Haters gonna watch: Why do we keep turning on terrible TV shows?

Ryan Berenz


IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DON’T WATCH IT!” the Internet commenters scream via their keyboards. If only it were that simple. Someone pays me money to watch and write about terrible TV shows. What’s your excuse?

Not that long ago, if a TV show was bad, people didn’t watch it and the show went away. But in today’s media culture, a bad TV show can thrive so long as it is bad enough that it becomes awesome in its badness. Thus is born the concept of “hate-watching.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich defines hate-watching as “the practice of watching a TV show that you know is bad, for the specific purpose of enjoying that badness.” Hate-watching is not the same as watching a guilty pleasure. Hate-watching is far more cynical. While quantifying hate-watchers in TV ratings is a tricky prospect, I believe their numbers are significant. How else to explain why the Kardashians, the Real Housewives, the Bachelors/Bachelorettes and the Dallas Cowboys thrive on TV? Your hate has made them powerful.

I won’t play innocent here. While we try to inform you about legitimately good TV, our biggest hits online have been dumpster fires like Dance Moms, Alaskan Bush People, Long Island Medium and Naked and Afraid. Hate-watching has helped keep the lights on here. Do not underestimate the power of the dark side.

Don’t feel guilty for hate-watching. Since bad can be just as entertaining as good, I say let the hate flow through you. Give in to the dark side. It is your destiny.

Alaskan Bush People Dumpster Fire

Illustration: Nate Reysen

About Ryan Berenz 2045 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.