Today’s TV Addict Top 5: Lessons American TV Can Learn From DOCTOR WHO

Big name actors need not apply.
Let’s face it, short of “John,” it doesn’t get anymore generic than Matt Smith. Yet that didn’t stop the BBC and the creative team behind DOCTOR WHO from handing over the reigns of what is arguably their country’s most recognizable export to an actor that would leave even the most ardent TV Addict asking, “Who?” And lucky for us, what Matt Smith lacks in name recognition he more than makes up for with acting talent, an energy that is almost hypnotic and chemistry with another relative unknown, sidekick Karen Gillan.

Not Lost.
Unlike the US networks attempt to find the next LOST — which has led to a string of disappointing and confusing mythological driven shows that have all been, or are on the brink of cancelation — the first two episodes we’ve seen of DOCTOR WHO couldn’t have been more welcoming for the neophyte viewer. Oh sure, there are of course few things we’re scratching our head over — like what exactly the good doctor’s connection to earth is and why it seems he is the last of his kind — but overall it’s nice to be able to jump into a series without needing a PhD in WHOology to enjoy the ride.

It’s all about the story.
If the CW’s short-lived not-so-BEAUTIFUL LIFE taught us anything, it’s that good looking actors can only take a series so far. Thus, if you want us to stick around for more than an episode or two, you’re going to have to bring compelling stories and original ideas to the table. Take Saturday’s episode entitled “The Beast Below” for example, which told the story of a futuristic British society that was trapped on a spaceship in search of a new home. Turns out, what on the surface seemed like little more than a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ripoff was a compelling and heartwarming tale that touched on the role of government, animal rights, and social justice. In other words, top notch storytelling that more than makes up for…

A total lack of a special effects budget.
Regardless of whether or not DOCTOR WHO’s cheestacular visuals are a creative choice or a budgetary one, it’s astounding what we’re willing to look past when we’re so caught up in the story. Seriously. Villainous “Smilers” that look as though they were left over from the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA circa 1978 are fine by us as long as the writers continue to deliver stories that pack the emotional wallop of Saturday’s ending that had us tearing up over a ridiculously constructed “Star Whale” that decided to sacrifice itself to save humanity.

British people just sound smarter.
And while we’re the first to admit that American networks can do very little about this last point, we for some reason or other simply feel the need to point out that British (and while we’re on the subject Australian) actors just sound cooler than us. Thus, if the foreign invasion of our small screen is going to continue (see: Joseph Fiennes, Alex O’Loughlin, Hugh Laurie and Sonya Walger to name a few), the least networks could do is allow them to keep their native accent. We’re just sayin’

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  • So I wasn't the only one tearing up. Good to know. I just don't believe American TV has the sensibility of a show like Doctor Who. I'm sure it doesn't play to the almighty “demo” that American TV needs to continue for a full season let alone over 750 episodes.
    Thank god for BBC America otherwise I would just pirate it. And I must say there are a million sites to do that.

  • Hil

    Who knew good writing and good acting might make good tv! Send the memo around to the networks.

    >Turns out, what on the surface seemed like little more than a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ripoff

    Technically, they were just waiting for the solar flairs to calm down so they could return to Earth again. Old school ep Ark in Space is based on the same event.

    >British (and while we’re on the subject Australian) actors just sound cooler than us

    Not only that, a lot of them come from a theatrical background rather than the Hollywood route where looks tend to come first and then acting a distant afterthought. That isn't true for every American actor of course, but quite a few are obvious candidates.

  • crystalinad

    I love their lack of special effects. If you want to see really low budget then you gotta get on the last few seasons for that. The new season is almost too flashy. 😉

  • joshemerson

    I'm totally with you on #5. I love foreign accents. lol I'd throw Yvonne Strahovski on that list too. It's so weird to hear her in interviews with her actual voice.

    I was going to say that I agree with #1 and prefer unknown actors, but having a big name isn't necessarily bad. 30 Rock comes to mind.

  • I think catching up with DR WHO will be my summer project.

  • EricDaemonstv

    Totally agree with everything you said. I would add one more thing: Doctor Who (actually British Shows in general) have no problem killing off major characters if it serves their storyline. If 24 was a British show, Jack Bauer would have been killed off a long time ago. This is a refreshing approach compared to the timid US approach to major TV characters.

    As you are catching up on Doctor Who, I suggest you put Torchwood in your rotation as well. A fantastic show as well! While it is part of the Doctor Who Universe; it is also very gritty and realistic. Definitely worth watching

  • Jillian

    I love Doctor Who–I've been watching since I was a little kid and enjoyed seeing the series pick up again. Matt Smith is brilliant as the new face of the Doctor and I'm loving the stories this series too.

  • Dave

    You definitely have to do this. I over the winter caught on to who on netflix. Almost all of it is on instant viewing. I absolutely fell in love with the show. Each season, each Doctor and each companion have their own pull but its almost certain to suck you in for each person. Even Donna Noble a women I thought was absolutely annoying, I still ended up liking her as the doctors companion. And if you teared up a little over this episode just wait til the special that is Tennent's last time as the doctor. Had me crying like a little girl.

  • Dave

    A big thing I think british tv has and Doctor Who in particular is emotion. You sort of hit on it but somehow they are so great at getting you sucked into the characters and the stories. I dont know if its the actors the writing or just the combination but watching the shows you just come to care about the characters. Even the small side character or even the beast below that you only see once in the space whale.

  • crystalinad

    Yes you must!

  • sapheronph

    One of the most fantastic shows. Please catch up TV-Addict, because your ignorance is getting slightly annoying now. And as Dave said the special with Tennant leaving… he was so AWESOME… had me bawling!

  • lipslikeasukal

    I think it's Walger not Walker.

    Now do us Americans get a couple of more points? Please?

  • Thanks for pointing out the error. Clearly I've had CHUCK on the brain!

  • Luke

    I don't see how the new Doctor Who has cheep effects. Everything they do looks beautiful, and there's clearly a great big budget.