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August 28, 2015

The Trouble With Spoilers & Other Lessons Learned From Six Years at TV Squad

by Bob Sassone, posted Mar 24th 2011 11:30AM
TV Squad old logoThis month marks the sixth anniversary of TV Squad's launch and also my sixth anniversary at the site.

A lot of newbie readers of TV Squad might not realize that back in 2005, we used to snail mail our blog posts to readers and they'd read them on paper. It's true! Then we decided to use this thing called "the Web" to post the stories when we realized that, with the postal rates going up every few years, it just wasn't cost-effective.

This was my first post on TV Squad, where I talked about how much I was looking forward to the big-screen version of 'Bewitched.' I've learned a lot since then, like you shouldn't say that you're looking forward to a big-screen version of a TV show or it might blow up in your face. Here are five other things I've learned since 2005.

TV Squad badge 1. Spoiler Alert: Spoilers Will Get You Tarred and Feathered
To be more specific, readers hate reading spoilers in reviews of their favorite TV shows. (I'm going to assume they don't mind reading the spoilers in a regular column that is titled Spoilers Anonymous.) But this has always baffled me. If you haven't watched the episode yet, then why in God's name are you reading a review of that episode? I mean, OMG, people! And maybe even LOL!

We're pretty good about spoilers at TV Squad. We usually try to wait until the show airs on the West Coast before we publish anything spoilery. Of course, as we've said before, if something happens on TV, then it crosses into the "news" realm, and since we are a TV news site you might see the news here rather quickly. So it's better to be cautious about where you surf.

But honestly, if you don't want to know what happened on your favorite show, then stay away from reviews of the show and Facebook postings about the show and maybe give Twitter a rest for a while. Just going to a TV site means you might see something that could be considered a spoiler, so you might want to watch something before going to a TV site.

We've had people yell at us because we gave something that happened on a TV episode that aired two weeks earlier. No offense, but that's unreasonable. Isn't there a statute of limitations or something?

There was a time when we never knew what was coming up on our favorite shows, and if we missed an episode we had to wait until it was repeated months later to see it. I call it "the first 50 years of television." But then along came DVRs (we never had this problem with VCRs, dammit) and the web and the iPod Touch and we all started to watch shows when and where we wanted to. Now we can watch the latest episode of 'Glee' the day after it airs or three days later or two weeks later, even as Twitter and Facebook make it almost impossible to avoid spoilers because everyone is posting what happened quicker and quicker, pretty much as it happens. That's like everyone in the world talking on same phone line while the person who shot J.R. -- it was Kristin Shepard, but it's been 30 years so I think I can reveal that -- was revealed on 'Dallas' and we all started to talk about it before the episode was over.

It's convenient, but it means that "spoilers" have taken on a whole new meaning and a whole new importance. It's a tricky thing for TV fans to deal with, and it's even more tricky for a television web site that wants to report the news but also wants to please their readers. Everything has changed, and I'm still not sure if it's for the better or not.

2. If you liked 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,' some people will attack you.
The short-lived NBC drama was a constant source of controversy for TV critics and readers of TV Squad. People still comment about it on posts that have nothing to do with the show. Or Aaron Sorkin. Or studios or strips of any kind.

Was it a perfect show? God, no. It was one of those shows where you said to yourself (or on TV Squad), "Why did they decide to do that?" and "That character is lame" or "I hope this episode gets better." But even the mistakes made the show more interesting than most shows. It was more ragged than perfect (unlike Sorkin's other shows, which seemed to be really well-balanced).

But most shows aren't perfect, and I think people were expecting it to be another brilliant Sorkin show like 'The West Wing,' or they expected it to be something other than what it turned out to be. Some episodes are downright terrible; some episodes (like the pilot) are outrageously well done. Mix those two together and you get a show that had incredible potential. But it only lasted one season, so we'll never know.

Here's a little secret you might not know about people who cover TV for a living: Sometimes we just want to enjoy the shows and don't want to think about them any more than that, and even we get sick of the hate and quick critical panning of shows. So if you liked 'Studio 60,' go on liking it no matter what anyone else says. If you liked the 'Bionic Woman' remake, go ahead and buy the DVD set and enjoy it. If you liked 'Yes Dear,' well, that's a special case. But even that show you can love if you want.

Just don't tell anyone about it.

As for Sorkin, we can now look forward to his new HBO show about cable news. People are probably already making notes about what negative things they can say about it.

TV Squad shirt3. There are some short-lived shows we'll always miss.
I could sit here and wax philosophical about how much I miss 'Arrested Development.' But that's so 2009. Whenever someone asks me what show I miss the most from the past five or six years, my first thought is 'Eyes,' the short-lived ABC drama with Tim Daly.

There really wasn't anything else on TV like 'Eyes' when it launched in March 2005 (hey, the same month TV Squad launched!). There still isn't, really. It was a clever mix of heist drama and nighttime soap, with a great cast and writing that was 10,000 times better than you expected.

'Eyes' was fun, sexy, completely unpredictable, and smart. What else do you want from a TV show?

The show's episodes -- including some that didn't even make it to TV -- used to be online, but they're not anymore. I guess we'll just have to be happy with the DVD set. Oh, wait...

But we all have the short-lived shows that we love, right? Maybe it actually is 'Arrested Development' (and you're already waiting in line for that movie they keep talking about) or maybe it's 'Firefly' or 'Journeyman' or 'Better Off Ted.' These are the shows that, if you asked 10 random people on the street about they'd look at you funny because they either don't remember it at all or they thought it was "lame" (or must have been lame otherwise it would have been a hit!). But you and other fans can think back and smile and nod to yourself, "Damn, that was a great show. I really miss it." And then you go back and watch the DVDs or the shows you have recorded over and over again.

4. Sometimes people are glad when a show they like gets canceled.
I bet a lot of you are like this too. You love a TV show to death, you watch it live every week, you buy the DVD sets, you come here to TV Squad and argue in the comments about how great the show is and it would be a mistake to cancel it, and you'd make love to it if it was socially acceptable, but it's been on for five or six years and there are a dozen other shows you really love too, so you wouldn't be completely bummed out if it got canceled.

A show -- even a good one -- getting canceled will mean more space on your DVR and (even more importantly) more space in your head, space you're going to need when the fall season comes around and there are new shows to start watching.

There's an old joke that says that the only things you can be sure about in life are death and taxes. I'd add to that list the fact that every single fall season there are new (or returning) shows we like, and there's a great chance some of them will be canceled. And sometimes I just don't care.

Part of me feels guilty about this, because a show can still be good even if it has been on for several years, and you don't want to see a good show replaced by a bad one. Having said that, I wouldn't cry if 'Chuck' went away, and I know you have shows like that, too.

5. We watch A LOT of television (but I watch more than you do).
Sure, a lot of people watch a lot of television. If you're reading this site, a site devoted to TV shows and TV news, and you visit it at least once a day, then you probably watch more TV than the average person.

According to recent figures, the average TV viewer watches about five hours of TV a day. I know a lot of people who watch less than that, but most of us watch that much or more. It's amazing how quick the hours can add up in a day if you watch a morning show, a news show, and a couple of prime-time shows.

I was trying to figure out how much TV I've watched over the years, and it comes down to this startling statistic: I've watched five hours of TV every single day since 1970. Some days I've watched a lot more (like the past 15 years, when my job has been to watch TV for a living) and some days were less (days I was away from home and away from a television set). But even on days when I was in school from 7AM to 2PM or days I had a normal, full-time job and was out of the house from 7AM to 6PM or so, I still watched several hours of TV at night. I guess all that TV-watching gets me jobs writing about TV, but it's still an odd statistic to think about.

These days I have my TV on nonstop from around 8AM to past midnight. Every single day. Maybe you're like that too. Sure, there are times when I just want peace and quiet, but most of the time I feel a little uneasy if my TV isn't on -- even if the sound is muted.

There are studies that say that in the past several years, people have moved away from TV and getting their entertainment from the Web and other sources. I really don't believe that TV is going anywhere. How much we watch TV has increased a lot since TV Squad went live in 2005, and I don't see that number going down.

By the way, my first word when I was a kid? 'Batman.' Yeah, that explains a lot.

What have you learned about TV or your TV viewing since the launch of TV Squad in 2005?

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Jonathan Toomey

Nice post Bob - great seeing the collection of all the old site logos. Brings back a lot of good memories. Gonna be a shame to see TV Squad go though...

March 25 2011 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jonathan Toomey's comment


March 27 2011 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the only time I've had trouble with spoilers is when I read "All Items" in my Google Reader. I'm just scrolling along, and then a spoiler headline will pop up. It's possible to avoid that by reading each set of blog posts individually, and leaving TVSquad for after I've watched my shows, but it's also possible to make the headlines "Shocking Death on Big Love Finale!" instead of... the one that was actually made. I looove TV Squad, and I always will, even though I've been spoiled twice by headlines over the years. That's a pretty small percentage!! Your writers' reviews are always well-thought out, and usually bring up points I hadn't thought of. So when a show is spoiled for me, it stinks a lot that day, but I'll always come back! Even though I'm still hurting over the Big Love finale! :)

March 25 2011 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the only time I've had trouble with spoilers is when I read "All Items" in my Google Reader. I'm just scrolling along, and then a spoiler headline will pop up. It's possible to avoid that by reading each set of blog posts individually, and leaving TVSquad for after I've watched my shows, but it's also possible to make the headlines "Shocking Death on Big Love Finale!" instead of... the one that was actually made. I looove TV Squad, and I always will, even though I've been spoiled twice by headlines over the years. That's a pretty small percentage!! Your writers' reviews are always well-thought out, and usually bring up points I hadn't thought of. So when a show is spoiled for me, it stinks a lot that day, but I'll always come back! Even though I'm still hurting over the Big Love finale! :)

March 25 2011 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Studio 60 while flawed was great tv. It had interesting characters and very good stories. Problem with it was twofold. First off critics kept saying it wasn't funny. True it wasn't a funny show. It wasn't meant to be one. It was a drama. The second problem it had was basically it was to smart for its own good. America likes stupid shows that you do not have to think or go wow. Case in point the really bad comedies that have surrfaced over the past few years, Even those that critics love if you break them down really aren't that good. But people lve them cause they don't have to think when watching them.

March 25 2011 at 8:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd cry if SUPERNATURAL went away.

March 24 2011 at 6:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rahul G

as an aaron sorkin fan i was sad to see studio 60 go you were right that it wasn't perfect but it was new. i think people couldnt get over the fact that it was competing with 30Rock, i mean because we can only have 1 good tv based show vs the half dozen cop or lawyer or medical shows.

i think The Good Guys will end up in the short lived and loved list once it comes out on dvd.

March 24 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never read a review before I watch the episode I have dvr'd....but...last week the review of "Top Chef" had a picture of the eliminated chef attached to it. I was very upset as I did not want to know that....even though I i scrolled past the review I could not help but see the picture...your bloggers should be more careful.

March 24 2011 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just don't put spoilers in the headline or on the front page, and we're good. It certainly makes sense to avoid reading the review to avoid spoilers, but I shouldn't have to totally avoid the site.

March 24 2011 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Amen, brother, many times over. Especially on #2. I made the very same comments you made here.

And on #3: I couldn't agree more on every show you listed. Add to that list Sports Night (Sorkin at his best, phenomenal cast), Reaper (cheesy but good-hearted, carried by Tyler Labine), and....hang on a sec while I put on my flak jacket...The Good Guys, which appealed to me in exactly the same way that Eyes did (at least as far as the humor, soap, and action concepts -- obviously, Bradley Whitford is no Tim Daly when it comes to eye candy).

And I even agree with #4. When I read about How I Met Your Mother getting another two years, I couldn't help but think (pause to tighten flak jacket) that the show can't sustain its high level of quality that long. This is one of my favorite shows, but I'm ready for it to end on a high note, rather than get dragged out. Even the most patient person would have to interrupt at some point and say, "Seriously, what does all of this have to do with how you met their mother?" I have relatives that tell stories like this, with about 23 different tangents, and I usually walk away after the third non-sequitur. Granted, their stores don't involve Barney.

I think you left off another valuable lesson, though, maybe something that folds into point #5: we no longer have only four major networks. Basic cable is a major player now, with lots of new and powerful series coming out of there, and it's a breath of fresh air from the formulaic mediocrity the four big ones have been churning out year after year. This is why *I* watch more TV ... or at least why I TiVo more shows (and would watch them if the damn kids would go to bed earlier.)

And let's also remark on how cable TV seasons are shorter than what we're used to, which makes me think: would the quality of our shows increase if we stuck to 13-episode seasons instead of trying to cram in 22? Imagine three TV seasons of 13-weeks each, instead of one season of 22 weeks and some mid-summer filler shows. More time to write and three seasons means more shows, with higher quality. Hell, I'd learn to be patient in exchange for that. Who knows -- maybe the god-Awful US remake of Coupling would still be around had we tried that back then. (You're right, it still would have blown.)

March 24 2011 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
General Kenobi

It is a sickness. I mean, I can still probably come close to the primetime lineups of the late 80s if I sat and thought about it. I mean, this past September, a number of my family and friends were annoyed that they'd moved Survivor. My thoughts? Ah, they moved it back to Wednesday. It was on Wednesday during the first season, so I wasn't really bothered by it moving back there... nobody else even remembered it'd been there. TV is awesome.

As for spoilers, I don't have a problem with them in an article... plastered in the headline? Yeah, that's annoying, but it usually isn't TV Squad that does it... Rather, it's AOL doing those innane clips. For some reason the headline writers for those are incredibly stupid and are constantly putting results in titles... and yeah, even if it's the next day, or even 2 days later, the fact is, titles shouldn't contain spoilers. Period... if TV Squad removed all of those, 98% of the issue would be done. The only other 2% would be spoilers in the intro paragraph which appears on the front page. Now, that's not as bad as the title, but it would be nice to separate them...

My only other complaint about TV Squad is with you, Bob, which does sadden me slightly. I love your reviews. Your recaps of White Collar were sorely missed toward the end of the season run. With that said, around the same time you took over the daily rundown of what's on. Week to week you don't post about the same shows or shows followed by TV Squad. I mean, it's not hard to have a set of shows that are followed. I know your response is that at the top of each of those articles is a link to the full tv schedule. And? What's the point of the article even existing if you aren't going to be consistent? If TV Squad recaps the show, tell us when it's on. If TV Squad reports the time and day this week of a show, report if next week. That's not hard, is it? When you get into the habit of looking at those posts to see what's on, and for weeks you include a show, then one day just decide not to do so, that wreaks havoc on our schedule... If you can't keep consistent, I'd rather have a thought of the day from you, or even a set of "What you should watch today"s, but what I don't want are tv listings done willy nilly, and when something is omitted for the first time in weeks being referred to the link... If you're going to do listing, dammit, do them... It doesn't have to be everything, but it should certainly be internally TV Squad consistent... So, decide what you want to follow in the listings, and then do it. My complaint has never been that you omit shows always omitted, the complaint is when shows that are consistently listed are omitted for no reason other than, "click the link we always provide for the full set of listings." Yeah... not helpful.

Otherwise, TV Squad is dandy.

Oh, and give Jackie Schnoop more to do, she was far better than Jason Hughes on Survivor and I won't even begin a comparison between her and Audrey Fine.

March 24 2011 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to General Kenobi's comment

Sorry to be disappointing you on 'Survivor' GK. I really do love the show and have a long history with it. I'll always strive harder to dig deeper and analyze more and more each week.

March 24 2011 at 4:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to j.hues's comment
General Kenobi

You aren't disappointing me, Jason... not really. I enjoy your reviews quite a bit. It's just that I enjoyed hers more. Yours are infinitely better than Audrey Fine's, mind you. Jackie just seemed to have so much fun with Survivor... and you seem to like it, but it doesn't seem like appointment tv for you, and that's a difference in style... but don't get me wrong, I think you do a great job.

March 25 2011 at 2:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

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