For one, I'm a spoiler freak. Midway through a murder mystery, when I can't stand the suspense anymore, I'll sneak a peek at the end. So I love it when the column devoted to spoiled goods, "Ask Ausiello," notes that ("Friday Night Lights" mavens, SPOILER AHEAD!) Lyla and Tim will be getting back together.
Then there are those TV episode recaps/critiques -- vaguely shame-inducing because I keep thinking, George Clooney helped out in Darfur; how are you advancing humanity by reading speculation on some fictional character's health? (But thank heaven Brenda on "The Closer" is going to be all right.)
Still, I appreciate that most of my favorites (including "Mad Men" and, yes, "The Closer") from this stellar summer season are now getting the morning-after treatment here. The writers may not always hit the highwater mark of my favorite recap site, Television Without Pity -- but those entries describe everything that happens on a show, and even I have a limit on how much time I can waste on such, um, ephemera.
Another of TVGuide.com's plusses: its witty spin on insider tidbits. Take the intriguing news that the writing staffs of two veteran CBS shows -- "CSI" and "Two And A Half Men" -- plan to change places, with each writing an episode for the other's show next season. Sure, that item was covered in several other venues. But only TVGuide.com noted about a possible "CSI"-like "Men" plot: "This hasn't been confirmed, but a little birdie tells me that Alan [the Felix Unger-like protagonist] will find a stain on a favorite piece of furniture and decide to use science to discover who was responsible."
Actually I'm not sure if that's a genuine scoop or just Michael Ausiello, the site's king of spoilers, being his snarky self.
In fact, Ausiello is a big reason I visit the site. I've got a love-hate thing going with Michael: love his snappy humor, hate his cutesy, narcissistic schtick on both his Web columns and his vodcast ("I'm TV Guide's Little Deuce Scoop"?)
Another of the site's benefits is its smart criticism. TV Guide veteran Matt Roush raises the level of discourse significantly in his individual reviews as well as his Q&As with industry-savvy readers. In "Movie Talk," an original TVGuide.com weekly video, two Siskel and Ebert wannabes inform their insightful commentary with a thorough knowledge of film history.
Branching out into movie reviews is a misstep, though -- as it was when the print mag used to feature cover shots of upcoming movies. It's still TV Guide, not Entertainment Weekly.
Still, both the print and Web editions have been trying to evolve beyond the brand's former signature feature, TV listings. The Web site has perhaps been more successful, branching out into blogs, podcasts and vodcasts and such, but it's still very much a work in progress.
Those podcasts, for example, feature assorted editors rehashing stories already covered elsewhere on the site, complete with awkward, local-TV-news-type banter. The jury is still out on the Online Video Guide, now in beta testing, which its creators say will eventually index user-generated content, but right now majors in official network TV clips and episodes.
The site's celeb blogs are likewise uneven, ranging from the barely literate ("It will be very fun I'm sure," writes one soap opera actress) to my favorite -- last season's posts from Jenna Fischer of "The Office," who comes across as a savvier version of her down-to-earth TV self. Also fascinating are the infrequent entries from James Duff, creator of "The Closer," who, for example, has taken us backstage to the writer's room.
That's great insider stuff. Which leads me back, of course, to those spoilers -- what's more insidery than knowing what will happen in advance? And now, if you're reading the current print issue of TV Guide and wondering who's having that "illicit office romance" on "Mad Men," here's a video hint. This spoiler game is catching -- especially for an only child (me), traditionally the "spoiled" one.