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Why I don’t like the new rules for TV spoilers

Why I don’t like the new rules for TV spoilers  (photo)

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SPOILER ALERT: articles about spoilers are contentious.

Everyone has an opinion about spoilers. Even people who don’t care about spoilers don’t care about them passionately. Case in point: The New York Times Magazine‘s Dan Kois, who has written before in defense of spoilers, has just written a new piece entitled “The New Rules for TV Spoilers.” Kois’ argument, in a nutshell: Twitter has created an incredible outlet for real-time conversations and freaking out about spoilers gets in the way of that conversation. In a slightly bigger nutshell, here’s what he has to say:

“It’s truly time to start thinking about the twists and turns of your favorite TV program the way you think about news and sports. Twitter is a big room full of people who are interested in the same stuff as you. So the statute of limitations for spoilers on Twitter is, for all intents and purposes, zero minutes zero seconds. And that’s the way fans want it! That’s the way you should want it, too, if you are a fan of, say, ‘Breaking Bad’ or other popular, potentially spoilable shows. If you care enough to get mad about being spoiled for ‘Breaking Bad,’ then just watch ‘Breaking Bad,’ for Pete’s sake. And stay off Twitter until you do. We’re having a conversation over here, and if you yell at us about it, then you’re the spoiler.”

Kois’ argument is an inherently technological one — Twitter gives fans the power for instant discussion and dissection, hence holding anything back is a waste of that outlet — but I think he’d actually have a better argument in a less tech-savvy time. Thirty years ago, if you wanted to find out who shot J.R. you’d better be in front of a TV set on November 21, 1980. If you missed it, you really missed it; television spoilers were almost irrelevant because you couldn’t catch up with that episode of “Dallas” after it aired even if you wanted to. In contrast, if the big “Dallas” reveal aired on November 21, 2011, and you had to attend your son’s piano recital that night, it wouldn’t be a big deal. You’ve got DVR, DVD, Hulu, iTunes and more at your disposal. Arguably, these premiere-prolonging services make sensitivity to spoilers more important than ever before, not less. (In fact, a savvy network looking to boost ratings should adopt Kois’ rules as a new ad campaign. “Don’t Run the Risk of Spoilers! Catch It Live!” could be the new “Must-See TV.” Seriously.)

What I find particularly confusing about this stance (and Kois is far from alone in holding it) is the distinction between “TV spoilers” — which I find tend to be far more tolerated on Twitter — and “movie spoilers” — which people are generally much more sensitive about. But why are the two any different? “Paranormal Activity 3” opened last Friday; it’s been out for four days now. Anyone who wanted to see it had the whole weekend to go check it out. Kois says if “you love ‘The Wire’ so much that you’d be angry to find out who died before the DVDs get released, it’s time to pony up for HBO.” So does that mean if you liked “Paranormal Activity 2” you’ve got to see “Paranormal 3” by Monday or it’s open season on spoiler-heavy Twitter discussions? If TV equals sports, and (widely released) movies are just as available as TV, then it would seem so. If the counter argument is “Unlike movies, TV shows premiere at a set time when everyone can tune in simultaneously,” I refer back to my argument above. Because of DVRs, DVD, Hulu, etc., there’s less urgency than ever to tune in live. Of course the same goes for movies: if I can’t make it to the theater, it’ll be on VOD. Or after that DVD. Or after that Netflix. Which is why it’s not cool to blab about what happens at the end of “Paranormal Activity 3,” either.

Personally, I’m not terribly offended by spoilers. Listeners of the old IFC podcast know we used to defend our right to spoil movies with appropriate warning, and I think that’s the main problem with Kois’ new rules. To me, spoilers are fine on ANY topic as long as they are carefully marked in advance, something that Twitter, with its limited numbers of characters and instantaneous updates, isn’t particularly well-suited for — yet another reason why it pays to be more spoiler-conscious there, rather than less. In other words, spoil away (with appropriate warning) in your recap of an episode of “Breaking Bad,” but don’t spoil that same information in the tweet you send out linking people to the article. It’s not about spoiling people’s fun. It’s about courtesy for those who haven’t had time to join the fun yet.

How do you feel about TV spoilers on Twitter? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter (duh).

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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