I recently finished watching the television series Friday Night Lights, which originally aired from 2006-2011. It is a great show, one definitely worth watching, but I’m not here to make recommendations. Instead, I’ll reassure anyone who has had key plot elements of a show, movie, or book “spoiled” by someone else: It doesn’t matter. (By the way, in case you’re hesitant to read further for fear of spoilers, none are provided here.)
I was given the entire series of Friday Night Lights as a DVD box set, complete with photos from the show. Whoever put this together didn’t think it through. When flipping to the second disc in Season One, for example, there was a picture that showed a character who hadn’t yet been introduced. A few discs later, I spotted a key character in a new setting. I quickly learned to grab the discs without looking at the images, but even that didn’t solve my “problems.” Once the disc loaded, some of the episode titles were obvious giveaways as to what would happen.
Initially angry, by the time I finished the five-season series I realized none of the spoilers affected my viewing experience. Some I had forgotten about until I saw them transpire; others were trivial. A study at the University of California, San Diego in 2011 helps explain my reaction.
The study focused on books, but the logic applies to movies and TV shows as well. The researchers had people read stories in three different categories and found that even in mysteries or books that incorporated an ironic twist, readers’ enjoyment was enhanced by knowing the ending.
In the case of the complex mysteries, it’s possible a spoiler helps readers better understand the story as they go, allowing them to focus on a deeper understanding of the story. Friday Night Lights is a drama that didn’t hinge on surprise twists (it would fall under the “literary” category in the study). The writing, character development, and acting was what made the show enjoyable. Knowing something ahead of time wouldn’t change that. According to a UC San Diego professor, “Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing.”
This should have made sense to me before seeing this study or having Friday Night Lights spoiled. After all, there are certain films I have watched nearly 20 times. I know exactly what will happen, but I still enjoy it.
– Andrew Kahn