12 Great Guilty-Pleasure, Buried-Treasure TV Shows

Cheesy 1970s sitcoms, cult Britcoms, and the stylistically sleazy 'Silk Stalkings' – Rob Sheffield picks his favorite tarnished small-screen gems

Cheesy 1970s sitcoms, cult Britcoms, and the stylistically sleazy 'Silk Stalkings' – Rob Sheffield picks his favorite tarnished small-screen gems. Credit: ABC/Photofest, BBC

There are shows that have been justly lauded as the best the medium has to offer. And then there are those series that have been unjustly obscured by history ... for the moment. Some are cult faves that never crossed over; others were short-lived hits that didn’t get kissed by the rerun gods. And some were just plain trash. But as Oscar the Grouch used to sing, we love trash — anything dirty or dingy or dusty. Here are a dozen shows that didn't make our "100 Greatest TV Shows" list but damn, do we dig them anyway. They may not be canon fodder, but we don't touch that dial whenever they come on.


What's Happening!!
1976-79

The quintessential Seventies teen sitcom, with the Watts adventures of Raj, Dwayne and an eternal icon in Fred "Rerun" Berry, who strutted his stuff in his suspenders and beret. As Raj’s mama told Rerun, "You look like somebody spilled Liberace all over you." Best episode: the Doobie Brothers warn about the evils of bootlegging.


Two Fat Ladies
1996-99

The greatest cooking show of all time, with two elderly British ladies riding their motorcycle from town to town, cooking meals heavy on butter, salt, red meat and everything else bad for you. At the end of every episode Clarissa and Jennifer gossiped over a cigarette. Goddesses.


The Love Boat
1977-86

The auteur Aaron Spelling peaked with Le Bateau D'Amour, his avant-garde portrayal of compulsive sex rituals on board the Pacific Princess. Ten times weirder and more disturbing than Twin Peaks.


Peep Show
2003-15

Bizarrely little-known in the U.S., although practically everybody who watches this smash U.K. comedy becomes obsessed with the demented heartbreaks of Mark, Jez, Sophie and Super Hans. The episode where Jez gets up at his uncle’s funeral and gives a crazed speech about Enya is one for the time capsule.


Silk Stalkings
1991-99

The most Nineties show of the Nineties. The Clinton years were obsessed with erotic thrillers – summed up by the ridiculous cop duo of Rob Estes and Mitzi Kapture. If you turned on your TV and saw sweat, handcuffs, ceiling fans and a neon sign flashing "MOTEL" through the blinds onto the body of a dead politician in a call girl’s hot tub, you were watching Silk Stalkings.


WKRP in Cincinnati
1978-82

The Seventies’ rock & roll sitcom, with a radio station full of hippies and losers. WKRP is tough to find in its uncensored form – the music on the original shows had to be cut for legal reasons – but worth it. The Thanksgiving turkey drop is an all-time classic: "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."


Square Pegs
1982-83

Years before Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker was the queen geek on this legendary Eighties teen comedy, with a theme song by the Waitresses and a high school antihero named Johnny Slash. This is who Barb on Stranger Things was trying to emulate.


Honey West
1965-66

The late great Anne Francis as the grooviest Sixties detective, a glamour girl who lives with a pet ocelot, topples bad guys with karate chops and always wears the right perfectly accessorized outfit to battle crime.


The Sifl and Olly Show
1997-99

Everybody thought this low-budget MTV puppet show would never last. Everybody was right.


Snoops
1999

After David E. Kelley became the king of Good Taste TV with sensitive dramas like Picket Fences and Ally McBeal, what did he do? Gina Gershon in a brilliantly cheese-intensive Charlie’s Angels rip, where the scantily clad detectives go undercover as hookers or country singers. Bad taste is timeless. Snoops fizzled in the ratings and lasted a mere 13 episodes, but oh the memories.


Chico and the Man
1974-78

A huge Seventies hit, on right after Sanford and Son. Freddie Prinze was Chico; Jack Albertson was the Man, a drunk racist WW2 vet who hired Prinze to work at his L.A. garage. Prinze’s tragic death ended the laughter all too quickly but Jose Feliciano’s theme song still shines bright.


Three’s Company
1977-81
L.A. in the Boogie Nights years, with Jack, Janet and Chrissy as the frisky threesome sharing a party pad, plus nightcaps at the Regal Beagle. Note: the show technically continued for three years after the original cast split, but the non-Suzanne Somers years are not canon and never will be. Come and knock on our door!