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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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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