'Sopranos' Spoilers Hard to Avoid

The series finale of The Sopranos is a hot water-cooler topic. But many who planned to watch the last episode of the long-running HBO show by tape, TiVo or rerun are now trying to avoid hearing how it all wrapped up.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Millions of "Sopranos" fans are in mourning. Last night was the final episode of the HBO series about Tony Soprano and his two families: Carmela and his children, Meadow and A.J., and his operatic New Jersey mob. If you missed last night's show, don't worry. We're not going to reveal anything about what happened.

Still, as NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, other spoilers will be hard to avoid.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Twenty-nine-year-old Tom Patrillo(ph) is a huge "Sopranos" fan who lives in Washington, D.C. He's devastated the series is over because, he says, the characters are like family.

Mr. TOM PATRILLO ("Sopranos" Fan): You went through Tony dealing with his mother, and Meadow changing school paths 20 times, and A.J. dealing with this, and so and so dying. You feel like you're kind of part of it all and that you know these individuals.

(Soundbite of "The Sopranos")

Mr. JAMES GANDOLFINI (Actor): (As Anthony Soprano) Word on the street is Jerry's the favorite to take over.

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character) He's my protégé. I don't stand in his way.

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Anthony Soprano) Well, that's a ringing endorsement.

Unidentified Man: (As character) Hey, Tony.

BLAIR: Die-hard "Sopranos" fans are going to be eager to talk about what happened last night on their way to work, at the office, or online. Newspapers, TV, radio, blogs will weigh in too. That will make it hard for the millions of other fans who TiVo-ed it or planned to watch the finale when it repeats. They're on the dark about what happened, and they'd probably like to keep that way.

Mr. ALAN SEPINWALL (TV Critic): If you have not watched a TV show the night it aired, you basically have to stick your head in the sand to avoid having it ruined for you within the next couple of days or weeks.

BLAIR: Alan Sepinwall is the TV critic for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Like a lot of writers, he lets his readers know he's about to reveal a plot point with the words spoiler alert. He also leads an online chat about "The Sopranos." There, Sepinwall says, spoilers are a lot harder to prevent. As you might imagine, "The Sopranos" is pretty popular in New Jersey, where much of the show is filmed.

Mr. SEPINWALL: Every now and then in the middle of a chat someone will pop in and say, my cousin is dating a guy who works craft services for the show and he heard from the script girl that in this episode this is going to happen, and I have to immediately jump in and start typing in all capital letters and say no spoilers, no spoilers.

BLAIR: With so many twists and turns and important characters getting whacked, it's been a bit of a challenge for "The Sopranos" cast and crew to keep things secret. Writer Terry Winter says everyone who worked on the show signed confidentiality agreements.

Mr. TERENCE WINTER (Executive Producer, "The Sopranos"): Overwhelmingly we kept things really under wraps, and then, you know, we owe that to the crew and the people who work on the show for really being team players and doing that for the audience, because it really does - it does spoil it for you.

BLAIR: Winter says he kind of misses the days when you could assume everyone had seen the big television event of the week.

Mr. WINTER: Back in the '60s, way before videotape, you either saw it or you didn't see it. And if you didn't see, you were never going to see so it, so it didn't matter and everybody else could just talk about it.

BLAIR: Some people actually want to know in advance what's going to happen on their favorite shows. And there are Web sites like spoilerfix.com and mytvspoiler.com that cater to them. Plot twists are leaked, either by a loose-lipped crew member or a producer looking for a promotional opportunity.

Jason Mittell is a media studies professor at Middlebury College who co-authored a paper on spoiler fans and why they might want to know.

Professor JASON MITTELL (Middlebury College): Their pleasure has nothing to do with what happens next, but rather has to do with the experience of watching. I love these characters and I want to spend time with them, or I want to see how they react. You can't spoil a performance. You can't spoil a line of dialogue.

BLAIR: Yes you can, says Tom Patrillo. He says neither he nor any other true "Sopranos" fan would want to be spoiled. But Patrillo does think anyone who missed last night's finale will have a hard time today. His advice...

Mr. PATRILLO: Don't turn on the TV, don't turn on your computer, don't answer your phone. Just stay in bed until a rerun. There's going to be no way to avoid this one.

BLAIR: Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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