SPOILER ALERT: Promoting Netiquette

It’s TV Show Finale Season, folks!  This post by our very own Mike Pinkerton debuted on June 13, 2013, and it is still so vital to many of us who DVR our beloved shows, or live on the West Coast with delayed viewing. Please be Spoiler Alert kind!

Who-shot-J-R-DallasWhen an unseen assailant popped two .38 caliber slugs into the gut of J.R. Ewing in the 1980 season finale of Dallas, an estimated 83 million Americans had tuned in for the prime time cliffhanger.  Americans then spent the entire summer in delicious speculation as to whether the iconic oilman would live or die and which of his many enemies had pulled the trigger.  “Who Shot J.R.?” fever consumed the nation, with t-shirts, radio station contests, and even international betting parlors getting in on the whodunit action.

While those gunshots sparked a pop culture phenomenon in 1980, they would have been a summer-long secret today in 2013.  Today, our delayed viewing habits make it rude to discuss or even imply important television outcomes, especially on social media, for fear of spoiling the experience for those who have not yet watched it.

Witness my friend Darrell’s recent admonition on Facebook:

Hey, Game of Thrones peeps… Shut up! Even if you don’t reveal what happened, it’s still a spoiler when you “OMG” it. Having read the books, how about I just hit the rest of this season’s highlights for you?

John Mazerolle of Metro Canada agrees.  He says you’re an ass if you share television details in social media:

Saying specifically what happens during a show in a tweet or status update is wrong, full stop. I have an Old Testament view of this. It’s wrong. There is no grey.  At worst, it shows you lack empathy and don’t care if you’re ruining it for other people. At best, it makes you that guy who says, “Ooooh, this part coming up is FUNNY. Watch it. Watch it!”  If that’s the best you can hope for, it’s time to re-evaluate your life.

Well then.  Excuse me for my post describing the fetal position into which I had crawled after watching the Red Wedding.


Back in the day when J.R.’s mistress (yep it was her) pumped lead into her partner on Dallas, Americans collectively enjoyed the experience of all television shows together on the same night.  It was widely acceptable and even expected to gather around the water cooler the next day and talk about television endings.  We still do that for most sporting events and reality-singing competitions.  But with the advent of today’s DVRs, DVD box sets and on-demand Internet video services, we now watch our television dramas when we get around to it, even weeks, months or years after the original broadcast.

This trend of widespread asynchronous viewing has been good for increasing media consumption, but has significantly reduced television viewing’s role as a communal experience, writes Chris Harrison, whose group researched the diminishing impact of television’s role as a social activity.  Harrison notes that today, when groups gather and talk about a television episode, those who have not seen it may avoid or divert the conversation entirely, fearing the spoiling of yet-to-be-seen episodes.  Others may moderate their conversations to prevent revealing spoilers to friends.

Fortunately, there are still digital safe havens for fans to discuss their favorite television shows, namely message boards and blogs (many of which we moderate) that contain conspicuous “Spoiler Alert” disclaimers.  Some forums even encourage commenters to type any spoilers in white font (on a white background) so readers can elect whether or not to highlight them or not.

spoiler_alert_300_w2Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t allow posts in white font, or maybe it does, but most of us don’t know how to do that.  So I guess I’ll use another venue to share and heal the next time HBO airs another shocker.  And I’ll stop wearing my “Who Beheaded Ned Stark?” t-shirt, for sure.

–Mike Pinkerton | COO | @mikepink


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Talk Back

Posted on April 30, 2014

Someone once yelled at me for “ruining” the end of Romeo and Juliet. I was like, really? It was written over 400 years ago and adapted many times. Surely there’s a statute of limitations on spoilers.

Posted on April 29, 2014

Personally, I don’t think it is possible in this day and age to wait for everybody in the world to watch a show before you are allowed to talk about it! I’m sure there is a line, but I’m not sure where that is crossed. I’m a huge Downton Abbey fan and the UK sees a season an entire year before we do. Should they limit their chat to exclusively UK sites? Should I unfriend my friends from across the pond on FB?

If I have must watch TV, I’ll avoid social media for a couple hours before it comes on West Coast. In fact, for Big Brother, I HAVE to watch a live stream with my East Coast friends because, well, I can’t wait! I successfully avoided every reference to the Breaking Bad finale for several weeks, before spoiling it for myself by clicking on the wrong episode on Netflix. :/

Point is, we are responsible for our own viewing. I wouldn’t dream of dictating when somebody else can watch a show, or when they are allowed to talk about it. Just keep it to your own wall where I can avoid it!

Posted on April 29, 2014

Ha ha I’ve been guilty of this. After one milestone episode of Game Of Thrones I posted a facebook status “It finally happened”! I did this just to see how many friends were actually watching thinking the post should have been vague enough to pass without being called a spoiler. Well, turns out I was wrong. The friends that were watching or knew what time the show was on called me on it. So yeah, I’ve been that guy but I know now not to discuss anything until It’s sure that everyone has seen the episode.

Get On Your Soapbox