As you’ve probably figured out by now (being the most brilliant blogreaders in the world. G’ahead – revel in it), I watch reality shows.

I used to read romance novels when I was stressed/tired/busy/wanted a mental vacation. After I got bored with that genre (not as quickly as you might think – have you read some of the newer versions? I’ve seen them described as ‘porn for women’), I moved on to what I call “trashy mysteries”. Chick lit with a few murders and some mayhem, the ‘trashy’ appellation not at all a judgement about their worth, but more a statement about the level of emotional involvement (not much) required. These days, I usually go for something forensic (Kathy Reichs is a favourite). It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle – smart enough to require some focus, but if you’re not in the mood, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s my way of unwinding.

In the past few years, I’ve watched reality shows. And – gasp – worse: I’ve enjoyed watching reality shows. Sure, I draw the line at atrocities like The Littlest Groom, Joe Schmo and Fear Factor (do I really need or want to see people eating vomit and fish gut shakes?), but overall, if the premise sounds even vaguely entertaining, I’ll watch at least a few episodes.

I have friends (and you know who you are) who scoff and mock, who say it’s scripted, fixed, a pox upon the earth and that it will rot my brain. I agree with the first three – they are more scripted than they pretend, they are often fixed and they are, when not restrained by at least a soupçon of common sense and decency, a pox upon the earth. Yes, they are my not-so-guilty pleasure, but no, they will not rot my brain.

Reality shows are not by definition evil. It’s storytelling of a different kind, just as TV is as valid a form of entertainment as a play (really, what’s the difference? Script, actors, directors, but with the audience geographically distanced). Not all TV, not all reality shows are horrible. The trick is to not be indiscriminate. Just as most people don’t mindlessly continue reading bad books, most people don’t mindlessly continue to watch irredeemably bad TV.

It’s all about balance. Reality shows are my fluff, my mental popcorn, entertainment for when I’m tired of thinking and need an undemanding laugh. The day the Mocking Ones (and you know who you are) read nothing but Shakespeare, Kafka and Ibsen, only watch serious, deeply challenging movies (with subtitles) and only listen to Wagner, I’ll accept that maybe they are sufficiently cultured to judge.

Until then, why don’t you pull up a chair and give one of the good ones a chance? You might enjoy yourself.

What’s your favourite guilty (or not-so-guilty) pleasure?