The online realm is a tricky place to navigate if you're a serious television fan.
The internet is a minefield of spoilers. They're everywhere and they can sneak up on you at any time.
Foreign news websites often contains stories that give away plot points from futures episodes or seasons. Social media can drop a spoiler on you at a moment's notice, especially if you're following folks from overseas. And we all have that jerk friend who engages in illegal downloading and delights in ruining big shows' biggest moments.
Even I've shared spoilers before. I once included a link to a Survivor contestants' exit interview in a blog post; the season was still two months behind here. My editor at the time, a big Survivor fan, checked out the link and spotted a "related link" on the right that named the winner of that particular season. I felt horrible. I did that! It was my fault!
The changing practices of broadcasters and online outlets doesn't help the situation.
Take a show like House Of Cards, Netflix's high-profile political drama starring Kevin Spacey, and directed by David Fincher (The Social Network), which debuted on TV3 last night at 10.25pm.
TV3 played the first episode last night, then, following Netflix's lead, released the entire first season - all thirteen episodes - in one massive chunk on 3Now On-Demand, both on the website and through their brand new (and, might I say, pretty damn spiffy) mobile app, also called 3Now.
As if that wasn't a big enough problem for the guy who just wants to - or is forced to - watch it week-to-week, Netflix released the entire second season a couple of Saturdays ago.
If you're keeping score, this means that there are people out there who've watched a total of 26 episodes of House Of Cards to date, while the guy watching it on TV3 has seen a total of one. And that is only if he sat up and watched it during the stupidly late debut last night; chances are, that first episode is sitting on his DVR to be watched later in the week.
Want to sit back on your couch and watch a show, unspoiled, when it airs here in New Zealand? You're pretty much screwed. Same goes if you want to wait for a DVD/blu ray box set to arrive at your local Warehouse.
To their credit, Netflix have started releasing Twitter apps called Spoiler Foilers, which keep an eye out for danger words related to their shows and blocks potential spoilers from appearing in your Twitter feed. Sure, it's a nice gesture. But using the Spoiler Foiler is like applying a band aid to a decapitation.
What is a viewer in New Zealand to do?
I find it easier to throw my hands up and just let the spoilers flood on in. After several years of writing reviews and following the news, I've gotten good at instantly forgetting anything I wish I didn't know. It might seem counter-intuitive. But short of illegally downloading shows or setting up a VPN/Netflix account, it's all I have.
There's also a part of me that is purposely resisting the urge to get ahead of most viewers. I write about shows as they air in New Zealand, so it makes no sense to get ahead of the rest of the viewing public here. That professional outlook has gradually turned into a defiant, "I don't care if you spoil it, I'm right" attitude.
To tell you the truth, I prefer to watch shows on a weekly basis anyway. A good discussion about a popular show is one of the most enjoyable parts of the television viewing experience, but is impossible if everybody is binge-watching on their own schedule. And I believe that downloading, on a long enough timeline, will negatively affect television production.
But that is just me; I don't know what else I could do. Spoilers are everywhere and everybody is watching at their own pace.
* How do you feel about spoilers? Are they unavoidable? What do you do to overcome them?