GeekPlanetOnline’s resident telly addict, Gillian Coyle, likes to write about the box almost as much as she likes to watch it. From soap operas to space operas, if you need some thoughts on a television show she’s your woman…
I'm a Spoilerphobe. Mostly. In truth my spoiler allergy varies from show to show, and has changed over time. I used to avidly read the next week's worth of synopses for Neighbours on my EPG and in newspaper TV guides. I used to devour SFX magazine's Spoiler Zone to find out what was happening next on Buffy and other favourite shows.
These days however, I usually prefer to know as little as possible about an episode before it airs. In fact, I usually prefer to know as little as possible about a show before I watch it. My beloved, bless him, occasionally falls foul of my spoiler rules: he gets really enthusiastic when recommending something to me and can't help but tell me the best line, or the coolest thing that happens. His passion for the things he loves is one of the things I love best about him, but when it ruins my watching experience...
In these days of time-shifting and multi-channels and friends in different countries, it's an increasing problem. Some people don't give a fig about spoilers. They'll cheerfully get plot synopses from friends in the US, from online resources and so on, and it won't alter their enjoyment one jot. If anything, it seems to me, it increases their enjoyment. I guess it's like eating the cake mix from the bowl: you know it's not as good as the cake is going to be, but it's a sneaky treat before the main event.
Others, like me, prefer the anticipation. We like to wait until the cake has baked and cooled before we dive in. Unfortunately, that often means we have to avoid the internet like the plague. People are always flinging gobbets of batter all across Facebook, twitter and the like. Hmm. I think I'll drop that analogy.
The problem, as I hinted earlier, comes when recommending a programme to someone. How much should you tell them? As a spoilerphobe, can you risk spoiling somebody else's experience? Obviously, you want to say enough that they'll be interested in watching it, but you don't want to tell them so much that actually watching the programme becomes redundant.
Is telling them the basic premise, along with salient snippets like who created it, writes it, stars in it, enough? Sometimes. But other times, you'll need to say a little more. Maybe you can compare it to other shows, either thematically or tonally. Perhaps you need to enthuse about central performances, character development, dialogue or visual style. What if that isn't enough? Do you give it up as a bad job, or do you risk skirting spoiler territory?
I tend towards the first option. Maybe this has meant someone missing out on a show I think they would adore, but you have to let people make the decision for themselves. I tried recommending Being Human to my brother, but by the time I'd reached my instinctive spoiler cut-off point, he didn't seem up for it. Oh well. A couple of months later he asked me if I'd seen this show on BBC3 with a vampire, werewolf and ghost sharing a house? He found it on his own and loved it. I'm glad I didn't spoil it for him.
There are other situations where spoiler-sensitivity becomes a hot potato. Picture the scene: I'm sitting in a garden on a warm summer evening with a group of my dearest friends. We all love Supernatural. I've finished watching season five. One couple are two episodes from the end of season five. Another person has just finished watching season four. The last two have just started season three. This is where managing to avoid spoiling someone becomes an art form! Which Ruby are they on? Do they know about Cas and the Angels?
In the scheme of things though, does it actually matter? Did knowing that Donna was going to come back ruin The End of Time? Would it have mattered if I had known that Sam Merlotte was a shape shifter? Did it lessen the experience to find out months in advance that Buffy slept with Satsu?*
Actually? Yes. Unlike Harry Burns, I'll never read the last page of a novel first. I want to enjoy the story as the creator intended it. I feel sorry for a lot of TV writers. Imagine crafting a character or story arc; carefully seeding clues and hints that will make perfect sense only after the big reveal. Then you turn on the internet or pick up a newspaper and some asshat has splashed it up in huge letters for everyone to see, and your hard work is being dismissed as obvious and prosaic. Wow. That's gotta hurt. I felt so bad for Stephen Moffat recently. I bet he was dead chuffed with sneaking Future Doctor from The Big Bang into Flesh and Stone. Of course, the internet had sussed it within half an hour of broadcast. Mind you, he's a Doctor Who fan himself. He probably expected it.
More importantly (since I'm human and essentially a selfish creature), I want to enjoy the story at my pace, not at the pace someone else decides I should enjoy it at. So please, consider this fair warning: you spoil me at your peril. I'll try my hardest not to spoil you either. See, I put a spoiler warning at the start of the article and everything.
*Yes, I know that's a comic book, not a TV show, but it's based on a TV show and it still rankles that people thought it okay to spoil that.