Hate-watching is more popular than ever, which seems strange given how much truly exceptional television is available to us. Not sure what hate-watching is? Urban Dictionary is happy to explain it:
There are lots of good reasons to hate-watch shows in my opinion. Sometimes a good show takes a giant nose-dive. Other times, a great premise is ruined by hack plotting or poor dialogue. Be advised that hate-watching is not the same as a “guilty pleasure,” ie: a show you enjoy despite knowing how bad it is. When hate-watching, hate is the operative word. Lemme show you what I mean.
HBO’s True Blood began as a fun guilty pleasure show for me. Pretty and magical people doing sexy things and finding themselves in scary circumstances. My expectations were pretty low, I merely wanted to be entertained. But when showrunner Alan Ball left the show, its decline was sharp and tragic. Suddenly, thousand year-old vampires started talking like drunken frat boys, and once proud characters revealed themselves to be inane and weak willed. And don’t get me started on the demise of Russell Edgington. Hate-watching was the only option if I wanted to know how it would end.
This is an example of a fantastic, if borrowed, premise that didn’t remotely reach its full potential. Ridiculous plotting and nonsensical actions (planning murders over a prison visiting room phone? Losing a helicopter in broad daylight? FBI agents who repeatedly acquiesce to, “I’ll only speak to Ryan Hardy”) eclipsed fine performances by a strong lead cast. Honestly, James Purefoy reading the phone book would be just as compelling, and less likely to require hate-watching. I hate-watched Season One, and decided to continue—not realizing that each season would become progressively worse.
To my mind, AMC’s walker-iffic zombie show tanked after the budget was cut and showrunner Frank Darabont was fired after Season One. Despite ludicrous premises, overreliance on crappy love triangles, and the insulting demise of my favorite character, I hate-watched in the hope that the show would improve. Guess what? It did! Season Three was noticeably better, and Season Four was better still. Hate-watch rewarded!
Ever read a book, love it, and then wait with bated breath for the movie or TV adaptation? Yeah, me too. So I was pretty stoked for Under the Dome. Even when there were rampant breezes, useful people doing nothing to help, and massive changes in character and story, I hate-watched this stinker for two whole seasons. It seemed impossible that a show based on an awesome Stephen King novel could be so tragically, insultingly bad. By the time people started popping in and out of the dome, arranging fight clubs, and coming back from the dead—I was well past hate-watching and on to seethe-watching. I’m still flummoxed by how it’s possible that Constantine was cancelled while this crapshack gets a third season.
There’s so much of this offensively horrible television that it can’t be narrowed to a single show. Toddlers and Tiaras, Bridezillas, The Biggest Loser, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo all catalog the lowest, worst behavior in American culture. Do we hate-watch these shows to remind ourselves how much better we are than someone who gives Red Bull to a 5-year-old? Or are we hate-watching because we just can’t believe people like this exist, let alone that they make more money than us.