Some TV shows you watch because you love them. Some shows you watch because you loathe them. Why do we continue to tune into things that make us groan about characters, plotlines or bad dialogue? It’s not the same as having a guilty pleasure, because you hate-watching something fully acknowledging that you dislike it and setting out to find its ridiculousness. And who doesn’t like to complain?
OK, team, what are you hate-watching?
Ali Davis: I can’t explain my relationship with America’s Next Top Model. Is it hate-watching? The show is deliriously, magically stupid. I love the overblown drama and the poor social skills and oh, god, the ridiculous competitions!
And then I think about the incredibly sexist lessons this show teaches young women about womanhood and I have to buy new chairs again because I threw the old ones out the window.
It’s love-hate-watching. It’s smize-frown watching. I don’t know what it is. I just know I can’t stop it.
Elaine Atwell: During the one month of my post-college life in which I had cable, I stumbled upon a program called The Millionaire Matchmaker. I only watched one episode, but it had the transfixing, face-melting horror of the Ark of the Covenant. I am normally too repelled by reality TV to experience any kind of schadenfreude, but I walked away from Millionaire Matchmaker with a profound sense of gratitude that I was not any of the people on that show.
Heather Hogan: I don’t hate-watch anything on TV. I kind of think we’re living in the Golden Age of television, and every day of my life I wish I had a Time-Turner so I could catch up on all the amazing things I have missed out on/am still missing out on because my dumb human body requires me to sleep. (A real hero would use a Time-Turner to save lives; I just want to finally get caught up on The Good Wife.) Also, I have mad ADHD so I’m not one of those people who can have the TV on for background noise because commotion in my auditory periphery makes my brain explode. Double also, the only reality TV I watch is The Amazing Race, so I can’t even work up any self-loathing about whatever Kardashian thing. In fact, it was only just last year when my best friend had to make up some flashcards to teach me that Kim Kardashian and Snooki are different people. I do, however, really enjoy hearing my sister rage whenever she hate-watches Fox News.
Grace Chu: Any Coen Brothers film. I think I made it through 10 minutes of Fargo before I wandered off to do something more interesting, which was probably picking out bellybutton lint, and I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of The Big Lebowski. Forget Ambien — either of these films could cure insomnia. Why people think these guys are filmmaking geniuses is beyond me. Maybe it’s a guy thing.
Dana Piccoli: Right now, The Following. It’s so infuriating. The FBI agents are a mess, everyone is evil. There isn’t a single likable character. Yet I watch. I often feel the same way about The Walking Dead. Sometimes I just wish they’d get eaten.
Dara Nai: I, too, watched The Following with growing disgust and rage. Kevin Bacon does his best, I suppose, but his “hero” character is such an emotional and physical weakling — he’s inexplicably in love with his nemesis’s wife, a charmless, frantic ninny, and has a heart condition that makes chasing bad guys up a flight of stairs bring on cardiac arrest — it makes me want to shoot him myself.
All the good guys are trusting morons who never fail to be a day late and a dollar short. The bad guys get away with everything they do, making each episode maddening, identical and pointless. And then there’s “Joey,” a boy who would follow a complete stranger into a dungeon with the promise of a cookie and a bedtime story. Joey: The Dumbest Kid on Earth.
I stopped watching The Following a few weeks ago. It was making me homicidal.
Punky Starshine: Lifetime movies. Every time I’m at my parents’ house for an extended period of time, my mother somehow ropes me into watching at least one of them with her. Every time, I say I’m not sitting through it, but I always end up being sucked into the absurdity of the plot and rolling my eyes and making fake gagging noises and dramatically repeating the cheesy lines and yelling at the screen when the protagonist inevitably does something painfully stupid. Hmm, as I type this, I’m wondering if my theatrics during the viewing process is the only reason my mother makes me watch them with her.
Lucy Hallowell: I would like the time back that I spent watching Brian Kinney and the band of misfit dipshits ride their bicycles through Canada for the entirety of a Queer as Folk episode.
Emily Hartl: I can’t directly hate-watch anything, but whenever I’m asked if I watch Homeland the answer is always “sort of.” The thing is I sit in the room as my wife watches the show since it airs on Sunday night and there’s usually something we’re watching either before or after it’s on. I preoccupy myself with my iPhone, stealing a glance at the screen every so often. It’s not that the writing isn’t great or that I don’t love the shit out of some Claire Danes, I just can’t take watching a show (or movie, really for that matter) that keeps me in a wild fit of anxiety for a solid hour. Call me crazy, it’s just not my idea of entertainment.
Erika Star: Girls. More specifically? The pilot episode, Tiny Furniture.
Trish Bendix: I’m still watching Smash because I hate myself. Or because I love Megan Hilty, even when she’s on a sinking ship.
What do you love to hate-watch?