Time’s Poniewozik Can’t be That Dense, Can He?

I guess the headline sort of speaks for itself, but I find it hard to believe that Time’s James Poniewozik can’t figure out what was a spoiler in Alessandra Stanley’s “Mad Men” preview.

For starters, the word “spoiler” appeared nowhere in Stanley’s New York Times piece. Indeed, her analysis was presented as a front-of-the-Arts-section essay that didn’t even necessarily indicate it was a full-scale review of the upcoming season. In essence, nobody was given a choice — as Poniewozik rightly suggests regarding his own review — on whether they wanted to risk learning key plot points.

As for Poniewozik’s assertion that he doesn’t work for AMC, neither do I. But I suspect he likes receiving DVDs in advance to try and boost readership for his blog and Time’s website by writing about popular shows, and if you violate the terms of advance viewing — especially on a show where the creator, Matthew Weiner, is notoriously sensitive about spoilers — you risk not getting them in the future.

Frankly, as a trade, that’s of less concern to me. But I think a lot of other critics would be pissed if Weiner pitched a fit and AMC felt obliged to indulge him.

Personally, though, my earlier criticism of Stanley is much more basic than any of that: It’s simply bad customer service. If you want people to read your newspapers and magazines, don’t carelessly piss them off. And if you feel incapable of reviewing a well-known returning program without giving major details away, then don’t feel obligated to write about it in advance.

I get that Poniewozik and Stanley don’t work for AMC. The problem I was addressing is that by being so cavalier about spoilers when many sophisticated readers are sensitive about them, they’re not doing a particularly good job of working for Time and the New York Times.

And by the way, I agree that critics writing about critics might well be the death of civilization. But why should the film critics squabbling about “Inception” have all the fun?

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