But, the UK version of “family friendly” is certainly at odds with what would be acceptable for us. Take the new Who, for instance. The 20ish companion lives with her mother in council flats (public housing), and there’s no father to be found. Her mother is a somewhat buffoonish horny middle-aged woman. When an alien ship crash lands in the Thames, the thing to do is to gather the neighbors around the telly and drink a bunch of beer. In other words, parental authority is not exactly what we’d consider to be role model worthy (even though family itself is portrayed in a good light).
I’ve seen “Rose,” the first episode of the new Who. I have to wonder if Atrios may have hit on the reason why the Sci-Fi Channel passed on the series. Reputedly, Sci-Fi said the series wasn’t up to their standards, that the effects looked dodgy, that the story was underwhelming. Look at some of what Sci-Fi produces–Alien Apocalypse, anyone?–and Doctor Who stands heads and shoulders above it.
Atrios says that Who wouldn’t be “acceptable for us.” But why? Could it be that Who dares to show a society that wouldn’t fit cozily on any American network? The realities of American society, the extreme social and fiscal stratification, aren’t reflected on television. Single-parent families are the rage on American television, but it’s always a single father. (Okay, there are rare exceptions like Eight Simple Rules, but that series wasn’t planned to be that way.) Parents don’t struggle to make ends meet, except maybe on Malcolm in the Middle, and when they do it’s played for comedic, not dramatic effect. Parents work, but work almost never effects the home life.
How dare television suggest that society is anything less than perfect? How dare television suggest that parents struggle in raising their children? How dare television suggest that unattractive people have sexual urges? How dare television suggest that government social programs may do some good?
American television won’t.
Could it be that Sci-Fi passed on Doctor Who because it did? That it showed British society with its rough edges intact?
There never was a “Golden Age” in American history, no matter what conservatives may think. There have always been people who struggle, who need the helping hand of society, who aren’t the squeaky clean people we see on television every day. Just because television largely ignores that doesn’t make it so.