The Second Mezzanine

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On “hate-watching” from Ask Matt [Roush]

What do you think about the term “hate-watching?” — Daniel

Matt Roush: It’s a very cynical and mostly critically useless exercise, a reflection of this Age of Snark — which Newsroom’s Will McAvoy addresses in next Sunday’s episode, in a perhaps too self-aware and self-serving diatribe: “Snark is the idiot’s version of wit and we’re being polluted by it.” He has a point, but he (and Sorkin) are also asking for it by being so high-minded when so much of the rest of the show can invite derision: the Maggie-Jim-Don scenario in particular, which gets even worse when it tries to entwine world tragedy and political commentary into its screwball rom-com. The Newsroom is an uneven but occasionally brilliant (and mostly terrifically acted) show that polarizes the audience, when even within a single hour there are moments of greatness followed by moments of such grating pomposity or silliness that it can give the observer whiplash — inciting “hate-watching,” an unfortunate side effect of the Internet’s judge-every-episode mentality, which can get in the way of seeing the big picture of the actual appeal of a show like The Newsroom (or, to use another example of an even more creatively troubled but sometimes fabulous show, Smash, which eventually felt like beating a dead show horse). It’s a critic’s right (and job) to weigh in honestly when a show disappoints them, but dwelling on the “hate” in “hate-watching” over time begins to feel as self-indulgent as the worst excesses or failures of the show(s) they’re writing about.

~ Matt Roush