Press-Republican

October 6, 2013

Nearly impossible to avoid TV spoilers these days

By STEVE OUELLETTE
Press-Republican

---- — This week one of television’s great shows came to an end, as “Breaking Bad” broadcast its final episode.

To honor that brilliantly written and acted show about a chemistry teacher turned drug lord, I thought I might use this space to examine the pluses and minuses of using methamphetamine, the substance that made Walter White both great and terrible.

On the minus side, there would be addiction, financial woes, prison, meth mouth, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, constipation and death.

On the plus side, there would be … tooth loss makes brushing much quicker each night. Meth keeps kids off more dangerous drugs, like cyanide, ricin, antifreeze and Turkish Delight. It gives the police something to do so they’re not bored. And there’s always the chance that it won’t kill you; sort of like playing the lottery.

That makes a short column, though, and frankly, taking a stance against drug use isn’t exactly controversial.

The finale of “Breaking Bad,” however, raised another problem — just as insidious — that is prevalent in countless households in this digital age: How to avoid spoilers when you’ve recorded a popular show.

These days, roughly 50 percent of U.S. homes have DVRs, which means that people can record their favorite shows and watch them at a more convenient time, fast-forwarding through commercials as they go.

I, for one, virtually never watch a show on live television, except for occasional sporting events. Nature, however, has developed a defense for this kind of behavior.

On the night of “Breaking Bad’s” climax I was watching a football game, figuring it would be harder to avoid the score of the game for 24 hours than it would be to avoid details of Walter White’s escapades.

Wrong.

When a show becomes a cultural phenomenon, it merits saturation coverage. Twitter explodes. Facebook breaks into a frenzy. All forms of media envelope it.

While the game was on, I turned off all computers, silenced my phone and refused to hop channels. It ended around midnight, and I bravely fought the temptation to watch “Breaking Bad” right there and then. Work in the morning, and I’d never be able to hide my treachery from my wife.

The break of dawn brought difficulty. “Breaking Bad” spoilers were all over the morning shows, so the TV had to go off. The radio was no better. Even NPR was talking about the finale, albeit with slightly British accents. As near as I could tell, Aaron Paul (“Jesse”) was everywhere at once. I half expected him to knock on my door and call me his favorite five-letter expletive.

Because of work, I had to turn on the computer, had to use the phone. Half the items on my home page had headlines proclaiming “Why I loved the Breaking Bad finale” or “Why I hated the Breaking Bad finale” or “Please discuss the Breaking Bad finale.”

Half my emails had suspicious subject lines, so I left them alone. I avoided Facebook, where dozens of friends have the good taste to be obsessed with “Breaking Bad.” Whenever the phone rang, I froze, wondering if the person on the other end would open with, “So, can you believe that Heisenberg …?”

By late afternoon, I had severed my connection to the Internet, put my phone in airplane mode and crawled into a corner with my fingers in my ears mumbling, “Lalalalalalalalalallalalalalala.”

When my wife got home from work, I insisted we watch the show right away, while the kids did their homework in another room. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any homework this day — come on teachers, you have to do better — and my wife insisted that this wasn’t the day for the children to learn everything there is to know about meth.

That meant several more hours of waiting, letting the phone ring and avoiding just one peek on Facebook.

I have one friend who is catching up on “Breaking Bad” with Netflix, and she’s just on season three. How can she go weeks — spoiler alert! — without finding out how Walt built a homemade nuclear device and destroyed half of New Hampshire? I can barely make 24 hours.

Finally, we were able to watch the show — two thumbs up — and allow life to return to normal, at least until the final episode of “Two and a Half Men,” when Charlie Sheen returns and cuts Ashton Kutcher into bite-size pieces with a potato peeler.

Surely, though, there has to be a solution to the spoiler gauntlet. It doesn’t seem fair that I have to pack myself into a cocoon just because you people can’t keep your mouths shut. Common courtesy certainly isn’t an option. Wearing a sign around your neck, “Haven’t seen the end yet!” just invites trolls.

Most places of business allow sick days. Is it too much to ask for, say, three TV days a year? Surely the Pentagon has some kind of device that will block all means of communication for a specified period of time; perhaps they could make that available to the public, you know, for emergencies?

Oh well. Tonight I’m finally going to watch the ending of “The Sopranos.” Please, don’t tell me anything.

Email Steve Ouellette: ouellette1918@gmail.com