasure) because my favorite meal of 2 fish, fries, hushpuppy, pink lemonade & 5 packets of tartar sauce has over 13 grams of Trans Fat & 3130mg of sodium; conservatively. I'm probably alive today because of it! :P But one piece of fish has 4.5 grams and that's just too much.

    My guilty pleasures? Mayonnaise, low fat Hellman's and tartar sauce, Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, biscuits with tons of white sausage gravy, grilled cheese with bacon, gravy in general, and Wendy's Double Stacks.

    Congrats on the belated honor, Stu. I'm sure it's much begrudgingly accepted :P

  2. Oh ya, I was going to ask about your Subway preferences. You'll probably doing the healthy 6" stuff, which should be okay. It's the footlongs, cold cut combo & toasted ones that are loaded with sodium.

    Anyhoo, on an somewhat related note, I made two tasty homemade Italian Beef subs out of some old frozen cold cuts that was one of my best-ever Portillo's knockoffs. It was the perfect combo of beef base, water, oregano, onion & garlic powder, celery salt, basil & bacon grease & seasonings from the roast beef. I've also been making a dry spice version of this that I had from a place in Montgomery (Mr. Beef & Gyros) that puts the seasonings on their beefs instead of in the au jus. I don't have to tell you I enjoyed sniffing my fingers for the next 2 hours that day! :P

  3. At Subway, I stick with the 6" sandwiches; I've just never had the appetite for the footlongs.

    You sure you don't remember "Winkerbean" and "Crankshaft?" They both ran in the Sun-Times for years.

  4. I read the Sun-Times back in the 1990s at a particular job where it was available - tho I didn't always read every single comic. I remember Crankshaft's title box, but that's it. It was just mentally exhausting trying to turn through 100+ pages ;) I come from a Tribune family, so....Snuffy Smith, Mother Goose & Grimm, Hi & Lois, Pogo, Beetle Baily & Cathy up my ass!