Crack In Various Forms

I was sucked into watching a terribly written but strangely compelling Disney movie (Starstruck – do yourself a favor and do not go near it. If you lose two hours of your life, you can’t blame me) and it got me thinking about crack. I know we’ve talked about this before but what is it that makes some books, movies, or tv shows utterly cracktastic so you cannot put them down? Sometimes its the train wreck factor, like Toddlers and Tiaras. I have met more than one person who has encountered the show and has not been able to look away. I have movies, too, that, if I flip past them, I will stop to watch, no matter where in the movie I encounter the plot. Varsity Blues is one example (I Don’t Want Your Life!) of clicker-stopping crack movies. Goonies too – and even if I OWN the movie on DVD, I’ll still tune in to watch if I see if on tv when I’m on the couch. (What is with that, anyway?! I think I own Varsity Blues, now that I think about it).

Sometimes it’s some indefinable quality that keeps me hooked to whatever I’m enjoying… and it’s not always a good quality. I think there needs to be a word for when you’re balanced between horrified and enjoyment. I’ve had this experience with JR Ward bhoohks, Stephanie Laurens books, many, many things on Food Network and QVC (The “q” in QVC, I’m convinced, is for Qrack). I can’t stop observing and watching, waiting to see what happens next. I also have this problem more with first-person perspective books than third-person, as if I can’t be rude and turn away from this person confiding in me for pages and pages. Do I care personally about blow drying serums that prevent frizz, chest-pounding men who say things like, “I’m outtie,” or some random kitchen staffed entirely by lunatics? Nope. Am I still tuning in? Yup. Why?! Why do I do that?!

I’ve been pondering the topic some over the weekend, too, since today I’m going to find out what supah-sekrit plans are in the works for the Sweet Valley High sequels – and I get to meet the geniuses behind 1BRUCE1, the LiveJournal group that is itself cracktastic. Sweet Valley, for me, was crackalicious. I would spend my hard-earned allowance on two of them, and read them both within 45 minutes. The tv show never did it for me. Something about the Daniels’ sister’s heads freaked me out. Generally speaking, I like the images of characters in my own head more than any film production versions – especially when the characters look like 34 year-olds pretending to be in high school.

What books are crack-o-matic for you? What do you think it is that makes a tv show or movie or book un-put-down-able?

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  1. 1
    Francesca says:

    Since my own personal brand of crack is professional wrestling, I will never make fun of anyone else’s choices (at least, not out loud).

    I used to devour Jackie Collins, hating myself all the time, but they finally became too toxic. I have this one book that is so awful, so trashy and so disgusting that I won’t even let myself remember its title, but about once every two years I pull it out and every time I weed my bookshelves I swear it’s going, but it stays there.

    Usually, my yearly crack fix is Jacqueline Susann; I actually own two copies of The Love Machine and Valley of the Dolls. Yes, I admit it: I need help!

  2. 2

    Oh, this is a great post.

    You’re so right. My husband loves to mock me when I stop at certain movies on cable. Con Air. The Prince and Me. Mr. Holland’s Opus. Sister Act.

    I think there’s something compelling about these movies because they’re simple, and there’s something relatable there. There’s something that speaks to our inner little girl. (Or guy!) Like your Varsity Blues reference—there’s still a tiny piece of all of us who wants to fall for the quarterback. No matter how much my corporate-working-mother self wants to rebel against it.

  3. 3
    maris39 says:

    Crack-tastic books for me are ones where there’s a “what can possibly happen next” fascination.  In the last year or so Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Codex Alara series are the ones that have fit the bill for me.  I like imaginative stuff most – once it becomes too formulaic for me, I’m done.

    Movies and TV falls into two categories for me: movies – either really, really good ones that have awesome hook lines (Princess Bride) or ones that ones that remind me of something… like home (Man from Snowy River).  As for TV – generally it’s either clever writing/acting (like Glee, House, In Plain Sight) or total, utter train-wrecks of the OMG I can’t believe there are human beings on this planet who behave like this (Bridezillas being my current obsession – but that could be because I’m planning a wedding).

  4. 4

    Ooh, I’m with Francesca. Jacqueline Susann is my dealer of choice.

    I get cracked on TV and movies and books with fast-paced action and complex (but not tangled) plots, things with twelve unresolved issues I want to see solved or mysteries revealed. Harry Potter (the books) did that for me, as has Lost, Six Feet Under, Firefly, Freaks and Geeks… Even Desperate Housewives, and I don’t even like that show! I think for me it may be a matter of multiple main characters (it all comes back to Valley of the Dolls). Or perhaps, waaay back to the Babysitters’ Club.

    Great topic, Sarah.

  5. 5

    Oh, I didn’t even mention my terrible taste in reality TV (I don’t actually own a TV, but Hulu is a good pusher) which also is screaming at me that I’m a sucker for “stories” with multiple main characters—The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser, Top Model, any of those soul-twistingly vapid Real Housewives shows. Plus those have the added cracktastic bonus of the trainwreck factor.

    Oh no, I keep thinking of more! Arrested Development, 44 Scotland Street, The Archers (radio)… I could go on.

  6. 6
    MicheleKS says:

    I think book/movie crack is kind of like certain comfort foods- boxed macaroni and cheese comes to mind. Maybe not to good for you but oh so delicious. And fun, which I think is a key word here. I think with any type of crack it’s about giving your brain a break and just not thinking at all.

    And Sweet Valley High was primo crack back in my junior-high days.

  7. 7
    Deb says:

    Anything on HGTV—especially the “House Hunters” franchise.  What I’m usually thinking is “How did this person [who is obviously younger than me] manage to get enough money to buy a dream/vacation home in Costa Rica.”  I get cracked on the episodes where people are buying million-dollar homes and complain that “five bedrooms and four bathrooms just aren’t enough.”

  8. 8
    Toni Andrews says:

    I am positive that if I watch THE PERFECT STORM just one more time, the boat won’t flip over.

  9. 9
    AngP says:

    I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ll watch The Mummy and Van Helsing at any time and place.  Same with 10 Things I Hate About You, Blue Crush, and yes, Varsity Blues.  I just can’t not stop and watch! 

    Book crack: In the summer months, if I can find it at the checkout I’ll buy it. Seriously. The more outrageous the cover the better. I’ve devoured everything from vampires to cheesy detective one-offs. And if the books are so cheaply bound they fall apart during the first read I’m in heaven.  Can’t explain it; just have to buy it.

  10. 10
    jody says:

    Add me to the list of Real Housewives addicts. I’ve weaned myself off most of them and am down to just the NYC bunch, but find myself helplessly Velcroed to the TV during the endless reruns.  Say it with me now, “You. Are. In. High. School!”

  11. 11
    emdee says:

    Top Model, Sleepless in Seattle and Pride and Prejudice (2005).  I have this idea that they are much better than anything else that could possibly be on, even after I have seen them dozens of times. 

    Code word: means 66.  Which is how many times I have probably seen each one.

  12. 12
    Gabrielle says:

    Normally a lurker but the mention of the food channel compels me to say Giada de Laurentiis. I cannot stand the woman and her show is horrendous but I watch it every time it’s on. I can’t help it. She’s so bad that it’s entertaining to her talk about parrmegiannnoo regiannoo every 5 minutes.

  13. 13
    Pam says:

    Cracktastic is one of those terms that bewilders me a little and makes me feel my age.  That’s why I love this blog.  It’s a tutorial in contemporary culture for bookaholics of every stripe.  Correct me if I’m wrong; would a cracktastic movie be what my family referred to as a

    cult classic?  In our house, the movies everyone would stop every thing to watch and watch again were Princess Bride, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Flash Gordon, Much Ado About Nothing, Oscar, Cutthroat Island, and our all-time number one favorite, Tank Girl.  I’m not much of a TV fan, and I can’t stomach reality TV, but over the years, I loved (and still pine for) Ellery Queen, Tales of the Gold Monkey, McHale’s Navy, and WKRP.  I would absolutely watch any of those in reruns.

    Bookwise, whatever I read seems excellent to me.  I suppose Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books fill the bill.  They are completely formulaic, but there are always a couple of scenes that trigger the unfettered guffaw.  I also read Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder series for much the same reason.  I’m totally addicted to Pratchett, but his stuff too often approaches perfection for true cracktastitude.

  14. 14
    Irina says:

    I wish I could be at the lunch today!  I’ll be with you all in spirit.

    -Irina

  15. 15
    Jan says:

    Movies with a good heart like Dave; The Holiday; Galaxy Quest; The Last Starfighter; Starman; and I vote for Pride and Prejudice too for movies.
    For t.v., I need creativity and good writing, especially snarky dialogue: NCIS; In Plain Sight; White Collar (a little eye candy doesn’t hurt either); Burn Notice; House; True Blood; In Treatment.
    Guilty pleasures: Entertainment Tonight during dinner; and Dirty Jobs just to feel grateful that’s not my job!

  16. 16
    Tae says:

    i have to admit that I’m on the crack wagon too when it comes to JR Ward, no matter how ridiculous the books are, I’m still reading them

    movie wise… I’m a sucker for Cinderella type stories so that Hilary Duff one I watch all the time, as for tv shows So You Think You Can Dance – I even try and find the Canada and Australia clips on YouTube!

  17. 17

    For TV? Xena, Warrior Princess. Seriously. Everything about it, from the not so great acting, the cheezy production values, the fight scenes, Marton Csokas (OMG, hot), Karl Urban (OMG, hot), Bruce Campbell (OMG, hot?), the lesbian vibe between Xena and Gabrielle (geez, ladies, cut the chit-chat, let’s get to the hair-pulling and bottom-smacking already!), everything. I hate that I can’t find it on TV here anymore.

    What Not to Wear. Need I say more?

    For books? Catherine Coulter. That’s honestly the only one I can think of at the moment.

    Movies? Pitch Black. Chronicles of Riddick. (hanging my head in shame, but it’s action/scifi, and Vin Diesel just does it for me) Con Air. The Rock. Face Off. (Nicolas Cage doesn’t do it for me, but something about those three movies grabbed me—the action, the villains, the cheese, I don’t know)

  18. 18
    Laurel says:

    SVH encapsulates this concept better than anything else I can think of. I was mortified at myself for reading those books and just kept buying them. This from a girl who wasn’t ashamed of all the books with the unicorns and dragons on the covers.

    In my adult life I have to say Anna Nicole’s reality show was it. THE CRACK of all crack. I typically eschew all things reality but I could not turn away from that. The only thing I could figure was the unique combo of train wreck/AWKWARD but Anna Nicole could not be shamed. She was never, ever, embarrassed or uncomfortable. Even when she seemed relatively alert. So I got the whole “Wow. That person is seriously whacked” without having to feel sorry for them by thinking, “And now they know that everyone in the country knows it.”

  19. 19
    Beki says:

    Whoever said Arrested Development is RIGHT.  When we first started watching that, it was already a season in and we had the DVDs.  One right after the other, laughing wildly, tears flying, mouths gaping open with incredulity at how utterly insane it was.  I think we watched that first season set twice in one week because when one went off, it was way too hard to turn the thing off instead of watching “one more, one more!”

    On other TV gorging, I’m a sucker for anything by Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing) and will gulp done one ep after another if I get going.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, LOST, and Justified all have that “one more, one more!” element if I get started.  Though with Justified, it may be that I can’t look away from Timothy Olyphant. 

    Cracktastic books for me are the Nora Roberts trilogies.  I have several on the keeper shelves that I jsut know if I pick up the first one, that’s my whole weekend gone right there, spent on books I’ve read dozens of times, but they’re so comforting.  Also, in that same vein, the Sookie Stackhouse books, and early Stephen King books are crack candy to me.

  20. 20
    Lyssa says:

    Interesting topic, and one that I can relate to regarding books and movies. For myself the crack novels come in two forms. The first I place in a b ad novel, I have to stop buying these, never will I buy this author again, why did I buy that book, I need to just get the next book from the library catagory. These are authors who started out strong, or hooked me with a plot where I came to care about the characters…then digressed into something that I can only describe as a literary trainwreck. I don’t want to read the next book, but like a person who sees a terrible accident I can’t stop myself from looking. (Anita Blake series anyone?)

    The second is the book that is on my shelf, and I pick it up because I wonder about that one scene…and end up re-reading the whole novel..and any follow up novels. But in a way these are comforting because I know I will enjoy the story just as much on the second, tenth, sixtyith read through as on the first. (Miles Vorkosigian novels by Bujold, and Black Jewels series by Bishop.)

    As far as movies go I have a great fondness for All About Eve, or any Bette Davis Movie. I can’t stop watching when Bette starts. Raiders of the Lost Arc, Princess Bride, and Gone with the Wind, along with The Wizard of Oz I also can’t stop myself from watching.

  21. 21
    Wallie says:

    Crack = Diana Palmer

    I know her books should come with the Surgeon General’s warning.  But I read them anyway.  And like them.

    Is there a 12-step program and Big Book for us hopeless readers of Diana Palmer books?

  22. 22
    J says:

    My Crack is Say Yes to the Dress – my 12 year old daughter and I can sit and watch hours of this show, marveling at the horrible relatives of the brides, the prices of the dresses and the amazingness of Randy!!  In a similar vein, there is a truly horrible show on TLC called 4 Weddings where 4 brides who don’t know each other go to each others’ weddings and judge them – the winner gets a free honeymoon.  Horrible, but can’t look away whenever it’s on!!

    Book Crack??  Too many to mention!!

    Movie Crack – ditto, although one that comes to mind is Silverado – when it’s on, I can’t move from the tv for anything short of a house fire!!

  23. 23
    Kimbert says:

    Oh, add me to the Stephanie Laurens list. I can’t help it. I just read the first of the “Bride” series, and the Cynsters AND the Bastion Club members make an appearance?! Gah!
    As far as movies: Tank Girl, Showgirls, BASEketball. If they’re on, I’m watching.

    sense33- Nope, makes no sense to me, either.

  24. 24
    Terry Odell says:

    Books: Right now, Eve & Roarke—so much so that I’m going to drive 20 miles down the mountain in the rain to the library where it’s waiting for pickup.

    TV—since we’re re-doing our house, I’m glued to Holmes on Homes, even though it scares me. And I love Top Chef & Next Food Network Star.

  25. 25
    Fiamma says:

    Hmmmm good crack for us is The Matrix, The Wedding Planner, You’ve Got Mail and Kate and Leopol. Yup they all fall under, the suck me in and hold me categories and I have to admit Law and Order:CI the early years. Good GOD I watch it on Netflix and have done so over ten times!!!

    Books wise? Hard to say but I used to reread Jackie Collins, Stephen King and Nora Roberts.

    Not a TV fan, but whenever Old School comes on TBS, we watch it LOL

  26. 26
    Scrin says:

    Sarah, I think the term is ‘guilty pleasure’ or ‘So bad it’s good’, if you read TVTropes.org. And I’ll admit straight up: If you can make me laugh, I will forgive many ills. Here’s a list of movies I will ALWAYS try to watch if I can.

    -Anything made by Mel Brooks.

    -Leslie Nielson movies, like the Naked Gun series, Spy Hard, Wrongfully Accused, Airplane….

    -A crazy movie called Kung Pow: Enter the First

    -An even crazier and better movie called Kung Fu Hustle

    -There’s a TV series, here and there, that I’ll take time to watch.

    But while I’ll admit to being able to enjoy some truly awful movies if they can nail my weird sense of humor, for some reason I’m not as forgiving of bad books. Maybe it comes down to having to participate more in the writer’s thought process, and there’s some brains I don’t want to look at.

    Such as this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHxyZaZlaOs

    Story behind that video: Someone wrote some truly awful video game fanfiction. And someone else found it, and decided to make it into a video.

  27. 27
    scarletvirago says:

    I think for an intellectual property to qualify as “crack” it must, as the name implies, be universally considered an irredeemably bad-for-you substance with the inexplicable ability to hook first time users. As such, all cracktastic entertainment is a guilty pleasure, but not guilty pleasures are crack. To wit: Buffy the Vampire Slayer arguably did more to forward the cause of popular fantasy, seasonal-story arcs in tv, and smart/flawed/powerful female characters in modern television – but I still hesitate to mention that I’m a huge, rabid, fanfic-reading, obsessively-quoting fan to casual acquaintances. Guilty pleasure. Never in a million years would I admit to watching every single ep Temptation Island with the sound turned way down and my finger on the channel changer incase someone walked in the room. Nope. Never. Not me. (Denial and crack go hand-in-hand.)

  28. 28
    DianeN says:

    What’s interesting to me about cracktasticity (crackalisciousness?) is that for most people the addiction seldom goes away. Obviously it takes a lot to push someone over the edge and make them vow “never again!” That’s what happened to me with JR Ward and the BDB. The first crack (heh) in our relationship was the way she treated Butch and Vishous, who so obviously should have ended up together. The slang, the product placement, the extraneous h in every name didn’t faze me, but messing with characters (and readers) really turned me off. Then the ghost heroine and that whole Primale nonsense and everything having to do with the Scribe Virgin convinced me that I needed to get off the crackwagon once and for all. And I did. Cold turkey, I’m proud to say!

    Except… Covet, the first book in her new series, came out, and I tried to avoid it—wouldn’t even pick it up if I saw it in a bookstore!—but one day I spotted an available library copy, and, well, I loved it and am anxiously awaiting book 2. And of course I’m already wondering how long it will take before I overdose again!

  29. 29
    queenbeechast says:

    Shawshank Redemption, Con Air and the 5th Element are crack for me.  Anytime I’m flipping channels or see any of them on the cable menu, I have to stop and watch.  It doesn’t matter that all 3 of them are on the dvd rack.  It doesn’t matter that I’m only watching the last 5 mins, I just have to do it.  I’ve also discovered these 3 are on on-demand.  Which means I never what I’m originally planning.

    My other crack is infomericals.  It doesn’t matter that I own 3 snuggies, or 2 slap chops, I. HAVE. to. WATCH.  I never buy anything (my previous items have been bought once they hit the big box stores at a discount!)

    As for book crack – J.R. Ward and Laurell K. Hamilton.  It doesn’t matter that Anita is a ho and the whole book is going to be about the sex.  I still have to read them.  I can’t seem to stop.  I will admit to skipping all the sex scenes though.

  30. 30
    MelB says:

    My drug of choice is Laurell K. Hamilton. I fell in love with the Anita Blake series early, and like any addict, I can’t give her up. I HAVE to keep reading, no matter how much I should put it down and never look back. Ugh! For tv it has to be America’s Next Top Model, I just can’t stop watching. And as for movies, there are several on my list but the ones that come to mind right now are The Mummy, Scorpion King, and all three LOTR films. They come on and even though I already own them, I have to watch. I am addicted to them.

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