TV networks will implement new spoiler alert system

This satirical, fictional story is part of the April 1, 2011, edition of reality blurred. Happy April Fool’s Day.

All major broadcast and cable television networks have agreed to institute a new Spoiler Alert System that will be modeled after the Emergency Alert System and alert reality television watchers of any possible spoiler in the show they are watching.

Any popular culture references that may be unknown to the viewer will be considered a spoiler, and preceded with a shrill buzzing noise, which has been recorded by James Durbin, followed by an automatic muting of the audio feed. Those viewers who actually want to hear the spoiler can unmute using their remote control or Clapper.

Filtered content includes references to previous seasons’ winners on competition series; information about scientific discoveries from the past 10 years; any plot points in literature they may have not actually read in school; any content they may have missed because they were looking at their laptops or talking on the phone; and entire episodes if the viewer missed any previous episode.

However, networks have explicitly excluded “coming up” segments from the new system, insisting that viewers who are currently watching a show need incentive to keep watching the show that includes showing them the same footage multiple times within a few minutes.

“Consumers want choice, including the choice to remain ignorant,” a representative of the agency coordinating the new system, Special Television Directives, told the media. “Because so many people have complained about spoilers, we’ve decided it’s easier to just remove references for the bulk of the populace, which seems to prefer an existence without information they haven’t yet decided to consume, which makes it easier to blame teachers’ unions for their ignorance and, as a bonus, makes them not have to worry about correct spelling on their signs demanding tax cuts.”

While removing all potential spoilers may seem challenging, a network executive compared it to publicists’ requests for detailed information about the full contents of stories that have yet to be written in order to grant access to their clients for interviews: “It’s pretty easy to predict the future if it hasn’t been written yet.”

The executive also said, “We’ve taken cues from helpful web sites that have stripped any reference to useful information from their headlines, leads, and actual stories to make sure people don’t accidentally read anything of consequence, which is the least amount of pandering journalists can do for readers since readers are generating page views.”

The agency is warning viewers, however, that they still may encounter spoilers in the wild, so they should take additional precautions, including un-friending people on Facebook who refuse to survey their friends about what TV shows, books, films, and plays they have not yet seen and then limit their pop culture references until such time as the person finally watches or reads that work. They also suggest avoiding all human contact until their deaths, so they can die knowing that they spent their lives selecting exactly what they wanted to know.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.