Lost, Bones, Whatever: Why Not Spoiler-Free TV?

05/17/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The critics (and twitics) of late may preach the beauty of the marriage between TV and Twitter, but it isn't all one happy honeymoon. The danger with social media and online fandom is that viewers become so invested in shows and feel that interactions with various showrunners and producers make everyone a part of the collective creative process, that when a beloved television series appears to take a turn from that which we expect or want, the fall is much greater -- for almost everyone involved. Often this begins with something simple -- the spoiler.

I am fascinated by the phenomenon and obsession with spoilers. I myself have succumbed to their temptation from time to time -- not for all shows, however, I am selective about my spoiler-hunting. Sometimes it's unavoidable, if say, a cast member has gotten a pilot on a different network (for example, when Elizabeth Mitchell was cast in V, I knew things weren't looking good for Juliet on Lost). However, when it comes to long term shows with long term relationships and deeply invested fans, spoilers are a dangerous road to follow.

Yes, this is partially a return to the discussion of fretting over the "Will They or Won't They?" relationships, but it's also about investing too much time into discovering a show's secrets, without allowing those secrets to unfold as they are intended. I can't help but notice the mixed reactions and theories about this year's final season of Lost, and I've seen the spoilers trickling in for the much-heralded 100th episode of Bones (which, yes, I've watched in the big batch of recent press screeners that went out), and who didn't hear about Katherine Heigl leaving Grey's Anatomy? (Although, is that something people still care about?). One of the biggest takeaways from ongoing discussions about social media platforms and online communities is probably the amount of readily available misinformation and I would almost add spoilers to this category, as they are so often misconstrued, out of context, overblown or even wrong.

I get why spoilers exist -- they keep fans interested, keep us all satisfied during summer months, and weekly breaks between new episodes. But here's the thing: I work at a TV studio. I understand the development process -- I know how it works. I am more than just a fan because I am also behind the scenes. I straddle the line. And let me tell you, it's a weird line to be on both sides of, that's for sure -- being someone working in TV and separately writing about TV. But I'm finding in this scenario I am lucky for having this dual perspective because I have absolute faith in how shows are handled.

While a television show is steered by the vision of a showrunner, there are many people who contribute to that show. And despite what you may have heard, the network and studio executives (you know, "the suits") who may fiddle with the showrunner's first run through an episode are not bad people with bad ideas (I know, I work for some of the best of them). They are smart people who are deeply invested in the creative vision of the show -- not just ad revenue and demographics and money. So as you sit with anticipation for (or the in the wake of) a particularly traumatic episode of Glee, or Chuck, or The Vampire Diaries, or whatever show you are feverishly attached to, please, remember this: Have faith in the creators and trust they will deliver the goods, whatever steps you may unwillingly have to follow along the way.

So about that 100th episode of Bones (a show I've repeatedly mentioned as having one of the most rabid and passionate online fanbases I've seen, and probably my favorite case study in internet fan communities) -- I'm not going to give any spoilers, I'm not going to drop hints or quotes out of context for people to dissect or agonize over. To appreciate a piece of art, you need to view it in its entirety -- and isn't TV just another art form? Sure I liked the episode -- it was a damn good hour of television that I suggest you watch. But that's my opinion and all I'm going to say on the subject. We can talk about the episode after it airs next month. Then you'll realize how happy you were you stayed spoiler-free or gave up trying to speculate and theorize. Hell, this goes for the Lost fans out there too (and I'm including myself in this frenzied bunch). It's not worth putting in the time and energy to speculate or fret about something you absolutely cannot control. No matter how many times you try! After all (and this will come back to haunt some of us), the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but always expecting a different result.

Take a few deep breaths. Enjoy your television. Maybe try it spoiler-free.