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Television: Guilty Pleasures:

Even though I pride myself on my originality of thought and uniqueness, it has recently come to pass that I have to accept a surprising quality about my own taste, especially when it comes to TV: I have the taste of the masses. In other words, nine times out of ten I like what everyone else likes. I don’t really like being a foregone conclusion and would prefer it if my tastes were a little more eclectic. But there you have it. When I find I love a new television show, most of the time that show ends up becoming everyone else’s favorite too.

Unless you count The Comeback (the Lisa Kudrow bomb) or Fat Actress (the Kirstie Alley bomb) I have tastes in line with the same people who have made shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Project Runway popular, even though I don’t watch those shows. Lost, Survivor, 24, American Idol, you name it, I was an early responder, along with millions of other Americans.

Well a new show is currently making waves that will be a test as to my taste vs. the American public’s. I dare you watch one episode of NBC’s Windfall and not become hooked. The premise isn’t that spectacular – a group of friends win a lottery pool and we get to watch as the money makes or breaks their new lives. And there aren’t any particularly eye-catching stars. Luke Perry (of Beverly Hills 90210) is the only star. But there’s something about it that gnaws at you and won’t let you go.

With elements of Desperate Housewives, Melrose Place and Lost all rolled into one, Windfall is about desperate people. It is said that money changes everything and lord knows we all wish we could get a $100 million windfall. Here we watch as dreams each couple once had are now attainable: the condo in Manhattan, the mansion, giving enough money to your child’s public school that will want for nothing. What would you do with $100 million?

What we don’t often think about is how it can lead to pain and heartache – what happens to those around you who can’t deal with your new wealth? How do you know if someone’s love for you is sincere or whether they just want you for the lifestyle to which they yearn to become accustomed? Scammers are everywhere; thieves are everywhere and the only thing holding you together is strength of character.

In that way, it is like Lost, where a group of people has to behave in a way they never planned for. Only on Lost money means nothing. On Windfall it means everything. The show heaps scandal upon you on a minute-by-minute basis. There’s the teen that married a model to be become legal enough to be a lottery winner without the winnings going to his parents, who secretly likes the virginal daughter of another winner. Will the model win out? Meanwhile, another winner fell in love with one woman who signed for the money because he was prevented from doing so (something to do with a murder charge) – now the woman has disappeared. Was she kidnapped? Did she leave with the money?

The baby of a crack addict suddenly emerges and claims one of the winners is the father. When it turns out he’s not the real father she begs him to take the baby anyway – he does. His wife wants a baby of her own. But he’s secretly in love with another woman. The intrigue! The shame! The glory!

The question is, will Windfall become the sleeper hit my tastes predict it will? So far, ratings show it’s a hot one. And how could it not be? Like Lost, everyone has something to hide. And the situation they’re all in will force those secrets out. There isn’t a dull moment on the show and sadly, like all unhealthy addictions, it will leave you wanting more.

Windfall airs on Thursdays, 10pm on NBC.

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