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Hate-watching is a neat term for watching television shows that you don’t like but get perverse satisfaction from. But in these days of instant communications through social media, hate-watching isn’t only a matter of watching stuff that’s so bad it’s almost cool; you and your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter have to communally tear it to pieces to prove to each other just how bad it really is. What distinguishes hate-watching from guilty pleasure or simple displeasure is that the haters avidly watch every episode in order to keep on complaining.

Proto-hate-watchers have been around for decades, but net pundits say the term was inspired by NBC’s Broadway drama Smash, which began in February 2012, and particularly by an article by Emily Nussbaum in the New Yorker on 27 April 2012.

Some point to Aaron Sorkin’s series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Newsroom as classic TV hate-watch fodder. Brits often castigate Downton Abbey for its wonky plots and poor characterisation. (I prefer to hate its anachronisms of language and I know whereof I write since I’ve watched every episode. But I’m not a hate-watcher because I just shout at the telly and never post online about it. Well, hardly ever.)

This is a further British view of hate-watching fodder:

It’s not just light entertainment that we “hate-watch” — it’s TV with pretensions. Shows in which the characters’ personalities change every two episodes and the scripts are heavy with metaphor. ... Homeland series two, Downton Abbey, Glee — these are the programmes which fuel Twitter, the petrol to its engine, its users competing for the drollest insult in the fewest characters in the fastest time.

Observer, 17 Feb. 2013.

This hate-blast suggests that you can hate-watch one-off films as well as television series:

If by any chance you’ve recovered from seeing Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor in Lifetime’s Liz & Dick, fear not, because this week brings another incompetent, tawdry biopic set during the waning years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Alas, Sacha Gervasi’s insultingly stupid Hitchcock is not nearly as much fun to hate-watch, in no small part because it seems to think it’s being clever.

Philadelphia Weekly, 28 Nov. 2012.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 9 Mar. 2013

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 9 March 2013.