Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why am I doing this blog? Doctor Who?

Right now this blog is mostly just an archive of thoughts I've had or things I have posted here or on usenet. I'm trying to figure out why I'm doing it...and mostly it is to archive some things that I'm "chewing on". I'm collecting facts and refining my opinions. But what conclusion am I trying to reach for?

Unlike many educated soap fans, I am not a student of drama or literature, and I couldn't tell you which writer gives better dialogue or long-story...

I am someone with training in behavioral science, quantitative methods, and gerontology. For me, soaps are a more personal adventure. It is something I was brought to by my grandmother. It is a genre that is about as old as the oldest grandparent. And, like those grandparents, it is slowly dying out.

For me, my quest is to understand the rise and fall, and how it ties to the particular generation that lived throughout the 20th century. I seek to find out what social forces have killed the soap, and whether there is hope for a resurgence. I'm trying to find out what made soaps so perfect for the pre-war era (on radio) and the post-war era (on TV), and why they have been declining ever since.

In another part of my life, I have become a rabid fan of Dr. Who (the new series, with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant). The early Doctor Who had a kind of a serial format (more telenovela I guess...lots of 2-7 part stories). It had truly the cheapest, cheapest production values, and it was not aimed at the mainstream but a marginalized audience (children, sci fi fans).

And like the soaps, Doctor Who fell off in popularity, until it was finally shuttered.

During the resting period, the hunger for it grew.

When BBC America finally brought it back, they did some interesting things. First, they gave the new version a budget....for a real prime time show. Second, they decided on limited exposure (13-week runs once a HBO). Third, they hired a leading and innovative show runner (Russell T. Davies, Queer As Folk) with a love for the classic show (he knew it), but also a unique vision of how to modernize it. Fourth, they cast the role of Doctor Who with top, known talent (esp. Christopher Eccleston in Season One of the rejuvenated show).

And the thing is an EXPLOSIVE hit. I can't wait, every week, to see new episodes. The franchise has been fully refreshed. With its innovative casting and high production values, it has been made appealing to a new generation that could not sit still for "grandpa's old version".

It is this, I believe, that is the path to rebirth for American soaps. So a big part of my internal dialogue about these shows is trying to understand how we can make them relevant and appealing for the next generation. But there is already one piece of evidence that suggests my thinking that "Dr. Who is the paradigm" may be wrong: I consider the failure of primetime Dark Shadows in the 80s or 90s a worrisome sign that soaps may not be amenable to transformation. In that case, they become like the Western...a lost relic of a past century.

1 comment:

Clamzilla said...


I'm loving your blog, but this Doctor Who part of your life is something I never knew about. I am a total addict. I scour the boards, the blogs, the BBC, Youtube, etc. for any tidbit about The Doctor, Torchwood, and even The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Wait for the season finale: Everyone is in it ~ Rose, Mickey, Jackie, Martha, Donna, Sarah Jane, Luke, Captain Jack and Gwen! I'm so excited!!!