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TV Etiquette: When Is It Ok To Talk

Maybe I’m a crotchety old man, but a lot of people cannot seem to keep their yaps shut when watching a TV show.

They ask questions like, “how are they going to get out of that locked room?!,” as if the show will prematurely end before a key plot point is resolved. Or, they ask for a multi-season recap after a major storyline from previous episodes/seasons is referred to, requiring the show to be paused.

And then there’s my favorite: color commentary recapping what just happened three seconds ago.

“Yes…Heisenberg and Walter are the same person…..”

I pretty much dread watching most TV shows with other people for fear of being taken out of the moment by repeated questions and comments. I get so irritated that I cannot stop myself from “shhhing” friends, which never ends well.

Some types of TV programs do lend themselves to discussion throughout, such as sports, but a lot of the time you need to keep your comments to yourself until the end of the credits.

So, here’s a guide to when it’s ok to talk and when you should turn to the internet (via your phone) to ask your question or make your not so witty comments.


“Oh my god, that’s the guy in love with Keira Knightly in Love Actually…”

Simply don’t talk. It’s like going to a movie. If something doesn’t make sense or seems unclear, have faith that all questions will be answered by the end of the episode. And if not, you can always re-watch it.


“What’s Schmidt’s first name?   Do they still use the douche jar?”

If you don’t get the joke it’s probably not going to be funny even after someone explains it to you. And deconstructing punch lines without being asked to is the lowest form of conversation.


“This World Series is awesome.”

Talking is good, but make sure your commentary isn’t as cliché and banal as most announcers’: “they cannot win this game unless they score some touchdowns.”

Award shows

@JamesFrancoTV: Please kill me LOL

Talking is fine, except during musical performances and when people are accepting awards. And those moments are so few that you should be able to control yourself.

Reality TV

Poor elephant.  Poaching has more dignity.

The only thing that makes it bearable is expressing your disgust with the people on screen.  

Political debates

I wonder if Nixon is sick….He looks terrible.

Never while the candidates are talking — only when the moderator is talking.



Always ok, except during the Super Bowl.

Variety shows (e.g. The Colbert Report)

“You know ‘Stewart’ isn’t his real last name…”

Your friends are tuning in to hear the comedians tell jokes, not you talk over them.

The news

“My hopes and dreams have been accomplished.  My daughter is playing Pan.”

Similarly, you’re not the one delivering the news.

Finally, even when it’s ok to talk, still make sure you go through this checklist:

  • Are you stating the obvious? 
  • Where you the last person to talk? If so, was it less than 5 minutes ago. 
  • Will your question require a more than one sentence answer?
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