For someone who works at a pop culture publication, I actually dodged many aspects of a ‘normal’ millennial childhood. As such, there’s an expanse of TV shows, albums, and general entertainment phenomena adored by my colleagues which leave me entirely cold. Where you might have had Pokémon and H20: Just Add Water, I had VeggieTales and sadness. Last year I was actually sent to Japan to experience the Harry Potter-themed corner of Universal Studios; I have never read the books, and have only seen enough of the films to conclude that Voldemort is Harry’s dad.

This gap of understanding is no small source of mirth for my colleagues, who have encouraged me to share which contraband shows actually contributed to the person I am today. Behold, the content I consumed in relative secrecy, away from the watchful and loving eye of my parents.

Mum, dad, don’t read this.

ER

My mum is a nurse. This gives her a license to stare at some primo gore during her downtime. The most accessible outlet for such bloody entertainment was always ER, the drama centred on Chicago’s County General Hospital and its conventionally attractive residents.

Now that I think about it, my parents were probably less worried about me seeing young George Clooney than they were concerned about the fountains of blood spurting from every orifice. Try as they might, they couldn’t stop me from seeing a helicopter’s tail rotor lopping off the arm of Dr. Robert Romano (Paul McCrane). It was a truly indelible image, only reinforced when I saw the chopper finish the job by crashing on him in Season 10.

The Simpsons

There is just so much to be deciphered about a person based on how much of The Simpsons they have seen, if at all. I say this as someone whose father resented the show and changed the channel around 6pm every weeknight. His hatred of Homer Simpson superseded his loathing of Bart, who was always more liable to influence impressionable viewers like myself, but his personal vendetta meant I only gained Simpsons fluency in my early teens. My older brother eventually acquired multiple Simpsons box sets, potentially as a subconscious act of personal reclamation, while I osmosed enough Springfield knowledge to land a job at PEDESTRIAN.TV.

An artist’s depiction of yours truly

South Park

See above. South Park was to be watched on Foxtel while my parents were at the shops, at work, or otherwise unable to steer me away from the Comedy Channel. The interesting thing about South Park is that, at its most basic level, it’s not as egregiously offensive as anything my friends spewed in the playground. In retrospect, the show is actually weirdly centrist, positioning anyone who sincerely gives a shit about anything as either a prude or a weirdo. If that was a viewpoint I shared as a teenaged dipshit, it’s not one I hold as an adult dipshit. It did give me a basic understanding of Scientology though, so kudos for that.

The height of comedy

Naked News

Behind The News and Naked News are my journalistic ur-texts, but they could not be more different. While Behind The News gave young viewers a digestible take on the issues facing Australia and the world, I think I lost the last of my innocence watching Naked News. It’s where I learned about Al Qaeda, Dick Cheney, and the trial of Slobodan Miloševic at The Hague; it’s probably where I first saw footage of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster and George W. Bush declaring “Mission Accomplished”. I likely encountered some other adult themes during those late nights staring at a muted television, but I can’t seem to remember them now. Weird.

Pictured: someone taking off their clothing and making the news

Siam Sunset

This isn’t even a TV show, but its singular impact on my psyche warrants a place on this list. For the unacquainted, Siam Sunset is a deeply fucked 1999 Australian horror-comedy in the vein of The Cabin In The Woods. The whole thing is on YouTube for some reason, allowing audiences to witness deaths by fridge and coat hook. What a weird fucking film. I wonder what kind of psychic damage I carry with me from watching this. I probably wasn’t even ten at the time.

I should probably see a therapist, or at least finish watching the Potter flicks.