Saturday, November 1, 2014

Doctor Who Weekend: Life After Who or Coming To America

Hi there, Whovians! 

Dave-El here and welcome to another double shot of Doctor Who Weekend. Tonight we have the premiere of part 1 of the Serie 8 finale, Dark Water, where the Doctor is finally going to meet Missy of the Nethersphere and maybe we can start finding out what her game is. But I must remember we're dealing with Steven Moffat here so we may have more questions than answers before we're through. Anyway, my review of this episode will be posted on my blog Sunday.  

In the meantime, I thought I would look at a somewhat interesting confluence of events. Two American TV shows debuted this fall starring former stars from Doctor Who: David Tennant (10th Doctor) in Gracepoint which airs on FOX and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) in Selfie which is on ABC.  So how are these two stalwarts of Doctor Who doing on American TV? 

Of the two, Tennant certainly has the critical edge. Based on the popular British TV murder mystery Broadchurch (which also starred Tennant), Gracepoint centers around the murder of a young boy and the disruption to the lives and secrets of those who live in the ocean side community of Gracepoint. Tennant plays Emmett Carver, a police detective transplanted from the big city after a previous investigation had gone horribly wrong. Carver is not a fun dude. At all. He’s very taciturn most of the time but when he does speak, you wish he would shut up. Blunt and totally lacking in empathy, he constantly grates on the nerves of Detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) who is partnered up with this enigma wrapped up in a total bastard. 

Ellie is a long time resident of Gracepoint; she knows the people and she knows how this horrible act of murder has hurt not just the boy’s family but the whole town. Carver, it seems, could not care less. He hates being in Gracepoint and everything about it. But this is his penance for his sins, real and perceived.  It’s to Tennant’s credit that we can sense there is a burden he carries and the viewer is sympathetic to it but the viewer is also rooting for Ellie to slap Carver upside the head. Really hard.  

Off to less auspicious start is Selfie, an updated take on My Fair Lady featuring Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley. Eliza is obsessed with achieving fame through social media. Meanwhile her actual social skills with real people are severely lacking so Henry Higgs (John Cho) takes on the job of teaching Eliza such important things as saying “Hello” and “How are you?” 

The pilot episode was a disaster. While my wife watched the episode, I was catching up on same reading, specifically an article about those terrorist bastards, ISIS. I laughed more than she did. And I mean she did not laugh once. From what I was listening to (and my wife backed this up), there was virtually no outright comedic moments, just a lot of embarrassing situations that were more pathetic than funny. 

The main saving grace for Selfie is it’s companion on ABC’s schedule, Manhattan Love Story, which critics deemed an even worse show and was cancelled after 4 episodes. Selfie still hangs in there and some viewers who have stuck around say the show has actually gotten better. As bad as the pilot was, it had to get better. But is it better enough to warrant a second look? We’ll see.

The big measure of TV success isn’t critical acclaim but ratings and neither show is doing that great on that front. Selfie debuted with a 1.6 rating which wasn’t spectacular to begin with and fell to 1.0 in its third week. There was an uptick to a 1.1 rating in week four which also brought in the show’s highest viewer total outside the pilot episode. So there may be something there or ABC really doesn't have anything better to replace it with. 

Meanwhile Gracepoint’s numbers are worse with a 1.1 rating for the premier episode and has hovered at .9 and .8 in the 3 weeks following with steadily declining viewer totals. One factor in favor of Gracepoint is that it was developed and marketed as a 10 episode event which means FOX is committed to seeing it through. However, no one says they have to see it through on Thursday nights or even on FOX. The rest of the series could be burned off on Saturday night or moved to the FX cable channel. 

Here are some other Doctor Who actors in recent American television productions.

  • Christopher Eccleston in The Leftovers on HBO (renewed for a 2nd season)
  • Billie Piper in Penny Dreadful on Showtime (also renewed for a 2nd season)
  • Frema Agyeman in The Carrie Diaries on The CW (cancelled after the 2nd season)
  • Catherine Tate in The Office (US) on NBC (she joined the cast in 2011, the series ended in 2013)
  • John Barrowman in Arrow on The CW (entering it's 3rd season this year)
  • And also on Arrow since 2013: Alex Kingston.   
American fans of classic Doctor Who remember when seeing Doctor Who actors on American television shows was a rarity. Tom Baker made an appearance once on Remington Steele (which starred a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan) and Peter Davison had a guest spot in an episode of Magnum P.I..  By comparison, the modern era has a virtual plethora of Doctor Who performers on American TV.  

The global success of Doctor Who certainly puts its actors in front of a lot of potential producers and casting directors looking to cast their next project and the current cache of Doctor Who may bring a fair number of those numerous Whovians to check out a different show.   It's great for actors we have admired to find new success and new audiences. Without new endeavors, Doctor Who may be seen more as an anchor and less as a foundation. Even as actors move on, we hope they continue to think kindly of their days in the TARDIS.  


While this piece was intended to focus on Doctor Who actors on American television, I couldn't help but post this photo of a certain cover to Entertainment Weekly. 

Yep, our own Matt Smith, in a prominent role in a big budget blockbuster. If this movie is any good and does well at the box office, Matt may have a 2nd major sci-fi franchise to add to his resume. Just remember, Matt, list Doctor Who first, OK?

The clock is ticking down.  At 9 PM Saturday night, the El family will have eyes fixed on the screen as Dark Water premieres. 
  • Who is Missy?
  • What is her plan?
  • What is the Nethersphere?
  • Why are the Cybermen involved?
  • What does the future hold for Danny Pink?
  • What is the fate of Clara Oswald?
  • Will the Doctor find triumph or tragedy?

Watch the episode tonight. 

Be back tomorrow for my review.

Until then, be good to one another.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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