This is not a complaint, but we live in a time where there are simply too many good shows on TV. On top of live schedules piling on cultural gems, we also have DVRs with capacities that wildly outpace our available time and streaming services that plop 20 hours of amazing original content in our laps overnight.
In this golden age of entertainment, how do you prioritize what to watch immediately and what to save for a cozy rainy day binge?
While all shows rely on narrative surprise in some form or another, there are some series whose twists and turns become almost a shared cultural event, and you need to keep up or you will absorb spoilers through osmosis that greatly lessen the impact of the show. And there are other series that have all the twists and turns, but which for various reasons are basically spoiler proof.
The trick is telling the two apart!
But now you don't have to, because for your convenience we've ranked eight series — some in the middle of their run, some about to return — rife with spoilers and let you know just how long you can wait to watch, from most to least pressing:
AMC's monster drama is a high-priority series, especially the most recent season which seems hellbent in killing off beloved regulars. Spoilers are almost inescapable on Twitter, Facebook, and even Saturday Night Live. If you're on the West Coast you avoid Twitter until you've seen the show, and no one blames you. Heck, it's not uncommon to see a fan a couple episodes behind racing away from a conversation at a party with fingers in their ears. Keep this as appointment TV and you can keep your place by the punch bowl.
The fantasy epic has all the the same social media spoiler potential of The Walking Dead, with the added spoiler effect of a legion of book fans who already knew where each storyline was heading. (Remember all those dark hints from A Song of Fire and Ice fans as we approached the Red Wedding?)
Additionally, when the suspense of the show got too extreme, there was always the temptation to click over to the books' Wikipedia pages and make sure Joffrey was going to get his due. Now of course, with the TV series moving ahead of the book, everybody is on the same page: No one can say for sure who will win the Iron Throne. And none of us want to find out via a Twitter hashtag. This is must-watch-live time guys.
3. This Is Us
This is Us is a rare bird, a network drama that follows through on a high-concept premise in a restrained, subtle way that's open to interpretation. Speculating on how the family's narratives will unfold is half the fun, so fans have lots of incentive to keep up with the national conversation. Luckily, it still hasn't reached the level of zeitgeist where you have to avoid your Twitter feed for a day afterwards if you miss an episode, so you can watch it a day late and then jump on message boards to match theories with other fans. But don't wait much longer than that.
4. Black Mirror
Charlie Brooker's hotly anticipated Netflix debut was impossible to avoid on social media in the first 48 hours after making six beautiful new episodes available for streaming, but by virtue of the fact that it's a Netflix series fans have a certain kind of etiquette when discussing it that's downright considerate. "Have you started Black Mirror yet? Where are you?" people will ask before launching into their opinion of the premiere, or, say, the amazing "San Junipero" episode which, spoiler alert, you need to watch right now.
FX's American Horror Story's previous seasons have all been guaranteed water cooler conversation, but Season 6, American Horror Story: Roanoke, veiled its central theme in a show-within-a show format so complicated and opaque it's almost spoiler-proof. The central twist in AHS requires the scaffolding of the previous episodes to appreciate (or a super patient co-worker willing to basically draw you a flow-chart of the plot) making it the first AHS series you could theoretically wait until after the season finale to binge... but you will be very lonely by the water cooler.
6. The Affair
This soapy drama takes a lot of unpredictable twists, with a major cliffhanger ending to Season 2 and a whole new mystery being introduced in the Season 3 premiere — which makes its on-air debut Nov. 20 at 10/9c on Showtime, but is now available for streaming. And yet, much like the marital indiscretion that gives the Showtime series its name, The Affair fans seem incredibly secretive in their discussions of the series. You could easily wait out the season to binge the whole series after the finale with every surprise left intact. But let's be real, the drama is so juicy we guarantee you won't want to.
Let's be real guys. We all know those machines are going to rise at some point in the next couple episodes, and that's kind of the whole point: The dread of knowing things are going to all go terribly wrong has underpinned every moment of the series. The mystery of how we get there is nothing compared to the moment-to-moment drama of these beautiful robots demanding their humanity.
It may be based on a cheesy action movie, but Westworld is ultimately a beautiful, slow-moving meditation on existential philosophy. You could definitely wait for the series to unspool before you binge, but we plan on watching it as it unfolds go back and start it again and watch it all again. There's more than enough — and more than just plot twists and reveals — in this thoughtful, gorgeous series to sustain repeated viewings.
Mad Men fans who thought waiting a year for their final season was hard need to talk to the Gilmore Girls fanatics, who have waited since the Netflix revival was announced last October to find out what's befallen Lorelai and Rory since the 2007 series finale. When the series finally drops on November 25th, expect the Gilmore Girls fan in your life to go missing for a couple days. Obviously, the show has proved it has staying power like few others and absolutely nothing can spoil the return of this feel-good family show, but clearly fans have waited long enough.
What shows do you watch immediately, which ones do you save for later, and what spoilers do you fear the most?