Are television promos ruining good cliffhangers?

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Image Credit: The CW

I have a love/hate relationship with cliffhangers, as I’m sure most people do. Nothing is more exciting than a good twist, and nothing is more painful than having to wait to find out what will happen next. However, in today’s world of television speed-plotting, I find myself yearning for a genuine cliffhanger, particularly when it comes to mid-season and/or season finales.

What I realized last night is that speed-plotting isn’t the only problem for cliffhangers. In a lot of cases, the antithesis of a genuine cliffhanger seems to be an over-informative episode promo. You spend your summer waiting to find out if a character will live or die only to see them talking in a promo for the upcoming season, and all of a sudden, your urge for the show to come back is cut in half. For example, on this season of Parenthood, my biggest question has been, “Is Julia going to cheat on Joel?” And when promoting the show’s mid-season finale, they not only teased her temptation, but they gave me my answer … and  in a 30-second clip.

It’s like showing us the end of a movie in the trailer. In what world is that fun? They could have cut that promo at the hug, and I would’ve been 10 times more intrigued.

But my real issue here is with the mid-season finale of The Vampire Diaries. The show ended with Katherine having a heart attack and falling down a set of stairs. I genuinely didn’t know if she was dead or not, and I liked that as a cliffhanger to hold me over until the show returned. And then the promo came on, and I saw this:

With that promo, they’re still teasing that she could die when the show returns, but they completely just took the cliffhanger element out of the show’s mid-season finale. In a world filled with “spoiler alerts,” why wasn’t there one before that promo? For me, the job of promos is simple: Tease the viewer. But if you start answering questions for that viewer, you’ve crossed a line.

I miss the days of “Who shot J.R.?” and “Which guy will Meredith choose?” Half the fun of the summer and/or winter hiatus from television is running through different scenarios in your head and trying to find exciting spoilers online. Considering there isn’t much TV to watch during that time, that’s basically all I do, so thank you, promos, for ruining my hiatus.

Also, why do we feel the need to show a promo for an episode that’s more than a month away? If you want to spoil my fun with a promo in four to six weeks, I can live with that, even though I’d prefer you refrain from spoiling it at all.

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