On Doctor Who and American television

Every day I read Atrios‘s webpage for a quick survey of political trends of the day. Just today, he posted about Doctor Who. From his comments on the new Christopher Eccleston series:

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.

4 thoughts on “On Doctor Who and American television

  1. Sorry, but that doesn’t track for me at all. Let’s ignore network television, since WHO would never be on a network anyhow, and just stick with cable. We have single mothers all over the place: THE SHIELD, RESCUE ME, MONK, and DEADWOOD to name four. Heck, Sci-Fi’s own STARGATE SG1 even had one in Dr. Frasier, who was raising an alien teenager by her lonesome.

    And do you really think that the network that airs BATTLESTAR GALACTICA — which shows human society at its =worst= and has the bad guys as the monotheists — is going to reject WHO on those grounds?

    Sci-Fi right now has STARGATE SG1, STARGATE ATLANTIS, and BSG. =Those= are the standards against which they measured WHO.

  2. Heck, Sci-Fi’s own STARGATE SG1 even had one in Dr. Frasier, who was raising an alien teenager by her lonesome.

    We don’t know whether or not Dr. Fraiser was alone, do we? (Other four probably still stand, though–haven’t seen any of those. :smile:)

    Sci-Fi right now has STARGATE SG1, STARGATE ATLANTIS, and BSG. =Those= are the standards against which they measured WHO.

    Well, I’m finding Doctor Who a lot more interesting and entertaining than this last season of SG-1…. :???:

  3. yeah! Allyn, you ignorant slut!:shock: you think Sci Fi gives a toss about Rose’s horny mom when they have mechanized evangical Christians wiping out mankind.:lol:

  4. The “real” reason “WHO” wasn’t picked-up by Scifi is two-fold. ONE, the Beeb wanted more for it than Sciffy was willing to pay. 2)Sciffy really po’ed Lionheart back in the beginning claiming to have ALL the “Doctor Who” episodes when in reality, SCIFI only had a season or two of “Tom B’s” stories WHICH they showed 4 times over.

    Who wants to see “Doctor Who” on SCIFFY anyway?,…5 minute long commercial breaks
    The BBC should locate it on BBC America for a much needed “boost” to that channel’s reputation. .

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