I sometimes suspect that the difference in enjoyment between watching a show with spoilers and watching it “fresh” is not as big as might be expected. Most shows, you’re there to hang with your favourite characters, so finding out who the murderer is is not that big a deal. Now, a show like Lost is a different matter because it depends heavily on surprises, which makes spoilers more damaging. But even the impact of most of the “surprises” depends more on stuff that can’t be described in a spoiler — the execution of the scene, the characters’ reactions.
Knowing in advance what’s going to happen certainly does change the way we view a show; we see it more analytically and are able to watch more for how the show will do something than what they’re going to do. But that’s not necessarily a lesser enjoyment. Watching a show after reading spoilers is like a strange halfway point between watching it for the first time and watching it for the second — it’s’s not as involved as the former and not as detached as the latter. It can be very enjoyable in its own right, and I can see why some viewers would want to learn more about upcoming plot twists so they can focus more on other things about the show.
That’s one reason why people might want to read spoilers. Another is that spoilers can help you decide whether the episode is going to be tolerable or not. This is particularly helpful for a show that’s going through an uneven patch and where you’re never sure, week to week, if it’s worth an hour of your time. In the last season of Buffy I would reasd the spoilers quite a bit, even down to those detail-by-detail summaries that got posted on the morning of the broadcast. (People who can somehow get the satellite feed of a show can see it hours before it airs anywhere.) And the reason I did that was not that I was interested in telling anybody what was going to happen — I’m cruel, but not that cruel — but because I was only interested in watching if it wasn’t going to have Buffy/Spike schmooping or Buffy making a long irritating preachy speech, and those were things you just couldn’t know from the brief descriptions or the previews. Talk to a person who reads spoilers for a show and you’re likely to find that he/she has misgivings about where the show is headed. If you read the spoilers and like what they’re telling you, that can allow you to enjoy the episode more because you’re not watching it with the sinking feeling that Horrible Stupid Character X might make a return appearance.
I’m not saying you should read spoilers; you probably shouldn’t. But I’ve read them, and some of you out there have probably read them, and there are reasons for that.
By the way, this is a post about spoilers with no spoilers in it.