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Musings, News

Spoiler Alert

Autumn is once again upon us, bringing with it windy weather and a slew of brand-new TV dramas. Although I was a rather late convert to the medium (I grew up without a television), I have found in recent years that, like any addiction, once you pop you really can’t stop.

However, this new-found love comes at a cost: the classic modern-day Catch 22. Should I (a) cut short my evening/weekend in order to make sure I’m back in my flat before a show starts, or (b) take advantage of on-demand services, but run the risk of getting caught out by the dreaded spoilers?*

Somewhat miraculously I managed to make it through the past 48 hours without finding out what had happened in Homeland (nothing much) or Downton (quite a lot) before I watched the relevant episodes tonight, but this is becoming increasingly hard. You have to avoid the newspapers that spread it across their centre pages, all forms of social media, news websites and most friends (those who don’t even watch the shows themselves are often the worst culprits for leaking crucial plot points, whether accidentally or not). And while there may be unwritten rules about revealing plot points, no-one seems quite sure what they are.

While some derive a strange pleasure in finding out the plot beforehand, for the rest of us, there has recently been a charming rise in measures taken to ensure that readers/viewers/friends’ enjoyment is not soured by spoilers. Following the furore over its coverage of the Game of Thrones controversial Red Wedding episode,** the Metro has recently started to include a box warning of possible spoilers a couple of pages before it discusses major plot points. Netflix introduced a ‘spoiler foiler‘ for Twitter fans of Breaking Bad. There are even apps for it.

In this context, with the BBC’s announcement today that it would be further personalising its catch-up service, as well as offering a +1 service in line with those offered by ITV and Channel 4, the industry is obviously working on the assumption that such viewing habits will soon become the norm. It sadly looks like spoilers are therefore here to stay. Let’s just hope that the etiquette can keep up!

* This phenomenon is nothing new – the late-lamented Roger Ebert argued that critics had no right to play spoiler in a post about films back in 2005.

** This is a bad example really, as many viewers had already read the books and therefore knew what was coming.

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