Yaarrrr, here there be spoilers about Dr. Who, the Sopranos, and Lost
Some of my favorite TV shows have involved speculation.
LOST: What's in the hatch?
THE SOPRANOS: What happened to the Russian? What did that last scene mean after the mob warned off Gloria Trillo?
DOCTOR WHO: Who is River Song? Why did the Doctor have to die?
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: WHO IS THE FREAKIN' MOTHER ALREADY? JUST TELL ME! I'M SICK OF THIS GARBAGE!!!
These shows do multiple things. First, they entertain. They're fun, they load up on the cliffhangers and unanswered questions and they keep me tuning in (Well, at least until there are more questions than answers, and you can see the writers giving up and start fumbling the ball--Yes, I'm looking at you, THEY'RE DEAD FOR A WHOLE SEASON, LOST.)
Second, they get the fans talking. If a show is exciting enough, I'll start looking more about it. I'll read some SPOILER FREE speculation blog posts. I'll email some friends. I'll pretend there's a water cooler at work and stand in a corner pretending to talk to people about what I watched. I'll make up what I think are cool theories about the show. I'll listen to other people's whacked out--can't possibly be right--theories as well.
And I started to realize something.
The deeper and more compelling the stories gets, the less people listen to what's going on and speculate about what they WANT to happen. And then, when it doesn't, it gives them a reason to get angry.
Let me give you an example: The Russian in THE SOPRANOS. People kept expecting the Russian to come back after disappearing in the Pine Barrens (and likely dying from a gun shot wound and cold weather.). But people didn't want to believe that. Despite anything the dialogue said, people expected the Russian to be back in the final episode, shooting Tony in the head... even though Tony HAD NOTHING TO DO with the Russian event.
Or look more recently at Doctor Who. There is a whole blog post speculating about River/Mels/Melody's regenerations. Multiple. Even though in the show's reality, she's only done it once. As Mels is regenerating into River, she says, "The last time I did this..." and goes on to describe the regeneration at the end of Day of the Moon.
What's the deal with this?
Do people care about what they're watching or reading? Or do they just want to make up their own fan fiction and hope that happens in the show...?
I've even been known to do it a time or two.
But mostly, all you have to do is listen. Give it a try sometime.