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To be or not to be "spoiled": that is the question for TV fans as the fall season approaches

Episode Spoilers and House, M.D.: A Force for Good or Evil?

So, the 2010-2011 fall television season is about a month away (House, M.D., my particular obsession, premieres September 20), and the spoilers have started fast and furious. In addition to network promos and entertainment show appearances, which include some advance information about what we may expect in the season to come, little (and not so little) bits of information have begun to leak into the fan communities. 

Personally, I love spoilers—to a degree. Knowing that House and Cuddy are actually going to try to make a go of it as a couple helps gear me up for the season. Knowing who’s writing this episode (or that) gives me an idea of what to expect, and knowing who’s going to be guest starring makes me (occasionally) salivate with anticipation. (Word is just out that Amy Irving will be playing an upcoming patient of the week.) “Spoilers” like these generally do not affect my enjoyment of an episode. 

Then there are spoilers: leaked bits of information giving away plot points or lines of dialogue, never intended to find their way into the fan community before the episode airs. I’ll admit that I’m as much a spoiler whore as the next fan, but I’ve realized over the past couple of seasons how easily random bits of intel can not only spoil, but can poison my enjoyment of the show. When I’ve been aware of significant spoilers: Amber Volakis’ death at the end of season four, Kutner’s suicide in season five, the kiss between Cuddy and House at the end of season five’s “Joy,” I greatly regretted not being surprised–even stunned by them. 

Also, random bits of out-of-context dialogue (whether leaked or shown in an episode promo spot) can cause a viewer to say a priori, “I will pass on this episode; I know I won’t like it.” On a series like House, random bits of dialogue are seldom what they seem, but it’s hard to be presented with a morsel of juicy dialogue in advance and not let your imagination run wild (in ways both good and bad). And thanks to the evil geniuses who concoct House promos, those random bits run rampant through the collective imagination of the fandom. 

So, dear readers, I put the question to you as we begin to experience a pre-season trickle of intel. What do you think of spoilers? And how do they affect your enjoyment of the show (or lack therof)? Do you stay away from them all (including episode titles)? Or just the major plot points? Has a spoiler ever made you “stay away” and skip an episode? Let the discussion begin!

(And please, no spoilers in the comments thread this week. Thanks.)

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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