Truly great television shows are timeless, resonating with audiences today as much as when they first aired. Sadly, television churns out much more noise than signal, and for every “Seinfeld” or “60 Minutes”, there are dozens of shows like “Cop Rock,” “Manimal,” and “Galactica 1980.”
Still, if a television show is lousy enough, you may find yourself tuning in to the next episode anyway, and the one after that, and the one after that, in a practice known as “hate-watching.” Defined by Oxford Languages as watching “for the sake of the enjoyment derived from mocking or criticizing,” it means the show is terrible; you know it’s terrible, and you keep watching it anyway because the rubbernecking is too exquisite to pass up.
Here’s a list of ten shows that we hate-watched in their entirety, and we’re not sorry we did.
1.’And Just Like That…’ (2021-present)
Created by Darren Star
Its predecessor had a successful six-year run on HBO, but rather than quit while they were ahead, they gave us the sequel series no one asked for, “And Just Like That…” The show was doomed from the start when Kim Cattrall chose not to participate, as she was the best character on the original show, and without her, it becomes a show about three extremely annoying people. We watched the whole thing anyway. And we still don’t forgive Carrie for what she did to Aidan!
2. ‘Bar Rescue’ (2011-present)
Created by Darrin Reed
On “Bar Rescue,” hospitality industry consultant Jon Taffer comes to the aid of struggling bars in the hopes of making them profitable. Despite his credentials, the real star of the show is the appalling dysfunction plaguing these watering holes, courtesy of the very drunk owners and employees. Hate-watchers will attain nirvana as they watch Taffer try to explain to impaired bar owners what an operating expense is.
3. ‘Dance Moms’ (2011-2019)
Created by Collins Avenue Productions
Do you like watching children have their dreams crushed by an overbearing tyrant with significant legal woes? Then “Dance Moms” is the show for you. It depicts the goings-on at a studio owned by authoritarian dance coach Abby Lee Miller, and between her and the constantly sniping titular moms, there is no one over the age of 13 with a moral compass. In other words, it’s must-see TV!
4. ‘Just Tattoo of Us’ (2017-2019)
Created by MTV
“Just Tattoo of Us” only appeared on MTV in the United Kingdom, but it’s worth firing up YouTube to hate-watch it. The show involves people in pairs (friends, couples, family members) who each pick a tattoo for the other. The person receiving the tattoo is not allowed to see it until it’s finished. The person picking the design invariably chooses something repugnant, so rage ensues at every reveal. We strongly recommend that you add this to your hate-watching queue.
5. ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ (2007-2014)
Developed by Daniel Kay
Before there was “Bar Rescue,” there was “Kitchen Nightmares” with Gordon Ramsay, who helped struggling restaurateurs. While they’re less impaired than the bar owners Taffer deals with, they’re still delusional and obnoxious enough for audiences to hate-watch them successfully. The best example is “Amy’s Baking Company,” a season six episode so unhinged it inspired countless hours of reaction videos from the YouTube commentariat and even has its own Wikipedia page.
6. ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ (2017-2023)
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
If you like gorgeous set design and painstakingly realistic period clothing, it’s hard to find more rewarding eye candy than Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” On the other hand, if you like realistic characters, jokes that are funny, and such gratuitous formalities as a script, consider looking elsewhere. The show is a decisive, blowout victory of empty calories over actual storytelling, but the sets and clothes will keep you ogling while you seethe.
7. ‘Project Runway’ (2004-present)
Created by Eli Holzman
“Project Runway” seems like an odd candidate for hate-watching because it’s a genuinely good show. There’s always that one designer though, that one contestant so irritating you will spend the entire season rooting for them to lose, even if it means emotionally investing yourself in a designer you don’t like. Season 16 was especially fruitful in this regard, as we got to hate identical twins.
8. ‘Tabatha Takes Over’ (2008-2013)
Created by Reveille Productions
Before there was “Bar Rescue” but after there was “Kitchen Nightmares,” there was “Tabatha Takes Over.” It began life as “Tabatha’s Salon Takeover,” but hair salon owner Tabatha Coffey apparently fixed them all. So in 2011 they changed the name of the show to reflect that Coffey would now rain terror and fire down on all kinds of failing businesses to turn them around. Like most business rescue shows, it’s a train wreck with copious yelling, crying, and passive-aggressive owners who need to be shaken by the lapels until they become smart.
9. ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ (2009-2016)
Created by Authentic Entertainment
If any show is patient zero for some of what we hate-watch, it may be ‘Toddlers & Tiaras.” It’s about toddler beauty pageants, a subject which can sustain robust hate-watching all on its own. But more importantly, it inspired other shows equally lacking in human decency, such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Roger Ebert said it in his review of 1998’s “Armageddon,” but we think he’d agree that “Toddlers & Tiaras” is also “an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense, and the human desire to be entertained.”
10. ‘The Walking Dead’ (2010-2022)
Developed by Frank Darabont
“The Walking Dead” started as a legitimately entertaining show that defied the zombie genre’s limitations. Unfortunately, the quality began declining by season six and it became repetitive and formulaic. Having said that, we all sat there frowning with our arms crossed and kept watching it anyway. An article in The Gist called “‘The Walking Dead’: How I Learned to Stop Hate-Watching and Love Myself” expounds at great length on this complex matter.
Editorial Note: This list was created based on the opinions of the author and editorial team. The choices presented are subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences and perspectives.