When is it OK to Spoil?

Friday, December 28, 2012


People who watch TV when it actually airs and blab about it online can ruin it for those of us who watch shows at our leisure. Their excited Twitter chatter about the great twist in last night’s Mad Men is frustrating if you haven’t yet watched last night’s Mad Men. New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum is a prolific tweeter who began grappling with this problem after Twitter users complained about a phenomenon they called "Nussbombing." She talks to Brooke about her evolving system of spoiler etiquette.


Big Joe Turner - TV Mama


Emily Nussbaum,

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Brooke Gladstone

Comments [1]

Trip McCrossin from Brooklyn, NY

Emily Nussbaum, On the Media, December 28, 2012: "... the undulating curve of shifting expectations [which means that] to me [for a critic to divulge that, in their opinion, forthcoming material will be disappointing to viewers to one degree or another, without giving away particular details as to why this might be so] actually qualifies as a gift to another person, in which you lower their expectations, such that they enjoy what happens next more. ... I feel really grateful, because when I write the kinds of essays I've been writing, I feel that there is a buyer beware quality to them. If I'm going to write about a television show, I'm going to write about the episodes that have aired. I do try to bear all of this in mind, but it's basically, we're all walking through this universe in which surprise can be spoiled and we each have to find our own code in order cope with that."

Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker, June 25, 2012 (the day after the premiere of The Newsroom): "The pilot of “The Newsroom” is full of yelling and self-righteousness, but it’s got energy, just like “The West Wing,” Sorkin’s “Sports Night,” and his hit movie “The Social Network.” The second episode is more obviously stuffed with piety and syrup, although there’s one amusing segment, when McAvoy mocks some right-wing idiots. After that, “The Newsroom” gets so bad so quickly that I found my jaw dropping. The third episode is lousy (and devolves into lectures that are chopped into montages). The fourth episode is the worst. There are six to go."

If Nussbaum imagines herself giving us gifts such as this, then perhaps we do well to remember that while we hope that the gifts we receive on this or that occasion will be enjoyable in this or that way, they may also turn out to be instead distinctly unenjoyable, distinctly glib and tiresome, not at all reflective of our experience, and generally destructive of what we might otherwise have enjoyed, and that those from whom we've received such gifts in the past, are perhaps also those whose gifts we should avoid in the future. Even if the old adage, "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all," may not be applicable to artistic material already available to the public, and it's not clear that it shouldn't be, surely it ought to apply to material forthcoming still, that the rest of us, the mere public, haven't had the privilege to experience yet, one way or another. Who in the world is Nussbaum, that is, to presume to lower any of our expectations. We're grown-ups, after all, and face our various disappointments on our own every day, and presumably can cope on our own with the business of addressing them, without her or anyone else presuming to call our eventual judgement into question when we end up being not only not disappointed, but positively thrilled, as I and many others were with the experience of the first season of The Newsroom in its entirety.

Dec. 30 2012 11:56 AM

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