A really good question that’s been popping up in the news lately is one we’ve asked ourselves too many nights: Why do we keep watching shows we hate? We know shows like Dexter and True Blood are (or have become) terrible, but so many of us still trudge on through the muck. In the past, we’ve tried to figure out just what it is about these terrible shows that makes it so hard to tear ourselves away. Today, Flavorwire staffers describe their most masochistic TV relationships.
I skipped The Newsroom‘s first season, because my response to its existence was, “Why would I want to do that to myself?” Alas, I somehow started watching Season 2, which is as ridiculous and over-the-top as I expected it to be. Now that the series is covering a fake news story — literally, as everyone at ACN was duped by a revenge-hungry government official into believing that the U.S. military used chemical weapons — it’s even more frustrating and melodramatic than it would be if it, say, were just covering the actual things that happened in 2012. But I will give the show credit for casting Marsha Gay Harden. Now I’m just hoping for more scenes featuring her and Jane Fonda bitching at each other. — Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor
I was a lover in the beginning. But at this point the writing is appalling, and the creator in love with his antihero to a comical degree, so even other people’s rapturous recaps of such an awfully melodramatic show annoy me. But I haven’t quit watching. — Michelle Dean, Editor-at-Large
Everything is awful about Restaurant Stakeout on the Food Network: Willie Degel looks like he could break my kneecaps, and for some reason he always introduces himself as “Willie Degel of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse,” like his restaurant is some culinary mansion on the hill. Then there are the employees that they’re spying on: they’re making jack squat at these food-service jobs, so it’s no surprise they’re often exposed as incredibly lazy or straight-up stealing from the business. The owners are usually clueless, and overall I’m just filled with this sense of dread I can’t shake while watching the show, but I CAN’T STOP WATCHING IT! — Jason Diamond
The evidence that I watched all six seasons of Gossip Girl is scattered all over the Internet, but the truth is, I got sick of the show around the time when most of its characters packed up (or, rather, caught a limo downtown) for college. While it was never Quality Television, Gossip Girl, with its pretty people and Edith Wharton-esque social engineering, was really entertaining in its first few seasons. But then the show veered into Dan-Vanessa-Hilary Duff threesome territory, and it was all hate-watching (and hate-tweeting and hate-recapping) from there. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief
Loving Josh Schwartz is hard. He’s clearly a smart man with great ideas, but anyone who’s tried to watch any of his shows in their entirety can tell you his good intentions often go straight to hell. And hoo boy, Gossip Girl is easily the most hellish of his projects. A supposed send-up of the New York elite seemed right on time during the 2008 financial crisis, but the show’s complete ignorance of the real world became a lot more frustrating than subversive. In the midst of terrifying elections, catastrophic oil spills, and record student debt, I grew so, so tired of watching a bunch of kids my age complain about not getting photographed for Women’s Wear Daily or whatever the hell their pointless problems were. “You are so disgustingly rich!” I’d scream from my couch week after week. “You could do something valuable with your time!” Some years later, I finally realized I was screaming this at fictional characters, and I decided to take my own advice and turn off the TV. And unlike The OC, Gossip Girl never really redeemed itself, so I have no regrets. — Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice
Look, I started watching True Blood when it was good. It’s so absurd now that it’s easy to forget that its first season was informed by a concept both intriguing and well-executed — the idea of co-existing with vampires, and how as a minority such humanoid-but-not-actually-human creatures might integrate into our society. And I’m not the kind of person who gives up on shows easily — if I watch something, I watch it until it bores me to tears and/or drives me so insane that I have to stop. Having said all that, for the last couple of seasons, at least, it’s been more a matter of watching out of a perverse desire to see how silly the show can get than out of any expectation that it might actually be good. It’s not quite hate-watching, but I’m certainly not watching out of love. — Tom Hawking
Hate-watching is dumb, you guys.
Friday Night Lights. The Shield. Orange Is the New Black. Battlestar Galactica. Deadwood. The League. Downton Abbey. Nashville. Scandal. American Horror Story. This is a short and by no means complete list of fairly recent, highly acclaimed television shows that I have seen, no exaggeration, not a single episode of — even though I own several of them on DVD or Blu-ray, thanks to Amazon’s unfortunately irresistible Gold Box specials and Deals of the Week. Thanks to said deals, I’ve also acquired the complete series sets of several older programs that I’ve seen some but nowhere near all of, including M*A*S*H, The Twilight Zone, Homicide: Life on the Street, Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Abbott & Costello Show. I’m not sharing this information to catalog my DVD shelf — it’s to illustrate the basic point that “hate-watching” is a smug, asinine, bullshit activity. Look, I’m as guilty as anyone of enjoying the occasional bad movie. But the idea of setting aside time on a regular basis (or via some sort of terrible-television binge) to view hours upon hours of a program you actively hate is, to me, totally befuddling when there is such an overwhelming wealth of great television (and classic movies, and amazing books) that I still haven’t made my way to. If you’re somehow fulfilled by regular appointments snickering at a show you loathe, hey, more power to you. But I can’t even wrap my head around the idea. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor