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The Year in Hate-Watching

We should have known that 2012 would be a great year for the hate-watch. This year began with Work It, one of the most hate-watchable shows in recent memory, and things took off from there: Smash gave us musical hate-watching, The Newsroom was a hubris-drenched hate-watch, The Killing a murder-tinged one, and Gallery Girls, sweet sweet Gallery Girls, became the Great Reality Hate-Watch of 2012. Truly these are blessed times.

Hate-watching isn't just about a show being bad. Otherwise we'd all be obsessed with new 90210 and Guys With Kids. Sometimes it's a matter of scale: How grand is this failure? How big was the ambition behind this fiasco? Other times it's a matter of expectations, when a show so profoundly underdelivers on its epic promise that the resulting chasm becomes more important than any of the characters on the series. A fundamental lack of self-awareness plays in, too. Let's relive the glory, the agony, the ecstasy: the hate-watches of 2012.

Smash
Was it really that bad? Yes and no. The show was a mess, and the characters were all ridiculous. These were some of the most self-serious people ever to populate a television screen: "I'm in tech"? Is that really something to hang a plot point on? That said, the musical within the show is great. The songs work, the numbers work, everyone can really really sing — there's not a shortage of talent here so much as a shortage of purpose.
Who was the most fun to loathe? Definitely Leo, the son. He's such a bizarre diversion from the general story of the show. A group of people try to stage a new musical. Also, some dumb kid smoked pot.
Is the hate-watch going to turn into a regular-watch? Quite possibly. Smash cleaned house between last season and the coming second one, dropping a bunch of characters (adios, Ellis) and adding a new show-runner. But Josh Safran's previous show-running gig was on Gossip Girl, so we might still be hate-watching but in a different capacity come spring.

The Newsroom
Was it really that bad? Yes. Oh God, yes. Come for the jingoism, stay for the misogyny.
Who was the most fun to loathe? It was actually not that fun to loathe any of these people, because within every terrible jerk bag (Don, you suck) is the hint of a previous and beloved Aaron Sorkin character. Sure, Maggie Jordan is incompetent and seemingly unfamiliar with the concept of human kindness, but … doesn't she remind you a little of Donna from West Wing? Oh, Sam Waterston's voice sounds weird and he curses constantly, but isn't he a little bit like Isaac from Sports Night?
Is the hate-watch going to turn into a regular watch? One would hope. We want to love this show the way we loved Sports Night and West Wing, not the way we "loved" Studio 60.

The Killing
Was it really that bad? Kind of. But even if The Killing had gotten amazing in its second season — which to be clear, it did not — it would never be able to recover from the ill will generated by its first season. This season was marginally better paced, but still not good.
Who was the most fun to loathe? Probably Linden, who bounces between being an emotionally present, competent investigator and being a dumdum who doesn't know how to put a phone on silent. (Yes. AGAIN.) We'd happily watch a show about Holder, though. What a swaggy adult.
Is the hate-watch going to turn into a regular watch? If the show comes back, it would have to cover a new case, with new people and new sweaters, right? It's possible that would make for a more interesting — less hate-worthy — season.

Gallery Girls
Was it really that bad? On every level, yes. The phoniness of the conceit was bad enough — it's Brooklyn vs. Manhattan, for no discernible reason — but the real crime was how terrible all the human beings on the show were. Just wretched.
Who was the most fun to loathe?
It's a toss-up between Angela and Chantal, but we'll give it to Chantal for her terrifyingly bad posture. (Can you get scoliosis from a TV show? Her constantly complaining, eye-rolling, grumble-speaking, and apparent disdain for life made her the summer TV troll we could not stop obsessing over.
Is the hate-watch going to turn into a regular watch? Doubtful. Gallery Girls is not likely to make it to another season.

Photo-Illustration: AMC, HBO and NBC