“Guilty pleasure” can mean different things to different people, and some people shun the concept altogether, saying if something is pleasurable then it’s not guilty. But when it comes to publicly admitting (as I can) that you have spent your free time watching Tool Academy, we can all agree that’s not a proud moment.

Team PopWatch wants to celebrate the most embarrassing delights in the world of reality TV, so today we’re kicking off our Reality TV Guilty Pleasure Showdown. It’ll be just the thing to cure your wintertime blues. We’ve had many impassioned (and surreal) discussions over the past few months about which shows should make the cut for the 32 in this competition. So the criteria we used were shows that we knew were a certain level of bad, but that we genuinely enjoyed watching. There were almost real tears in the meeting room when Joe Millionaire and I’m with Busey were cut but in the end these 32 selections inspired the most passion in us — and hopefully will inspire you to vote for your favorites.

Obviously, some of the kingpins of reality TV aren’t included. Shows such as The Bachelor, Jon & Kate Plus Eight, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Next Top Model, Wife Swap, What not to Wear, and The Real Housewives of New York and Orange County have been left off this list because they seemed like the untouchable all-stars. To be sure, anything with a rose ceremony is guilty, but these shows have reached a level of cultural acceptance that makes them seem less guilty (or maybe that’s just at the EW office).

Like our recent Guilty Pleasures contest on Music Mix, we’ve created an NCAA-style bracket of our 32 competitors (click on the image below to enlarge). We have four categories — Relationships, “Real” Lives, Celeb-Reality, and Competition — and the best from each group will square off for the ultimate crown*.


Click here for revised bracket showing Semifinals Matchups.

We’ll run two match-ups each weekday, so come back and vote for your favorites and please comment about why you vote for which show (we’re planning a gallery of best fan comments). We’ll have preliminary voting through Christmas, and then PopWatch will reveal the final four the first week of January. Vote for the greatest guilty TV pleasure – i.e. the ones you can’t live without – not the one that feels the guiltiest. We can’t wait to see if the Kardashians smackdown Bridezillas, or if Temptation Island has more nostalgic fans than The Anna Nicole Show. – Wendy Mitchell

*Just to be clear, there is no crown. But the winner gets bragging rights!

We’ll link to all the matchups here: