Tuned In

What's a Spoiler Now?

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I’m writing about the season premiere (or season re-premiere, or second-half-of-the-season premiere, or whatever) of Battlestar Galactica. The problem I’m having is that I cannot write anything about the show without spoiling or otherwise ruining something major. The first return episode is pretty much packed with highly explosive spoilerage, and that’s after Sci Fi deleted the final scene because it is evidently so OMG that I cannot be trusted to see it, lest someone be forced to Col. Tigh my eyes. 

That’s not a huge problem: I can reference the new episode vaguely and generally. That’s pretty much part of the job description. The other problem is that I can’t really describe much of what’s already happened in the rest of the series without ruining something for someone who hasn’t watched or isn’t caught up. For instance, there’s no real way of discussing the present state of play and the psychology of the fleet without talking about what I shall refer to here as The Thing We Learned About Earth.

At least one person, in fact, took me to task for describing that thing when I named the midseason finale one of the best episodes of 2008. Begging the question—for me anyway—of what that person was doing reading a review of that episode if they hadn’t watched it. 

This is one of the conundrums about writing about TV in the DVD era, in which many people wait months to watch an entire season, or series, at one sitdown. And it’s even tougher when RSS readers or web searches turn up full reviews unasked for. People have lectured me for writing about story developments in HBO series weeks after they aired.

But what can you do? The rule I’ve decided to follow is, if it has not yet aired, in a format accessible to the general public, it’s a spoiler. I’ll save the goodies about BSG’s first episode until it runs, even if it makes my review vague. But if it has aired, it’s fair game. There are no probationary periods. Where appropriate, I’ll throw in a spoiler alert, but in general, if you don’t want to know what happened on Battlestar Galactica nine months ago, don’t read articles about Battlestar Galactica. I time-shift a lot of shows myself, but I recognize that if I learn from Gawker who got booted on Top Chef, it’s on me. If at this point I have not yet seen Citizen Kane, it is not up to the rest of the world to protect me from the knowledge that Rosebud is his sled. (Oh–SPOILER ALERT.)

I could go from here to my personal theory, which is that spoilers are overrated: Citizen Kane is just as good a movie once you know about Rosebud. But this is such a vexed issue, complicated ever further by technology, that I want to know what you think. What spoilers are fair game? And what spoiler-related practices most annoy you? Besides critics writing 500-word posts about spoiler policy, that is.