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A Handy 10-Point Guide to Dealing with Spoilers
March 29, 2016  | By Alex Strachan

For those viewers, readers and moviegoers who don’t have to be first-on-their-block to know that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father (sorry!), or that taking a bite out of the apple in the Garden of Eden was a really bad idea.

1. It’s easier than ever to get more information than you want, and easier to share it with everyone else. Watching TV is now a communal experience, no longer reserved for the family den. In an age of instant messaging and social media, though, the responsibility is on you, the consumer, to control how you receive the message. That’s easier said than done, sure, but it can be done.

2. Ditch that second screen while watching a favorite episode of a favorite TV program. Don’t be on Twitter, and don’t live tweet, no matter how often Carson Daly or those irritating pop-ups on the screen tell you how. If you want to watch a favorite TV program, watch the program.

3. When someone tells you that “knowing whodunit makes them enjoy it more,” remind them that Agatha Christie is one of the world’s most-read authors for a reason. And foreknowledge is not that reason.

4. If you want to know how something ends before you watch, you can always turn to Titanic or Apollo 13, or watch something you’ve seen before. The first time is always the best, though — that moment of discovery when you’ve learned something for the first time, by yourself.

5. Spoilers don’t come with an expiration date, so it’s best to avoid researching a program before you’ve seen it, short of reading a critic or professional reviewer you know you can trust. If your friends are true friends, they probably know you well enough to know that you don’t want the experience ruined. Chances are, they’re also bright enough and articulate enough to recommend something they know you might enjoy, without giving away the whole plot.

6. If you work Sunday nights and you don’t want to know who died on The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or The Good Wife (above right) for that matter, be careful about your news choices the following morning. To my surprise — and I do this for a living — I’ve learned things about entertainment-TV programs I’d rather not know just from scanning the headlines the following morning on Google News. Popular-entertainment television has become so newsworthy that it now makes the online headline-news services alongside breaking news about terror attacks, President Obama’s visit to Latin America and how Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump can sweep entire states but still not win their respective parties’ nomination.

7. A handful of widely-read entertainment sites — Vulture for one — are pushing the idea of an “industry-wide” statute-of limitations for spoiler warnings that, if adopted widely, could make a lot of people’s lives a lot easier. Loosely speaking, the general rule — if adopted — would dictate that scripted TV shows can be talked about within a day or two of initially airing, movies within a week of release in the theatres, and streaming shows of full seasons — Netflix, for example — a month or so after release, give or take a long weekend. Of course, consensus will be hard to reach when large sections of the audience can’t even agree on which is more worthy, American Idol or The Voice, Gotham or Arrow/The Flash, or even Today or Good Morning America.

8. Believe it or not, there are fan sites of popular TV programs that filter information by which seasons viewers have seen. It’s a lot of work for the site organizers, but it may be a trend that catches on. Previously.tv is one; there’s even a Game of Thrones forum that breaks down discussions based on whether fans have read the books or not. The GoT fan site TowerOfTheHand.com also has much to recommend it, and is user-friendly for the die-hard fan and first-time viewer alike.

9. Interestingly, spoilers matter least with those types of programs the audience prefers to watch live — reality television, live sports events and award shows where the outcome isn’t predetermined. If your hometown wins the Super Bowl, you’ll find out about it long before you stumble over the victory parade by accident.

10.  If you’ve recorded a program to watch the next day and you don’t want to find out what happened, hang out around the office water cooler. No one hangs out at the water cooler anymore.

And a bonus suggestion:

If you don’t want scenes, episodes and entire seasons spoiled long before they even air, you might want to consider ditching those subscriptions to certain, unnamed weekly entertainment magazines that, um, cover entertainment weekly.

Click here to read the post related to this list: Thanks For Spoiling ‘The Walking Dead’ Finale For Me, Mr. Know-It-All

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