Emily in Paris is the latest buzzworthy Netflix hate-watch, but this uncommon phenomenon long predates it and goes well beyond it, says Albert Burneko. "I’m talking about the idle filling up of the gaps in one’s day or one’s life with TV shows; the taking as a given that, naturally, one will watch and discuss the new TV shows, even if they are lame or uninspired or downright sh*tty," says Burneko. "The passive bedrock assumption that of course the TV will be on, and tuned to a regular rotation of TV shows, even if they are not good or even any particular variety of trashy fun. The adoption of weird mental rubrics—the hate-watch, the irony-watch, the show that is bad as a thing to watch but good to have on in the background, the show that is bad but has a lobotomizing effect so that you can reliably just straight up lose hours of your life to it—to uphold the basic premise that of course you will be watching TV. Netflix in particular seems to have made an entire business model out of this. There are always so many new shows; if you try one and it doesn’t grab you, there are 12 more brand-new shows for you to try. By the time you’ve tried all 12—naturally this will take some time, as you can only fit so many new shows into your longstanding rotation of shows—there are 24 more new ones. The idea is to continually shove more new TV shows into the space between a viewer’s brain and the thought 'What if I just turn the TV off' until that thought disappears over the horizon. Until the idea that any given TV show may be optional has entirely obscured the idea that watching TV is optional. Or, bleaker and worse, that even if a given show is bad and you don’t enjoy watching it, the thing to do is not to turn it off, but to quickly binge your way through it, so that you can replace it with a better one. A growing portion of shows do not even aim to be 'liked' or 'admired' purely as viewing experiences, as pieces of filmmaking or storytelling, but rather aim to be metabolized into Discourse in the form of gifs and blogs and tweets about how annoying or exhausting you find them. The reason to watch is so that you can feel like you are participating in the same conversation as the people you follow online; that sort of viewership comes to the same thing to the network or production company, whether you’re watching the show because you like it or because you regard it as pure shit but can’t think of anything else to do. The pandemic makes you more vulnerable to this, as you’re confined to a lonelier and more remote orbit of the physical world. Watching the same show as another person becomes a way—the easiest and most direct way—of simulating the feelings of having any kind of human relationship with them. All of this combines to produce the extremely weird, bleak, nihilistic relationship that many people now have to television: Not finding it particularly enjoyable, enriching, or rewarding, yet filling huge chunks of their waking day with it."