In film, much has been made about trailers giving away too many plot points. Fans complain they go on too long and tell the whole story in a mere two minutes, leaving no reason for viewers to pay to see the final product. (Or, at the very least, diluting its impact.)
On TV, it’s a different, but similar story: Reviews, recaps, interviews, and general online chatter often spoil the story for viewers who are behind. Sure, trailers play their part, but risks abound in write-ups, as unwanted information can come out of nowhere. Spoiler culture has reached a new level during the peak TV era, with so much to watch, so little time, and so many different viewers fitting as much as they can into very different schedules.
So what I’m about to recommend may not sound all that new: Do not read, watch, or listen to anything about “Santa Clarita Diet” before watching…unless they say upfront, “We will not spoil one single thing about this show.”
That reminds me: no spoilers here. In fact, it’s an article of the opposite intent. If I could remove information about “Santa Clarita Diet” from your brain, I would, as what’s likely rumbling around in there based on teasers, headlines, and more marketing supplements is likely too much information already.
Of course, herein lies the problem, especially for marketers eager to sell their product (and writers trying to get people excited): If too much information is removed, then you don’t know the show even exists. And then you can’t be spoiled, because there’s nothing to spoil.
So how do you find the line? How do you learn enough about a show to make it appointment viewing, but not too much to spoil any of its valued elements? Each show is a little different, and typically the job of a critic is to determine which shows deserve to be seen and which deserve to be dumped. We tend to worry less about spoiling the bad ones, considering they hold less value. But even then, we don’t want to ruin things for those few souls who get hooked on a guilty pleasure.
“Santa Clarita Diet” is somewhere in between. IndieWire will have a review up soon, but we haven’t even seen enough to judge whether it’s among the great or the terrible. What we do know is there are moments in the premiere where your visceral reaction — positive or negative — needs to be preserved. Hence, the warning: Don’t study up. Instead, watch blindly.
But the question still stands: What needs to be known about a TV show before you’re ready to sign on? Do you need a letter grade in a review? Do you just need to know who’s in it? Who’s writing it? Who directed it? All of the above? Who do you trust to keep you in the dark? How do you filter your social media feeds, e-mail subscriptions, and general news consumption to know what you need to and not what you don’t?
The answer, for at least some shows, is to go in blind. You watch without knowing anything, and just take the risk of losing an hour or two of your life on a show less worthy than others. It’s not the best strategy overall, as a filter is required to get through all this TV, but you’ll know it when it happens; when that one show pops up that you know you’re going to watch no matter what, for whatever the one, dominant reason is, then just do it. And don’t look back.
For a few of the others, we here at IndieWire will do our best to alert you without spoiling anything. That’s what this week’s Very Good TV Podcast is about, with IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and myself, TV Critic Ben Travers, talking about the TV schedule in a need-to-know basis only. Feel free to leave us a note in the comments, or reach out directly on Twitter. We’re always curious to know your preferences, habits, and opinions.
Don’t forget to subscribe to Very Good TV Podcast via Soundcloud or iTunes. Check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to IndieWire’s other podcasts: Screen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Michael Schneider’s new podcast, Turn It On, which spotlights the most important TV of each week.
And for more on “Santa Clarita Diet” (debuting Friday, February 3) and all its discussion-worthy secrets, keep reading IndieWire. We’ll be very clear about spoilers.