This week’s Roundtable was inspired by a couple of TV shows currently on the air. Have you ever found yourself hate-watching a show just so that you could complain about it afterwards, or at least so that you’ll understand what other people are complaining about? We sure have.
For those of you who follow my recaps in this blog, you probably already know I’m less than thrilled with CBS’s ‘Under the Dome‘, but since I’ve made a commitment to blog about it, I still sit through every episode.
Another show I haven’t learned to quit is HBO’s ‘True Blood‘. In my opinion, this series hasn’t been any good since at least Season 3, and you’ll find some people who argue that it hasn’t been any good since its first season. The problem is that each season has tried to top itself with more and more mythical creatures. Where we once had a show about just vampires, as of last season we had a show about vampires, shape-shifters, faeries, witches, werewolves and even a were-panther in there somewhere.
I must confess that the only reason I’ve kept on watching over the years is because I hoped the show would get better. It never did. This final season promised a return to the show’s roots, which has basically amounted to, “We’re going to kill off as many characters as we can in one season.” I’m now of the opinion that the only good ending for this series is if every character dies before the end of the finale. I wouldn’t shed one tear.
‘The Killing‘ isn’t dead yet. Netflix picked the series up for another season. So, just to keep score: It ran for two seasons, was canceled. Then AMC brought it back for a third season at the last minute, only to cancel it again. Then Netflix picked it up for a fourth season.
All the while, I’ve hate-watched it more than any other show on television. There’s something about the show’s overt dreariness, its insistence that Seattle rains more than the Amazon, and the tenuous unspoken love affair between detectives Holder and Linden that keeps me coming back. I just can’t quit it, no matter what I do. Now, Netflix has announced that Season 4 will harness premium cable-type language and content. How can I not watch? At least with Netflix I’ll be able to bang the episodes out in a hate-watch binge session, instead of stringing it out week after week.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I was genuinely into ‘Heroes‘ for most of its first season. I’m not saying that the first run of episodes was wall-to-wall incandescent brilliance or anything, but it scratched a live-action, heavily serialized comic book itch I didn’t even know I had. ‘Heroes’ may not have been great, but it was at least good enough.
It’s just that those early episodes kept seeming like they were building and building to some jaw-dropping battle royale climax, and then… nope. Instead of a colossal, two-page-spread of a super-powered throw-down, the whole thing just fizzled out. That freshman season went out not with a bang but a whimper. All that sound and fury signifying nothing. I can keep rattling off quotes like that, but you get the idea.
Still, there was enough I dug about those early episodes to keep me onboard and hopeful for Season Two. There were scattered highlights that year – or, okay, maybe just Kristen Bell as the only person on the bill who looked to be having any fun — but it was pretty clear that the writers didn’t have more than a cocktail napkin-length sketch of the season as a whole. Not only did they have absolutely no idea what to do with the small army of returning characters, but they introduced a slew of new ones to waste. (I’m looking at you, Maya and Alejandro!)
If you felt like being generous, maybe you could excuse the general disastrousness of Season Two on the 2007 Writers’ Strike. I don’t know how you grade the last two seasons on any sort of curve, though. This is a series where NBC’s marketing revolved around the idea of “No, wait, we know Heroes was abysmal for a while there, but give it another shot! It’s good again!” Only it never really was. An insistence on repeating itself at every turn, too eagerly mashing the reset button, shattering established characterization whenever it seemed like it’d play better with the plot-of-the-week, tin-eared and overbearingly expository dialogue, superhero-versus-supervillain battles that were almost always someone getting flung into a wall… Aargh! Still, I doggedly tuned in every week and even sought out the season sets on Blu-ray, mostly so that I could snark endlessly about them in reviews and on message boards. Was it worth it? You tell me.
There are plenty of shows I hate, but I can rarely maintain hate-watching, especially for a show that nosedives. Two important exceptions I can recall were ‘Star Trek: Voyager‘ and ‘Seven Days‘. Back when the internet was a lot less ubiquitous, these were both great shows to watch, observe the writing fail, and then talk about with friends who also watched with low expectations.
‘Seven Days’ always hinged on its seven-days time travel premise. You just had to wait for it to play out. For ‘Voyager’, it was always Gel packs, Delta Flyer, Tom Paris’ holodeck hot rod, holo-doctor gone crazy, “Janeway’s farewell,” or time-traveling Borg. You knew the show was trying, but was set up to fail. (Thanks, Rick Berman.) Either I’m less naive now, or as it seems like shows these days such as ‘NCIS’ and ‘Haven’ have embraced being intentionally bad with a wink-wink, which makes them too sickening for me to watch at all.
I don’t have time for crap TV. Especially crap that airs week after week. I simply can’t do it. With three kids, a part-time morning radio job, a full-time day job that keeps me extremely busy, and a night filled with press screenings, I can hardly fit in the shows that I want to watch, let alone those that I’d watch just to hate on.
I’ve never hate-watched a series. Life has always been too busy for me. Now, I’ve watched plenty of other shows that other people love to hate (‘Lost’ probably being the most notorious), but I actually loved it from A to Z. I’ve watched shows that would eventually turn into something hate-worthy, like the U.S .version of ‘The Office’, but I quit watching once it jumped the shark. (Or, as I like to say in regards to ‘The Office’, once the GPS drove them into a lake.)
If any show looks promising, I’ll give it a shot. I gave ‘Mad Men’ seven episodes before realizing that I’d been bored the whole time. I watched that whole lengthy ‘Battlestar Galactica’ mini-movie kick-off thing just to see if I’d like it – which I didn’t. ‘Under the Dome’? No thanks. I made it one episode in and gave up. ‘Revolution’ got an episode-and-a-half out of me before I fell asleep, which is a sure sign of a no-watcher. There’s just too much good stuff out there to see, so why waste time on something completely unworthy?
I’m not sure what exactly compelled me to start watching the first season of ‘Temptation Island‘. I’d never gotten into the ‘Survivor’ madness and somehow this lighter fair sounded good. A few episodes in, I realized it was completely awful. Remember when ‘The Real World’ changed its format to primarily cover hook-ups in hot tubs? That was when I stopped watching that one, yet now I was sucked into something similar but far worse with ridiculous scenarios and cruel producers who tortured contestants. Still, I needed to see what happened. I hate-watched the whole first season and probably half of the second. Come to think of it, there have been a few other of these Reality shows that I hate-watched: ‘Joe Millionaire’, ‘Tila Tequila’, ‘The Surreal House’.
If I’m being honest, I started out hate-watching ‘Surreal House’, but really enjoyed quite a bit of that ridiculousness. Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen, Tammy Faye, Christopher Knight… It was good entertainment. I’m not proud.
Most hate-watching stems from TV shows that started off being good, but then either outright jumped-the-shark or at least dwindled off into irrelevance. Once I’ve invested a certain amount of time in a show, I feel committed to seeing it through to the end. I think most fans can acknowledge that ‘The X Files‘ peaked in Season 5, and everything after that point was a downhill slide. The final season (the ninth!) was just painful to watch. The show ret-conned its narrative so many times that nothing about its central mythology made any sense at all. Yet there I was, week after week, watching through to the bitter end hoping for a final payoff that would tie everything together. It never came. The series finale was the worst two hours of television I’ve ever sat through.
Other once-great shows that I was forced to hate-watch after they turned bad include ‘Nip/Tuck’, ‘Alias’, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ’24’. (I know that Shannon was a big fan of this past season, but I hate-watched most of it.)
Mrs. Z has also asked me to toss in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for her.
What TV shows have you hate-watched long after you stopped liking them? Tell us in the Comments.