An age-old question came up the other day among a few of my friends, and as I mulled it over I realized the need for some definitive rules about when it is OK to openly talk about movie and TV spoilers. With the series-ending episode of LOST coming tomorrow night, with 24 counting down the last few seconds this season, with The Office screaming real-life comparisons to the co-workers in your office – how can you not talk about these things? Never fear geek gurus and TV jockeys, I’m here to rescue you from the swirling vortex of friendship-ending faux pas when it comes to the moving pictures:

TV and MOVIE SPOILERS
BASIC GUIDELINES

In the age of Tivo, DVR, Hulu (2 years ago we cut the cable and use our Sony VAIO hooked up to the big screen) and mobile TV you almost have to cut people some slack. No one watches shows when they air on TV anymore: real-time has been brushed aside in favor of on-demand. At the very least people watch a show a few hours later, and I would venture that many/most aren’t seeing it until the next day. This delay can be frustrating, but there’s nothing more embarrassing than wearing your GLEEK shirt and talking about a Sue Sylvester line that no one has heard yet, only to be greeted by winces and people running away from you while covering their ears. Be proud that you are a better geek (and all-around friend) than they are but keep it to yourself for a day – then geek out.

FAQ

What about midnight showings?
When a movie debuts at midnight, only .01% of the population of your office went to see it. Iron Man 2 at 2am might sound like fun to you, but with the exception of your cubicle cronies, it sounds lame to the rest of the crew at your workplace. If you see a midnight showing of a blockbuster movie, talk excitedly about how great the movie was in somewhat hushed tones with the dudes. If the movie was lame, it is totally appropriate to steal some of the joy form your coworkers by practicing a frustrated face that will let them know your epic late night sacrifice came up more than a little short.

What about my close circles of geek friends?
When you’re with fellow geeks, feel free to talk openly about spoilers the minute the show is over. In fact, why wait for the credits to roll at all? They are your friends only because of your superior knowledge of six degrees of separation and connecting obscure plot points. Impress them and guide them along by openly discussing plot points and openly speculating about what is next.

What about people in later timezones?
The Time Zone Effect, as I like to call it, penalizes people on the West Coast more than any other people group. We air the shows live for you to watch during prime time – which means they were recorded just down the street from us in Hollywood while we were still at the office. Then the show gets tape delayed hours later for us to finally enjoy. Lame. But hey, you have winter, so I guess that makes up for us basking in the sunshine at 77 degrees in January.

How do I handle social media?
Simply put, you need to go dark to truly enjoy your favorite show. It might be best to not make eye contact with coworkers you think may have seen the episode or movie before you did. Even on lunch break, know the table right behind you could switch from a discussion of sushimi to Glee in milliseconds. Have a pair of Walkman ear buds at the ready, with soothing sounds of tranquil streams to quell your disturbed state.

Do reality shows have different rules?
Absolutely. First, American Idol can be talked about freely, this is America, dog gone it. Second, Survivor has been on since I was in middle school, so talk about that tired formula all you want. No one watches Celebrity Apprentice so no problem there. Someone told me the other day that Amazing Race is still on (had no idea) and that Biggest Loser would be great motivation for me (which I didn’t understand). Add all of this up and since no one cares about reality shows, you don’t have to either.

What about series or season finales?
Soon 24 will end forever. This weekend, we’ll continue to all be lost but LOST will be over for good. There are no rules to series finales. Throw everything out the door when you’re watching the last episode of a sitcom or evening drama. In fact, embrace social media and invite the geeks over for a finale costume party to celebrate the passing of this old digital friend. Say farewell in style to

It has been 3 years since the movie came out, is it fair game?
The Statute of Limitations on any TV show is 48 hours – anyone who hasn’t seen it within a couple of days deserves to have it spoiled. You are a teacher, your office culture is your classroom. Teach them a difficult lesson – they’ll thank you later for it no doubt. The Statute of Limitations on a movie extends through opening weekend – if you didn’t see it at midnight, we’ll show you some grace, but if you haven’t seen it by Monday brace yourself because I’m going to spoil it for you. The only exception to this statute would be sold-out shows, which wouldn’t allow everyone to see the film at the desired time. Each sold out showing extends the statute one whole day.

I hope this guide has been helpful, my geek friends. May the Force be with you and leave your FAQ in the comments and I’ll answer them there.

JG

Sony provided me with a free Sony Ericsson X10 phone and a PSPgo and FIFA Soccer 10 game in connection with my participation in the Sony Ericsson/Sony Style X10 Blogger Contest, which requires me to blog about Sony and/or Sony Ericsson Products.

The impending shift to 3D television really intrigues me.

I get the draw of 3D in theaters – a unique and somewhat novel experience on a few big budget films specifically made to fully utilize the format – but I’m not sure it is going to work at home. In the last couple of years people already hopped onto the flat panel TV craze – are they going to be so quick to make another $1,500+ purchase to make the jump to 3D? The droves of people dropping cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of Hulu and mobile TV surely can’t be relied upon to make the upgrade either.

I read a feature article in Wired a month ago (1 of 6 magazines I read religiously) that showed how Sony is betting essentially their whole organization that you and I will gleefully board the 3D bandwagon this summer. Right after reading it a buddy told me that the Sony Style store was demoing the new technology and that I had to at least check it out. Being the early adopter wannabe that I am (you have to be somewhat loaded to be one for real), I grabbed the kids and made a special trip just to see the 3D TV demo.

It was really, really impressive.

My Twitter from inside the store was full of respect and awe for the new TV, I’m a believer. I wish they had been playing some different genres of clips – but Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs looked incredible. Made me wish that George Lucas would get moving on Star Wars 3D. 3D at home looked better than 3D in the theater – brighter, richer and ultra clear.

So will we be hi-5ing each other after a 3D touchdown, all wearing our special 3D glasses in the living room? Will we dish out major dollars for a new TV and put the old flat-screen for the Xbox360 in the kids’ room? I’m not totally sure (I’m a pastor, not a prophet) but the future looks really, really good. And it’s in 3D.

JG

While I was at the Sony Style store I learned about the X10 Blogger Contest. As a finalist, Sony provided me with a free Sony Ericsson X10 phone and a PSPgo and FIFA Soccer 10 game in connection with my participation in the Sony Ericsson/Sony Style X10 Blogger Contest, which requires me to blog about Sony and/or Sony Ericsson Products.



netflixshot

We added Netflix to our Xbox360 a couple of weeks ago and have been loving it. My only thought has been, “Why didn’t we do it sooner?”

You may know we don’t have cable anymore, we’re strictly a streaming media family. So for about $8 a month, we get 1 DVD to send back and forth and immediate access to 12,000 movies and TV shows to instantly stream on the computer and on the TV. Pretyt good deal, since our nearest Blockbuster is going out of business next month, too. The technology works flawlessly, my wife who isn’t an uber-geek like me has had no problem understanding and owning the process. There’s something super cool about adding a movie to your Instant Queue and seeing it show up 4 seconds later on your 360. My only minor gripes seem to be answered in the upcoming patch releasing next month. Near flawless execution. A+

JG

In the not-so-distant future, the way to watch TV will be online and on-demand. The Griffin family is doing it now, and here’s who’s doing it right:

NBC.com – if you’re going to watch NBC shows, you can get all of them on Hulu and they’ll look better there. The player sorely needs an update and the controls are too small to accurately control. Commercials are much more frequent than the accepted standard, and the volume on commercials is louder then the show itself. Booo. C+

ABC.com – easily the best player of the bunch. While ABC pulls their shows online too soon and their archive is limited, they sure look GREAT. Watching LOST on ABC’s fullscreen HD player is absolutely gold, I could fool people into thinking it was cable it is so clear. Slick features, easy to control, loads quickly and looks perfect. Wow. A+

FOX.com – they must have taken some cues from ABC because it looks perfect in fullscreen HD, too. The controls aren’t as good and the navigation isn’t intuitive, but at least when you’re watching a show you’re happy, it’s cool to be able to fast forward or rewind in real-time, too. I just recently started watching 24 on the FOX instead of Hulu because there is that much difference. With little or no commercials at all – shoot, fix the navigation and this is a winner. A-

CBS.com – a really simple player with only a few commercials. The site and player are easy to navigate and clear, and the quality looks great before you go full screen. Not a deep archive, not a deep experience altogether – it does everything adequately. B-

Hulu.com – still the best feature set and interface, but not having true fullscreen is a big pain. The site buffers far more than the others, and at times causes some extra pressure on my CPU so the fans kick on more. Still great, but the gleam is wearing off the new car. B+

JG



The TV Experiment Update

Josh Griffin —  February 22, 2009 — 6 Comments

I blogged several months ago that we gave up TV. Well, TV as we knew it, at least.

Our family uses strictly online and on-demand internet TV. For a couple of reasons we turned off the tube and cut the cable bill. Several people have written in recently asking for an update on that decision, and several have written in saying they’ve done the same thing. Here’s the verdict now already close to five months in:

Why we love it
We haven’t missed traditional TV nearly as much as we thought we might. The big win here is the money we’re not spending on the cable bill. We also don’t waste time channel surfing and we’re just watching less TV altogether. The TV is no longer the focal point of the house and life, it is a side note when we want to enjoy it. The picture quality is great, and nearly every show we do watch is available within 24 hours of the TV airdate.

Why it isn’t for everyone
I still miss a few live shows – American Idol being the big one this season. I haven’t even seen a single episode, which is hard to believe given my past. We still get football, but some special events like the Academy Awards tomorrow night won’t hit the web live. Also, certain sites work better than others – Hulu has the best interface, but ABC has the best HDTV picture quality. And when the internet is down, although rare, you’re offline without TV, too.

All in all we’re super pleased with our decision to unplug the cable and watch online TV. In the money we HAVEN’T sent Cox Cable, we’ve already paid ourselves back for the moderate computer upgrades we made and more. I’ve been wanting to show some pics/video of it in action, so look for that soon, too.

JG

You know we don’t have TV – well, normal TV, that is. We use the desktop computer and a HDMI cable to the big screen to watch any shows we couldn’t just cut out altogether. Here’s the places to go, and the ones to watch:

Hulu – this is the best of the bunch. Hulu is definitely the leader in online television, having worked out deals with multiple networks. The interface is super clean and works flawlessly, the queue feature stacks up shows you subscribe to in order so you never have to change the channel – the shows you want to watch just keep on coming. All this and tons of 720p HD offerings and even full length movies. Rate the commercials, lower lights, pop-out windows, embedding of videos anywhere on the web … a totally impressive experience. A+

NBC – the official website for the NBC network doesn’t get much love in my opinion. Though you can watch a ton of different shows in full length, there is nothing here that isn’t done better online somewhere else. They should just send everything to Hulu. C

CBS – there’s a few shows you can only get on the web (legally) from CBS’s official website. They’ve got a great video player, social viewing rooms and the quality is great. I like CBS, but sometimes have trouble when viewing full screen and it crops off the bottom half of the picture. Too bad I just don’t watch that many shows on CBS, but that’s another story altogether. B

ABC – ABC’s online player is absolutely impressive. At full screen, the video plays super smoothly and sometimes could fool you you’re watching a 720p TV signal. While the interface is impressive, it takes a little longer than the other to load and “click on to continue” comercials totally break up the experience. Still though, great looking TV shows (LOST next month) help pull this one up to almost awesome. A-

Sling – a slick new site that entered Beta (think early release for final testing) this week. Slick interface, limited ads, looks great full screen. It has the potential, but not quite there yet. B+

Joost – This is an interesting brand new one, with some great CBS content and some channels around personalities rather than a network. Behind the game, especially with Hulu running the table. B

Got another one (ESPN, Cartoon Network, Discovery)? Give the link and review it in the comments! Oh, and I’ll take on live TV shows soon, too.

JG



Why No TV and Video Games?

Josh Griffin —  November 21, 2008 — 6 Comments

The number one question I’ve been asked over the past month is “why?” Why would you get rid of cable? What was the thought process behind getting rid of the Xbox 360? Basically, “what were you thinking?” which is a totally fair question. Here’s a little bit of why we chose this path until October 1st, 2009:

FAMILY – We wanted to create more family time
The biggest reason was the simple fact that the television and Xbox 360 was taking too much time away from our family. The recently-invented family weekly bucket list has been a really fantastic addition to our lives, pushing us to be creative and have fun as a family. We still watch the occasional DVD but also build volcanoes, make paper airplanes and have great conversation at tea parties.

OUTDOORS – We were concerned our kids never went outdoors
OK, so it isn’t quite that bad … but even living in California with a little paved backyard we want our kids outside and playing. We actually use the bikes now, and go swimming a ton. The trails behind our house actually are getting some use and we visit the park way more often. For a kid who grew up in the freedom of the Midwest, I’ve certainly become an inside guy.

COST – We could get TV for free from the internet
To be honest, I don’t miss TV as we formerly knew it. We can save some money by watching whatever shows we do want to follow on network websites and Hulu. Now that the computer is hooked up (HDMI) to the TV, we can even still watch it on the main screen and it looks solid. Paying for cable will soon be a thing of the past, I would imagine. Shows are free, and typically have little/no commercials.

PROJECTS – This is the year of the book
I’m excited to be working on some writing projects right now – some with friends and some on my own. Not sure where that will all lead, but I certainly have more time now at nights instead of vegging in front of the TV.

STANDARDS – Often times we watched stuff we either a) shouldn’t have or b) didn’t remotely care about
This isn’t the biggest reason on the list – but it did matter to us when we made the decision. Basically, we either wasted too much time watching nothing, or we watched stuff with little redeeming value. With on-demand TV, we can be much more selective and intentional about what we watch.

Are there some downsides? Yup, look for 3 of them … and they are big ones, in an upcoming post.

JG

We’re one painful full week into a year of no video games. Now we’re about to make the jump to no television in the Griffin house?

We’re not giving up on TV altogether, but we are about to give up on the traditional method of viewing it. Tonight I hooked up the family computer to the HDTV, and began the future of television in our house. Cox Cable will be gone tomorrow, and we’ll make the jump to only free, on-demand services like Hulu, YouTube and network sites like NBC.com. I suppose in some extreme cases we might purchase something from iTunes or still rent a DVD. It’ll sting a little bit for live events (football and American Idol come to mind) but the number of sports and shows hitting the web is stunning and HD content is quickly becoming a given.

So, we’ll get rid of the DVD player (the computer has one built in) and the screen (since the TV is a giant one now) and free up some space with no computer desk needed, too. Tomorrow I’ll pick up a wireless mouse and keyboard and we’re pretty much set. I’m still kicking around the idea of a wireless printer adapter, too, just for the convenience of placing it in another room altogether untethered.

It took a while to get the settings right to it didn’t look like the old WebTV, but we’re set and ready to go. Should be an interesting experiment as our computer/TV/DVD/stereo and more all become one!

JG

High speed internet ($50+/month) is next on my hit list. For $15 a month, you can USB your cell phone into your home computer to use the internet, too.