The Everlasting Popularity of Doctor Who

The longevity of a tv series nowadays is maybe a few seasons. Rarely is it seen a series last over five decades. Times change and interests change and due to this, loyal television followers will leave a series if it moves in a way they’re no longer familiar with or if personalities change and they no longer feel connected. But how do shows sustain themselves when so many aspects of the series has shifted – Doctor who’s one of those series which has prevailed over time, rather than smallish chunks of time, over decades.

Since its inception in 1963, the series has successfully maintained popularity among the BBC longest running science fiction series, and probably holds that title for the majority of televisions series anywhere.

Most popular series have the normal scenarios played dozens of times through different characters and scenes. The slapstick humor that’s often seen in powerful series is a hard nail to strike repeatedly, although a lot of series have achieved such acclaim. But never before has a science fiction tv show been so embraced and followed that through significant social, economic and political changes, there’s an appeal to a huge audience.

Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who

Doctor that has been depicted by eleven faces, and over time they’ve developed from the older, yet distinguished, to mad scientist into more handsome characters. But it’s not the attractiveness of this character which has caused its success; it’s the uniqueness and creativity of the narrative that keep audiences coming back for more. The changing actors is readily explained through the life span of a Time Lord and their capacity to regenerate after suffering from an illness, injury or old age – the procedure changes physical appearance making new main characters more believable and adopted.

And although physically the Doctor has changed he’s maintained several character traits.


The series itself is about a Time Lord, and aliens who travels through space and time in a time machine named TARDIS. Because he’s traveling through time, he’s struck many famous figures that have segued into fascinating storylines and plots. There’s always and experience, and always a plot to every episode. As time continues, there are always new experiences to be created.

The show did not rely on romantic affections between characters for its own survival. The series is unique and portrays another principal character.

The Sitcom Effect

It’s only in recent years I can recall this outcry against Hollywood for redoing, re-imagining and scattering every movie in sight. Movies that didn’t ever have to find the light of day are being remade, and also movies which were created in the past decade are being imagined in a new manner. All the while the criticism is always the same. “Why can not Hollywood come up with any original thoughts?”

I am not saying I was not in that audience or that I’m still not. I was right there with each other moviegoer who rolled their eyes when Sony announced its reboot of the Spider man collection, or if David Fincher decided to re imagine The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as his next job, or when Sony announced the release of No Strings Attached just months after Paramount published its movie, No Strings Attached, of exactly the same premise. If someone wants to accuse Hollywood of reusing plots then they’d be correct in doing this, because Hollywood is guilty of this, but is that really such a bad thing though?

Commercial television has existed for close to seventy years, and if you wished to accuse anybody of reusing a plot line I’d say tv businesses are even more guilty of the offense than film studios. Case in point: I’m currently watching the sixth season of How I Met Your Mother, an fantastic sitcom that started in 2005. This is clear of course, because after six seasons, I have grown quite attached to these figures.

Taking a small detour, lets compare How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) to a different sitcom I’ve completely viewed, Scrubs, that came out in 2001. Both sitcoms are the identical show. HIMYM has Ted Mosby because its main character who narrates the story occasionally while Scrubs has Doctor John”J.D.” Dorian who does the exact same thing. HIMYM has Marshall and Lily who are the few who undergo the trials of a long term relationship and marriage while Scrubs has Turk and Carla who undergo the exact issues.

HIMYM has Barney Stinson who’s one player who fails at relationship because of his nature and provides Ted advice on relationship and lifestyle while Scrubs has Dr. Perry Cox who fails at relationship due to his nature and provides J.D. advice on lifestyle and at times dating. HIMYM has Robin Sherbatsky as the attractive single woman that has a new boyfriend every couple of episodes while Scrubs has Elliot who’s the attractive physician who does the exact same thing. In the Long Run, Elliot and J.D. wind up together on Scrubs, and I am still holding out for Robin and Ted to wind up together on HIMYM.

These are simply a couple of the similarities in the displays, and these are merely two sitcoms. If we compared both to other sitcoms such as Friends, Seinfeld, as well as Cheers, there could be striking similarities in each of these. The amazing this is that each these sitcoms were extremely popular in their own time, and the sitcom remains a highly common form of television.

The Sitcom Effect is why, and it is as follows: Given a specific personality, if the audience can get emotionally invested in that character; this is, have the ability to effectively put themselves in place of the character, then that viewers will follow that character to the ends of the earth and back. This is the backbone of good TV and is most evident in sitcoms, but crime dramas are just another perfect example of this. They watched four CBS shows which were practically the exact same show except that each used a different place and different men and women.

Now this isn’t to say sitcoms haven’t striven to distinguish themselves from each other. If I Met Your Mother didn’t attempt to be different then Scrubs then it’d be Scrubs rather than How I Met Your Mother. Each one has its own differences. A sitcom’s skin is extremely unique but the skeleton is basically the same. Whether the sitcom is taken in a mockumentary style like Modern Family and The Office, or the sitcoms centers more around a office or college like Parks and Recreation or Community, basically they’re the same.

This brings us back to picture. All too often I’ve heard that story is the key to creating a fantastic successful film. I don’t know whether I feel that anymore, because television and film have been using the exact same plot over and over again for decades, and yet we as entertainment junkies keep coming back. The Sitcom Effect keeps bringing us back again and again andI think deep down we’re okay with that. I can not tell you how often I have seen a movie that had a fantastic premise, but falls flat on its face, since the characters are stale and emotionless. Show us we and emotion, as the crowd, will become psychological! It gives us hope to find that this character who lives in an idealistic world and that we’ve spent so much time and effort into triumph in a big or small way, because we know, deep down inside, that if they could succeed or at least change for the better so can we or if they could find love then so can we or if they could conquer that army of invading aliens then so do we. The Sitcom Effect is truly just a fancy word for trust. If you guarantee us hope, then we’ll follow you everywhere, Hollywood.

So next time you automatically dismiss a movie or show as a result of its”tired and overused” plot think about this. If the characters are people you can relate to and love, perhaps that particular film or show is exactly what you require. If that’s true then embrace that, because, to tell the truth, Hollywood doesn’t show any signs of slowing down the rehashing, revamping, and rebooting train anytime soon.

P.S.. Who’d have thought a remake might be so beloved that it overshadowed its first that was made in 1932 and produced by Howard Hughes.

Copyright Zepler 2019
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