Jewcy Contributor Roundup: What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?

The Thanksgiving season is all about gratitude. But when we’re sitting around the table with our families and someone asks what we’re thankful for, we usually just say ‘my health’ or ‘our family all being together’ or something else that’s … Read More

By / November 24, 2008

The Thanksgiving season is all about gratitude. But when we’re sitting around the table with our families and someone asks what we’re thankful for, we usually just say ‘my health’ or ‘our family all being together’ or something else that’s technically true but not terribly edgy. So we asked some of Jewcy’s contributors to tell us what they’re thankful for–their guiltiest pleasures. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Stefan Beck: American Chain Restaurants

You never miss a good thing til it’s gone. When I lived on the Peloponnese in the summer of 2007, my dining options were limited, as at a bad wedding, to salad, chicken, and beef. By July I would have given Athens to the Turks for a plausible cheeseburger, so I made a bus trip to the Applebee’s in ???????????. Anybody convinced of the superiority of continental European cuisine should give this a shot. "Tartare" would be a generous description of the beef, just as "gym teacher’s insole" would be a generous description of the bacon. The lettuce was seaweed. The tomatoes were, of course, outstanding.

There are some things we Americans alone do well, and the crappy chain restaurant is one of them. Last summer, after driving the long way from Kadoka, South Dakota, to Casper, Wyoming, I found that every motel in town had been booked solid by the Germans of Russian Descent Convention. Every motel but one-which had literally one room left open. It shared a parking lot with Outback Steakhouse, on the aptly named Miracle Road. It was one of the most welcome and memorable meals of my life, like a Dasani dispenser in the Gobi.

These places get a bad rap. Sure, they’re "generic" or "lowbrow"-so what? There’s less variation in the home-cooked food of the Greek mainland than there is in the strip-mall hellholes of the United States. And some of them are pretty awesome. Just tonight, for instance, I was at a P. F. Chang’s. It’s more than worth the "Changover," my term for the inevitable morning-after salt and MSG headache. I’ve never been to Outer Mongolia, but I bet the "Mongolian Beef" at P. F. Chang’s is significantly less likely to give you fatal diarrhea than the real thing. And at least P. F. Chang’s has a customer feedback card.

Craig Glazer: Good Times

OK, so I still watch Good Times on late night TV, partly because I’m friends with Jimmie "Dy-no-mite" Walker and also because I still find it funny. Maybe because running Kansas City’s Stanford and Sons, one of the top comedy clubs in the country, keeps me up late and his old show tends to air after midnight a lot. Maybe it’s because I get a kick out of seeing Janet Jackson playing his little sister. By the way, the star was supposed to be John Amos but he got jammed by Jimmie’s enormous popularity as "J.J." Amos never got over it. I know that because Jimmie and I email each other every week and he updates me on the lives of other baby boomer stars from back in the day, like comic David Brenner, who filled in for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show so often. Jimmie started his comedy career on The Tonight Show with original host Jack Parr. But that’s before my time. Maybe I like "Good Times" so much because we’re both so stuck in the ’70s.

Marty Beckerman: Paul McCartney’s Solo Years

After the Beatles called it quits in 1970 John begged us to give peace a chance, George explored the immaterial world, Ringo… well, Ringo doesn’t count… and the critics damned Paul for singing unbearable, syrupy schlock which offended anyone who was not technically deaf, as well as deaf people who actually read his lyrics.

However, McCartney’s solo catalog is the most genuinely ass-kicking of all four, despite its many cringe-inducing flaws. Yes, "Ebony and Ivory" is a more sinister torture than anything that occurred at Abu Ghraib, "Freedom" makes you wish the government would outlaw music, and synth-laden ‘80s holiday anthem "Wonderful Christmastime" inspires thoughts of self-immolation, but McCartney had the lowest lows and the highest highs: "Maybe I’m Amazed," "Live and Let Die," "Band on the Run," "Junior’s Farm" and "Jet" rock as hard as any Beatles song, and his acoustic tunes such as "Junk," "Distractions," "Jenny Wren," "Here Today" are deeply peaceful and even poignant.

In a morbid way, Lennon’s solo work benefits from his 1980 death because he was unable to ruin his music with awful ‘80s production values and middle-aged nostalgia, but there are plenty of gems-alongside the unforgivable (yet catchy!) abominations-in McCartney’s later work: "My Brave Face," "Your Way," "Lonely Road," "Calico Skies," "She Is So Beautiful," "Gratitude," and "No Other Baby." I would never, never play these songs with friends in attendance, and there is no dignity in admitting Paul is your favorite Beatle-actually there is quite a bit of shame, horrible shame-but as a wise man once said: "Everybody gonna dance tonight, everybody gonna feel all right, everybody gonna dance around tonight, woooooooooo." Listen to what the man said.

Lilit Marcus: The View

The View is the worst thing on television, and I’m including According to Jim in that count. Originally concieved as a show where four women from different age groups and backgrounds would discuss the day’s major issues from a female perspective, after ten seasons it has devolved into the worst kind of self-parody: the kind that thinks it’s high art instead of self-parody. Grande Dame Barbara Walters–who I’ll admit is a pioneer, but really needs to retire rather than reduce herself to appearing on this dreck and being pulled into the infighting–loves to insist as loudly as possible that all the show’s cohosts (Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck) love each other and make friendship bracelets and braid each other’s hair at slumber parties. No one seems to buy it, least of all the ladies themselves.

The reason the show is offensively bad rather than just plain mediocre, however, is Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Depending which viewer of the show you ask, Hasselbeck is either ‘the young one,’ ‘the blonde one,’ or ‘the stupid one.’ A onetime Survivor also-ran who landed on The View when they sought a young conservative to join the show, Hasselbeck is the wife of a D-list professional football player and an adamant, diehard Republican. Lest you think that I, an admitted liberal, hate Hasselbeck simply for her beliefs and affiliations, let me clarify. There are plenty of well-spoken conservatives out there who manage to make their points by using reason instead of yelling. Several of them write for us. But Elisabeth Hasselbeck is shrill, illogical, compassionless, smug, unable to see nuance, and cries and crawls into her boss (Walters)’ lap when she doesn’t get her way. I utterly, utterly dislike almost everything about her, from the way she almost never talks about her kids in a positive way and yet says her best quality is ‘being a mom’ to the way that she deflects any actual fact hurled in her direction by saying she’s going to Google it later. And yet I cannot stop watching her. Maybe she’s fallen from the ‘hate’ category into the ‘love to hate’ one. Or perhaps I’m just waiting for the day when one of her cohosts (please, please let it be Joy Behar) finally has heard too much of Hasselbeck’s argument that if we let gay people marry each other the next step will be letting people marry toasters and tells her off on live television. I think that’s why I keep tuning in every day–because maybe, just maybe, today will be that day.

Max Gross: Adam Sandler.

I admit that Adam Sandler is sort of retarded. There are plenty of stupid movies out there that have a self- awareness making them somewhat forgivable — but Sandler doesn’t qualify. For instance, Todd Phillips’ movie Old School is almost artistic in how it culls all sorts of college movies and franternity movies and male-midlife-crisis movies into one great big slobby comedy. There’s a kind of genius behind it. Likewise, there’s a kind of art behind stoner movies like Dude, Where’s My Car? and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. They’re stupid as hell — but they fit so artfully into their genre, that all you can do is marvel at them. I don’t think the same can be said about Sandler movies. There’s really no subtext. The jokes are as simple and lamebrained as watching Curly get hit in the face with a hammer. (Another guilty pleasure of mine.) But I must admit, I sort of love Billy Madison. And Big Daddy. And I thought that the opening scene of Anger Management was a classic (even though the last twenty minutes sucked). And the fight between Sandler and Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore is one of the most hysterically funny things I’ve ever seen. Not all Adam Sandler movies are created equally — I didn’t find Little Nicky particularly amusing. And I absolutely hated I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. And The Waterboy is a dreadfully unfunny movie. But I defy anyone not to laugh when they see Happy Gilmore headbutt Bob Barker with the memorable line, "The price is wrong, bitch!"

Michael Weiss: Gossip Girl

This serialized Cruel Intentions affords glimpse into what my little sister’s high school years were like at the Professional Children’s School (alma mater of Scarlett Johansson, Mischa Barton and, for about a year, Paris Hilton), except that the characters are richer, nastier and less plausible. I’m a Serena man, or at least I was until it was disclosed in the course of a single, erratic season that she stole the Lindbergh baby and fomented a coup in Uruguay. Nothing is predictable, and a major ripple exists in the bitch-sweetie spacetime continuum. Serena not drinking to impress her dippy emo artist boyfriend? Never fear: by Christmas she’ll be slaloming off mountains of blow in Gstaad with Medusa hair and lipstick applied like Diane Ladd’s in Wild at Heart.

Each episode is sort of a stand-alone pubescent debauch, which is why I laugh whenever someone tells me they haven’t watched the show because they’d have to start from the “beginning.” No one goes to class on the Upper East Side, 15 year-olds start their own fashion lines, and college is just another status symbol for the Betty-and-Veronica female leads to pull each other’s hair over.

Chuck Bass makes this demimonde go round, and although he’s dressed and pomaded like a ventriloquist’s gay dummy, his unexpected heterosexuality goes to eleven. He’s fucked more Maxim cover models than Tony Stark and John Mayer, and he’s collected email passwords and social security numbers for insurance. (I always wanted to be born into a family with a private eye on retainer.) Yet there is a kernel of humanity smothered in that outer husk of sleepy womanizing evil. Bass sticks up for his kith and kin: witness his role in slaying Georgina, Serena’s arch-“frenemy,” and his facilitation, in last week’s Thanksgiving special, of his father and stepmother’s inevitable divorce (he loosed all the secret files on the family to the family).

As for the rest of the ho-hum cast, Dan and Nate should commit thwarted-love double suicide, and Rufus should stay on tour with Collective Soul.

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