I’ve often heard it said that we’re living in the future. While getting off a train on Saturday, I suddenly had the feeling that it was true. Looking around at the mass of people walking next to this streamlined metal tube that they’d just sped into town on, some of them with mobile communications devices clamped to their ears, I imagined myself living in an age of gaslight and horses, and having my mind blown with a glimpse of this amazing science-fiction world.
Of course, the trouble with living in the future is that you always know what’s going to happen…
Yep, I’m talking TV.
These days, the simple pleasures of not knowing anything about a show before it hits my screen are being denied me because there’s always someone letting the cat out of the bag – and giving it a good, solid boot up the bum to make sure it doesn’t try to get back in.
Listings magazines and newspapers splash forthcoming storylines and telltale photos on their covers, articles are printed detailing the plots of shows right up until their final act, and trailers for programmes throw away the best scenes and lines in maddeningly unnecessary acts of self-sacrifice.
Even with the best will in the world and a sturdy pair of blinkers, avoiding these ‘spoilers’ is darned tricky. Just when you think you’re home and dry, you’ll catch sight of a forum posting with an ill-considered title (“I can’t believe that [character name deleted] dies!”), lurking on a board that has nothing to do with the programme in question. Or – the ultimate ‘up yours’ from a TV channel – you’ll hear a continuity announcer telling you what’s going to happen in this episode, just as the programme is about to start. I’m not kidding – I’ve seen this happen.
I find it sad that so many people – especially people in the television industry – don’t seem to respect the humble viewer any more. I understand the need to publicise shows and grab a slice of the available audience, but there have to be more creative ways to go about this than saying ‘here’s what’s going to happen this week – that’ll be good, won’t it?’. A less blatant, more teasing attitude to publicity might work in a show’s favour, by creating a need for people to actually watch the thing to find out what’s going on.
As that’s unlikely to happen any time soon, though, it seems the only way to stay spoiler-free is to lock yourself away in a darkened, sound-proofed room for a month before a programme airs, and don’t turn up the volume on the TV until you see the screen fade into the opening scene. Oh, and of course switch off quickly when the credits start to roll – before the ‘next week’ trailer does its dirty deed.
I’ll admit that Futureworld does have a lot going for it – oven chips, amplification, duvets, that sort of thing – but I reckon that the Victorians could still teach us a thing or two. They might have had cholera and Jack the Ripper to worry about, but I bet they never had Charles Dickens’ latest effort ruined by some publisher with a loud mouth and one eye on the weekly book chart.