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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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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…