Let's Talk Television Spoilers

Mad Men is one of my all-time favourite television programs. Already I've got it sitting comfortably in third place, just behind Six Feet Under and just ahead of The Sopranos. In time, we'll see where it ends up.

The Mad Men finale airs Sunday night. That's as good a reason as any to re-open the spoiler debate.

In episode 120 of my podcast, I called out Roz Weston for talking about a significant plot point in the previous night's episode of Grey's Anatomy. I personally didn't care, as I don't watch the show, but I'm sure many had it DVR'd or planned to catch up on the weekend or later and had this bombshell completely ruined for them because Roz talked about it. Roz told me he felt television spoilers should be treated the same as election results and shared as news. I told him he was just a jerk.

A couple of years ago, I shared my spoiler code of conduct. At the time, I wrote "publicly airing spoilers is downright rude... live tweeting quotes or plot turns is a dick move."

Am I way out to lunch here? Is it okay to Facebook, Tweet, and chatter at work about major plot points revealed the night before? If Don Draper jumps out a window Sunday night, is it okay to blab about it everywhere on Sunday night and Monday morning?

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Yeah, you are way out to lunch. Why no concern for a hockey game someone might have PVR'd? If the show is live & you can't watch it, that's your problem, not anyone elses.

May 13, 2015 @ 9:16 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


Hockey game is completely different. That's akin to election results. Not everyone has caught up to date and it's quite common now to watch on-demand later.

May 13, 2015 @ 9:28 AM

Ajax Mike

In this day and age of delayed viewing via DVR, streaming and/or downloading (legit or otherwise), there should definitely be an embargo on major plot points for at least a couple of days. So many people have cut the cord in favor of on-demand that it's just courtesy. And really, if you absolutely MUST rant/rave about something you just saw, all it takes is making a spoiler warning before you start. It's not hard.

May 13, 2015 @ 9:33 AM


How about another angle? What do you think happens in the finale? I'm guessing Draper buys it (a la Tony Soprano) or he finally realizes his only true savior is Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Having stated that, I must declare I have not seen any episodes this season.

May 13, 2015 @ 9:51 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


Technically, the Sopranos ending is open. I'm sure Chase has come out to say Tony lives.

I have no idea what will become of Don, and I quite like that about this show.

May 13, 2015 @ 9:56 AM


Agreed. A sports event is a one-time, live-to-air thing. It's a completely different beast.

In this day and age of DVR, binge-watching, etc, when everyone is on a different schedule, spoiling plot points is a huge dick move. No matter when you watch something, there's a majority of people who haven't seen it yet but will.

The problem with Twitter is that, unlike a forum or comment section, there really isn't any room for giving warning. You have 140 characters. Even if you say SPOILER WARNING, you have pretty much two lines of text. People read Twitter by scrolling through and consuming whole pages of tweets at a time. It's literally impossible for the human brain to NOT see surrounding tweets, and keywords in specific tweets. It's just how the human brain reads.

(seriously, watch someone's eyes while they read. They don't move in the straight, unwavering path from left to right, down, left to right, down. The eyes twitch and move all over the place, gathering information-- re-reading what just went past to re-process it-- reading ahead to pre-process upcoming info, etc).

There doesn't seem to be any specific "acceptable" timeline for when spoilers are ok, but I'd say when a large number of people have reasonably had a chance to watch it is a good guideline. Sometimes that's by the next episode. Sometimes that's a week, a month, when it hits the DVD shelves. Who knows. And that's why spoiling live-events is ok, because the vast majority of people will have watched the hockey game live, to be part of the social crowd.

Of course, with a blog it's fairly easy to get around it. Make a post. "My thoughts on the last episode of Mad Men". Put up a spoiler free blurb "here's my thoughts after watching the last episode. Spoilers after the fold. [click to read more]". Put all the spoilers you want in the full article. Anyone who wants to avoid them will have been fairly warned, and would have to make the conscious effort to click through.

As for live-tweeting. One neat thing I've seen people do is create an alt-account specifically for live-tweeting. Just before live tweeting (and during), on your main account you say "Live tweeting with spoilers @MadMenMike". Then you post anything you want on @MadMenMike. Anyone who wants to avoid spoilers doesn't follow @MMM. Anyone who doesn't want timeline cluttered with live tweets doesn't follow @MMM.

The only feature that would be neat if Twitter had would be a "delayed receipt". For example, I watch Game of Thrones about 3 days behind everyone else. But I love Lindsay Ellis' "Shame of Scones" live tweet. I'd like to set that account to deliver tweets to me 3 days after they're posted.

May 13, 2015 @ 10:00 AM


Here's the thing. Everyone's hyper-connected. A zillion people are going to be watching X as it happens. A zillion other people won't have a chance to watch it until later.

So what's the "rule?" How many days are people supposed to wait until they talk about it? @Ajax Mike: Practically speaking, what's "a couple of days" (Aside from the accepted definition of 2 days)?

Why is the onus on the people whom have watched X to protect those who haven't? Isn't it possible for someone to avoid social media until they can see X? Is that too much to ask?

I personally don't go out of my way to spoil something, but I also think people over-react to spoilers. I don't see it as a point of etiquette at all, especially in a world where information spreads instantaneously from the moment that something occurs, whether you want it to or not.

May 13, 2015 @ 10:06 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


Avoid social media? Sure... that's a given, but in the Roz example, he spoke about it on 92.5 the morning after.

May 13, 2015 @ 10:11 AM


@Mike: I think with radio, there'd be more of a tendency to spoil a previous night's show because they can potentially generate a conversation with their listeners, which makes for good radio. On the flipside, it should be considered a point of etiquette to warn listeners that they're about to release spoilers.

BUT in the case of radio (or even podcasting), you're speaking in a professional context, which is much different than the average person just mentioning something on social media (imo).

May 13, 2015 @ 10:16 AM


I agree. How many people actually watch TV live anymore? Your rule is a good one.

May 13, 2015 @ 10:17 AM


@ Mike and elvis

I agree. I don't appreciate spoilers. With few exceptions, news and sports obviously, I PVR everything, even if I am planning to watch it the same night. I just counted my series list and it's up to 21. I can watch 3 hour-long dramas in the time it takes to watch 2 live.

May 13, 2015 @ 10:40 AM


There's a large community that tweets to each other during breaks in episodes analogous to the official 2-screen experience.

Series are like sports - if you want to avoid the result don't go to places where there are spoilers. End of.

May 13, 2015 @ 10:57 AM


Because of the consensus of supporting your blog overlord, I'm going to ensure I retweet, share & ruin shows for everyone. With 75000 IP's too. If you can't watch it on TV, that's not my problem. The world doesn't revolve around you.

Re: Sopranos ending. Nothing happened. A hit on a major player in the mafia would never be public unless the audience was being sent a message (associates, etc). The mafia spend an extraordinary amount of effort staying off federal radar (and RICO radar in the USA). A rival faction wouldn't make the hit (attracts attention). And a rival gang (non mafia) is unlikely to hit a mafia boss because the retaliation would be a blood bath.

May 13, 2015 @ 12:32 PM

Handsome Rob

48hrs is reasonable before discussing major plot developments. I'd go so far as to say 24hrs for a major instance of a show such as season finale or series end.

On the sports front, two things:

Before they started sucking in December I would start watching the leaf game, head to the arena for public skate with the kids and then watch the rest of the game when I got home. I had a few games spoiled due to chatting with people at the rink, forgetting to flip to a cd in the car and catching an update on the radio, etc etc. no ones fault but my own.

Second, was streaming the Chicago Minnesota game 4 the other day. The last 4 minutes were really entertaining but what I didn't realize was that there's about a 30 second delay between live and the stream. My TSN app sent the notification that Minnisota was eliminated with about 30 seconds left. Again my fault for having the notification turned on, but that one pissed me off.

May 13, 2015 @ 1:03 PM


Oh the irony of a world intoxicated on technology..but angry when it spoils their hoped for surprises *LOL*.

May 13, 2015 @ 1:45 PM

Sam in Pickering

It's not the technology, is the jerks using it to ruin things for other people.

May 13, 2015 @ 1:59 PM


The Show was waked..not Tony :)

May 13, 2015 @ 2:28 PM


Sorry to say I disagree with you.

You know if a show you watch is news worthy. I know when it comes to Game of Thrones I avoid social media, message boards and radio shows until I watch the episode.

May 13, 2015 @ 2:57 PM

Ben V

What about netflix based shows where all episodes come out at once? If there is 12 episodes should people wait 24 days before spoilers?

Big shows with big endings get analyzed and recapped by most major entertainment news the next day if not earlier. If you have been waiting for the end of a show to come or need to watch only the finale, then just do it the night it airs. Not many excuses for not viewing it that evening if it is one of your favs.

May 13, 2015 @ 3:33 PM


Well said Irv (13:45).

May 13, 2015 @ 4:20 PM

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