Outer Banks Season 2 dropped on Netflix on July 30, and like the rest of Gen Z, I immediately tuned in and binge watched a few episodes (I’m not done yet, so no spoilers please!).
But I have a bit of a hot take: although the new season is addictive — it’s practically like plowing through several bags of microwave popcorn and not being able to stop — and the whole cast looks great, the show is really, really bad. To all the hardcore Outer Banks fans out there, I’m sorry, but it’s true, and I have some fans and critics on my side. The acting is subpar, the plot rarely makes any logical sense (like, why John B. and Sarah slow danced in the middle of a five-star hotel in the Bahamas while they were on the run as fugitives is beyond me) — but the weird irony of it all is that the soapy teen drama is so bad it’s good.
A writer from CNET encapsulates the sentiment well, writing, “It’s corny, ridiculous and at times downright exhausting. But I couldn’t stop watching.” And I couldn’t agree more. But why do we constantly watch so many “so bad it’s good” shows?
Take Sex/Life, for instance. Pretty much all of Gen Z has been talking about it ever since its release on June 25, but it has a 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s been all over my TikTok FYP too, and the hashtag #sexlife has over 86 million views. A TIME article titled “Netflix’s Steamy New Drama Sex/Life Is So Bad, It’s Funny” has a very similar vibe to that CNET article I mentioned about Outer Banks — basically, the show is trash, but it’s good trash. One critic even wrote about Sex/Life, “This epitomizes trash TV; it’s a soapy melodrama that could be interpreted either as emotional or hilarious depending on the viewer’s interpretation.”
And there’s a whole slew of trashy and soapy television shows that should be so bad that nobody watches them, but if anything, they have a massive cult following. Think about Riverdale, for example. Throughout its five seasons of existence, the show has been through a whirlwind of plot twists and ambitious storylines that outrightly don’t make any sense: there was one plot line that followed a cult that cut out people’s organs and sacrificed babies, there are at least three musical episodes where all the characters sing, and Season 3 debuts with Archie going to prison and then, a mere several episodes later, escaping prison. It’s a lot to unpack, to say the least. Yet despite consistently poor ratings, the CW show garners millions of viewers. And maybe that’s what makes the show so good — it keeps us on our toes, always having us wondering what’s going to happen next.
Or what about overly dramatic reality shows like Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle? A bunch of hot twentysomethings who have to remain celibate and can’t touch each other? Sounds like the perfect recipe for bad-but-good TV! Both Season 1 and Season 2 of Too Hot to Handle tanked in terms of ratings, yet it was all anyone was talking about over quarantine when the show premiered. And perhaps that is why the show was so popular — because ultimately, we love watching good-looking people do stupid things.
It’s no secret that as a society, we love trash television. Sometimes good ol’ fashioned mindless TV is the perfect sweet escape from reality — there’s nothing like watching a bunch of Pogues running around and doing extremely reckless things with minimal consequences to take your mind off of things. And after a year like 2020, I think our brains could use a bit of a break.
So if you need me, I’ll be finishing the last couple of episodes of Outer Banks and avoiding my TikTok FYP so I don’t see any more spoilers!