There’s a lot of negative association around the term “guilty pleasure.”
Especially when it comes to your TV-watching habits, it implies series that are dumbed-down, poor quality, trashy or all of the above. But when we think of guilty pleasures, we think of TV shows that are so good, so funny and so sunny that it feels like an indulgence to watch them.
We aren’t recommending any dark dramas, tragedies or documentaries on this list of so-called guilty pleasures, but we are serving up comedies with smart dialogue, campy crime dramas, food shows that do more than make your mouth water, nostalgic reality TV and even a PBS period drama.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about watching any of these series, which are a perfect companion to a glass of rosé and lazy Saturday afternoons when it’s too hot to go outside.
For an adorable sitcom: ‘Younger’
Despite entering its sixth season, there isn’t a whiff of aging around this comedy, which begins when a 40-year-old divorcee and stay-at-home mom, Liza (Sutton Foster) pretends to be a 26-year-old in order to get an entry-level job at a publishing house. The admittedly absurd series has the wit and sunny disposition of creator Darren Starr’s more famous show, “Sex and the City,” with plenty of (good) millennial jokes and New York satire to go around.
TV Land, Wednesdays, 10 EDT/PDT. Stream Seasons 1-5 on Hulu.
For a women-led crime drama: ‘Claws’
Many crime dramas (even some of our favorites) are dour, depressing and so dark, both literally and figuratively, we can’t see what’s happening on screen (here’s looking at you, “Ozark”). Thrown into stark relief by the Florida sunshine, “Claws” may be the brightest crime series around. The misadventures of Desna (a wondrous Niecy Nash) and the women of her nail salon prove deliciously juicy, funny and thrilling. They don’t just break bad while wreaking havoc on the criminal underworld; they have a lot of fun while they do it.
TNT, Sundays, 9 EDT/PDT. Stream Seasons 1-2 on Hulu.
If you’re a millennial: ‘The Hills: New Beginnings’
The once culturally transcendent 2000s reality series returns with Brandon Thomas Lee and Mischa Barton joining original cast members Audrina Patridge, Brody Jenner, Frankie Delgado, Heidi Pratt, Jason Wahler, Justin Brescia (known as “Justin Bobby” to fans), Spencer Pratt, Stephanie Pratt and Whitney Port. The series is likely to be a train wreck of emotions (for both its cast and viewers), and we want to put on our low-rise jeans and watch every minute.
Premieres June 24. MTV, Mondays, 10 EDT/PDT
If you want to be filled with joy: ‘America’s Got Talent’
You will be surprised at how much delight you can get out of ventriloquists, fire jugglers, singers, dancers and wild and weird acts we can’t even imagine. The enduringly joyful series survives despite hosting and judging changes (this summer Terry Crews takes over hosting duties and Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough join Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel at the judging table) because its formula of inspiration and emotion doesn’t get old.
NBC, Tuesdays, 8 EDT/PDT.
If you like ‘Outlander,’ try ‘Harlots’
Soapy, steamy and full of wigs and dresses, “Harlots” is like what would happen if “Game of Thrones” was more openly feminist and aired only the brothel scenes. Set in 18th century London, “Harlots” follows prostitutes trying to get money, power and respect in a rapidly changing world. Its excellent cast features Liv Tyler (in later seasons), Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey”), Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville.
Season 3 returns to Hulu July 10. Stream Seasons 1-2 now.
If you love food and celebrities: ‘The Chef Show’
If you enjoyed director and actor Jon Favreau’s 2014 foodie film “Chef,” you’ll love his new Netflix travel and cooking series. Along with chef Roy Choi, Favreau travels, eats and creates alongside famous cooks and celebrity friends. The series is already infamous for informing Gwyneth Paltrow that she was in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and is the kind of chill, low-key show to have on in the background while having friends over for your own delicious meals.
Stream it on Netflix.
If you like to play with your food: ‘MasterChef Junior’
The most wonderful thing about Fox’s pint-size version of amateur cooking competition “MasterChef” is that it takes all the best parts of that show and leaves the worst parts (contestant infighting) behind. With kids at the focus, Gordon Ramsay loses his angry persona and turns into a rather effective teacher, alongside various judges including food world celebs Christina Tosi and Aarón Sánchez. And lest you think it’s all hot dogs and boxed macaroni and cheese, these kids can cook so well, and with such sophistication, you would never know children were behind the dishes if you didn’t see them chopping and frying it up themselves.
Stream it on Hulu.
If you love polite British crime shows: ‘Grantchester’
“Grantchester” is a PBS period drama with a bit of humor and eye candy mixed in. Sidney Chambers (James Norton) is the handsome vicar for the small British village of Grantchester in the 1950s, and in between his churchly duties, he finds time to solve murders and flash his remarkably charming smile. The new season finds Sidney exiting the village and being replaced by yet another surprisingly attractive man of the cloth: Will Davenport (Tom Brittney). Grantchester is a very lucky little hamlet.
Returns July 14. PBS Sundays, 9 EDT/PDT (check local listings). Stream Seasons 1-3 on Amazon.
If you’re a party game person: ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’
The CW’s revived version of the improv comedy series is just as unpredictable and wacky as the Drew Carey-hosted original. Now emceed by Aisha Taylor, “Whose Line” retains the three comedians who made the show sing (often literally): Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles, plus celebrity guests who try their hands at classic games like “Scenes from a Hat.” If you want a quick and guaranteed laugh, “Whose Line” will never let you down.
CW, Mondays, 9 EDT/PDT. Stream past episodes on CW Seed.
To prep for wedding season: ‘Say Yes to the Dress’
If you’re the right age, your schedule during the warmer months is probably packed with the nuptials of college friends and cousins – and all the travel, registries and open bars that go with them. When you’re reeling from yet another glossy invite, try watching a few episodes of TLC’s bridal bonanza, where women go to New York’s famous Kleinfeld’s wedding dress salon and try to find a gown to say yes to. You can’t (openly) judge what your friends walk down the aisle in, but you can relish in knowing which dress is right or wrong for the women on “Say Yes.”
Stream it on Hulu.
More recommendations for summertime TV:
- The best shows of 2019 (so far)
- ‘Pose’ and Billy Porter return
- Why the world keeps ending on TV
- Hit the buzzer on these great game shows
- What to stream in June