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the activity of watching a television programme that you think is bad because you get enjoyment from criticizing it
'Hate-watching is the act of watching a show that you claim to dislike with the sole purpose of mocking it. With the recent return of Smash, a highly mockable melodrama about the behind-the-scenes happenings of a Broadway production, hate-watching seems to be a hot button term in TV writing …'Jezebel 6th February 2013
'I don't hate-watch "The Office" but I hate-watch Jim (John Krasinski), whose attempts at reinvention, at leaving Scranton, feel smart and smug.'Chicago Tribune 24th February 2013
'I'm not a hate-watcher. As a professional television critic, I already watch plenty of shows I hate. Because I have to review them. And then I have to check back to see if they stayed awful or … got better.'Hollywood Reporter 5th February 2013
'There's a fine line between love and hate.' The saying might be hackneyed, but most people will admit to having witnessed a degree of truth in this at some point in their lives, recognizing that when emotions are intense there's often an overlap between positive and negative. This concept is often trivialized into the principle that there are some things we just 'love to hate', or in other words, we get a great deal of pleasure out of having a jolly good moan about something. And given that watching TV is one of the most popular forms of relaxation, there's plenty of potential for these activities to collide. In recent months, it seems that the intersection of the two has led to the crystallization of a brand new pastime – hate-watching.
people who hate-watch … don't usually do so in isolation, but communicate their feelings via social media to a group of like-minded viewers
Hate-watching (also often appearing as non-hyphenated hatewatching) is the activity of regularly watching a television programme which you think is extremely bad, and doing so specifically because you have the intention of criticizing it, from which in turn you derive a considerable amount of pleasure. People who partake, dubbed hate-watchers, don't usually do so in isolation, but communicate their feelings via social media to a group of like-minded viewers, who revel together in the opportunity to grumble about the programme's inadequacies.
Predictably, there are certain programmes which have been regular targets of hate-watching, and have even achieved a certain notoriety because of it, inadvertently galvanizing popular use of the expression. These include Smash, a US drama series about the creation of a new Broadway musical by a fictional New York theatre company. Though the series' concept was not intrinsically bad, it promised far more than it actually delivered – a key tenet of becoming a target for hate-watching. Other programmes deemed to be similarly unsatisfactory are now even sometimes described as hate-watchable.
But it's not just TV programmes that can be hate-watched, but also the people or characters within them. Sometimes a show might be basically okay, but contain one particular annoying or unconvincing character which will allow viewers to indulge in smaller bouts of hate-watching. And of course reality shows invariably provide a raft of individuals from which hate-watchers can pick and choose – the self-important candidates in the BBC's Apprentice series are a classic example of hate-watchable types.
The term hate-watching first appeared in 2012, quickly morphing into a transitive verb hate-watch (often realized as a participle adjective hate-watched, e.g. one of the most hate-watched programmes). The concept of watching something specifically because you derive pleasure from criticizing it is of course not a new idea, just another example of our tacit enjoyment of poking fun at things. This therefore begs the question as to why this practice has only recently been identified and named. Some believe this is precisely because, relative to previous eras, a large proportion of 21st century TV is of a very good standard. This means there's a sharper contrast when things aren't up to scratch, which somehow makes being critical a much more satisfying experience. Social media also of course provide the ideal platform for talking about such issues and allying with like-minded opinions.
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This article was first published on 7th May 2013.