Eruditorum Press

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

48 Comments

  1. J Mairs
    May 31, 2013 @ 3:36 am

    You know, this is the first thing I've ever seen or read that has persuaded me that Big Brother has some merit.

    I'm appalled – barriers have broken down and my entire sense of self has been called into question.

    Reply

  2. Multiple Ducks
    May 31, 2013 @ 3:39 am

    Wow, this was enthralling – does Richard Jones have a blog we can follow?

    Reply

  3. peeeeeeet
    May 31, 2013 @ 3:55 am

    Great post. Not really relevant, but I find it interesting that when they did the "best of" to finish off the Channel 4 career, the pendulum had swung back towards salt-of-the-earth types, leading to Nadia's shrill egoism putting her on the villain's team, to her own apparent disbelief. Not long after on Channel 5, a transman wins after being so ordinary that his "journey" turned out to be nothing to do with his trans status (to Big Brother's apparent disbelief) and all about his bromance with the other popular guy. I like to think that says something about social change, though I'm not sure what.

    My main complaint about this episode, other than the initial disappointment of it being the second direct(ish) sequel in a row to earlier episodes I didn't care much for, was the aching contemporariness of the choices of shows to parody. It was as if Davies was saying, "what will last of television, for good or ill, is what is produced by my generation." That's probably a bit unfair – his thinking possibly didn't go much further than "heh – Anne-droid! Geddit?!" but I would still have dropped the Weakest Link and Trinny / Susannah bits and made it all about BB, which was the only one that seemed to have much potential.

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  4. Iain Coleman
    May 31, 2013 @ 4:24 am

    The confrontation between Craig and Nick is a genuinely compelling piece of drama. It's a man having his worldview and self-image relentlessly torn down, live on TV. I'm sure RUssell T Davies would have been gripped.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwmKjBY8mVo

    Reply

  5. SK
    May 31, 2013 @ 4:26 am

    It was as if Davies was saying, "what will last of television, for good or ill, is what is produced by my generation."

    Oh no, oh no, oh no. that's not it at all. He was just making explicit what everybody knows: that sci-fi is the genre out of all genres that is most about the present moment. Scif-fi tells you nothing about the future, and everything about the precise time it was made, and this is Davies recognising that fact and running with it by not even trying to make pointless guesses about what TV might be made in the future, but instead just transplanting 2004/5 into a sci-fi setting.

    Lie it or not, its eyewateringly honest.

    Reply

  6. Spacewarp
    May 31, 2013 @ 5:07 am

    Yeah, let's all go there instead! Sandifer is so Last Season.

    Reply

  7. Travis Butler
    May 31, 2013 @ 5:17 am

    But then it runs into a problem that I run into with a lot of satires of this kind. To be really, lastingly good, it has to be written so that the referencing material is enjoyable and entertaining in its own right, without the references. Otherwise, when the original contemporary material loses its relevance – or when the audience isn't familiar with the original – then it dries up and blows away.

    The original run of Looney Tunes is a classic example. Some of the shorts were based entirely around the references – like a battle between Bugs and Elmer, set in a restaurant filled with celebrity cameos, where the point was watching all the cameos – and today they don't have much to say to anyone beyond the few people who still recognize the cameos. Others, like the Honeymousers, were deliberate point-by-point retellings of the source material – but because the writers knew why the original material was funny in the first place, they were able to be funny in the same way even if you didn't recognize the references.

    Sadly, the references in this episode fall into the first category for me. Without any direct experience with any of these shows, the sections with Jack and the Doctor fell completely flat; instead of being entertaining television about people locked in a box, the Big Brother sections were a barrage of references and catchphrases that didn't make sense and weren't interesting in their own right. Rose's section in Weakest Link fared somewhat better, because more of the referenced game show tropes are universal, but I think I still missed many things. Whenever I re-watch the episode, I almost always skip ahead to the point where the Doctor and Jack have broken out of their sets.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with making commentary about the present moment, referencing contemporary issues – but it also needs to stand on its own well enough to say something to people who aren't intimately familiar with the details of the reference. If the episode had done more to show what life was like in a Big Brother house, instead of tossing around catchphrases and taking shortcuts that assume the viewer is familiar with the original, I think it would have been much better.

    (Of course, that gets back to the compression vs. running time debate, doesn't it?)

    Reply

  8. SK
    May 31, 2013 @ 5:27 am

    That's a problem with satire, sure, but I don't think Doctor Who has ever been made with the intention that it should still be intelligible in twenty years' time.

    Heck, some of it doesn't seem to have been made with the intention that it be intelligible this week.

    You could argue, and I might agree with you, that it would be better if Doctor Who were made with more of an eye on being something genuinely great that will stand the test of time like Edge of Darkness.

    But the fact is that it isn't, it never has been, and you can't single out Davies for that when every single other producer, script editor and head writer has taken exactly the same approach.

    If it's a flaw (and there's a good argument that it is) it's a flaw across all of Doctor Who, not one of Davies' specific flaws (and he has several).

    Reply

  9. Anton B
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:01 am

    'We love ‘behind the sofa’ so much because it accords with Doctor Who being fundamentally about how our furniture works. Doctor Who is a game we play with the way objects in our lounge create and maintain spaces.'

    Worth the price of admission for this sentence alone. Bonkers genius.

    Reply

  10. Travis Butler
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:07 am

    I would argue that it'd be better to be made with an eye to enduring goodness, yes, or at least to avoiding so many contemporary to-the-moment references that episode become incomprehensible in 20 years' time – and I would also argue with the suggestion that the show was never made this way, since I can't think of a single example off the top of my head where contemporary references made a Doctor Who episode incomprehensible years later, to the degree that Bad Wolf is even today.

    But that's not the argument I'm making. As I said, the topical British TV references were incomprehensible to me at the time the show originally aired. This wasn't 20 years down the road; this was in the here-and-now. (Although I think it's easy to argue that any references that don't fly contemporaneously will be even harder to understand two decades later.)

    My argument is that depending on references that can't stand on their own are a bad idea in general – not just because they lose their meaning in a few years, but because they lose their meaning now to anyone who isn't familiar with the original. References like that can be a nice little add-on to the people who get the joke, but they shouldn't be the foundation of a story.

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  11. Spacewarp
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:08 am

    Like Ace and the 7th Doctor encountering Courtney Pine in "Silver Nemesis". At the time most viewers might have been familiar with him, but now it's just some jazz guy that they watch, and why does Ace want his autograph anyway?

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  12. SK
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:15 am

    You lived in Britain in 2005 and were unfamiliar with the programmes parodied? I mean, I had little direct experience of them — I didn't watch any of them myself — but I fail to see how you could have existed in that place and time, watched any television at all — even just gone into a supermarket — and not got what a 'makeover show' was, for example.

    (Of course, if you weren't living in Britain, then you might not have been familiar with the concepts; but on the other hand then you weren't part of the target audience, so it's hardly surprising you didn't get it, and there's absolutely no reason why you should have done: there's no reason to make a piece of art comprehensible to every single human being on Earth, and such a thing would hardly be possible anyway).

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  13. Contumacy Singh
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:30 am

    "a criminal psychologist who’d worked with Charles Bronson"

    I suspect this should be Charles MANSON. Actor vs. Psychopath.

    Reply

  14. SK
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:37 am

    Nope.

    Reply

  15. peeeeeeet
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:48 am

    Scif-fi tells you nothing about the future, and everything about the precise time it was made, and this is Davies recognising that fact and running with it by not even trying to make pointless guesses about what TV might be made in the future, but instead just transplanting 2004/5 into a sci-fi setting.

    I don't disagree, but I think the problem with that argument is that both BB and The Weakest link had been going for half a decade at this point, so they weren't the watercooler shows they had once been – hence it seemed more of a comment on that generation of television, rather than just sampling what was currently considered culturally relevant. In the summer of 2005, off the top of my head, you'd choose The Apprentice and Lost, probably – though of course script-writing lead times might have prevented nodding to either of those. What an episode that could have been, though! Anyway, this set a bit of a precedent – Who's feeble pastiche of 24 wasn't made any better by coming several years after everyone else's…

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  16. Alan
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:00 am

    I've always been fascinated by BB in the abstract mainly because of what it suggests about the difference between Americans and Brits. Season 1 of BB America was a flop and nearly got canceled because it followed the same format as the UK version (i.e. two people are put up, and the audience votes on who gets eliminated, usually based on who they think is the "bad guy"). Unfortunately, this meant that everyone on the show capable of creating drama was quickly eliminated, and then the show got boring and people stopped watching. Big Brother America only became a hit when they changed the format so that the Head of Household puts up two nominees to be voted on by everyone else. At which point, the show became a series of mind games played by competing sociopaths.

    Seriously! The American winner of BB2 "Evil Doctor Rob" openly claimed to be a high-functioning sociopath, and he deliberately tried to drive a housemate to a nervous breakdown by making her think that her newlywed husband was angry over things she'd done in the house and wanted a divorce.

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  17. Anton B
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:05 am

    The Charles Bronson reffered to here is a Brit Psychopath serving life imprisonment not the Hollywood actor of the same name.

    Reply

  18. Travis Butler
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:06 am

    The Courtney Pine thing is the kind of reference I think is all right; it's cute if you know the reference and get the joke, but it's not important to the plot of the episode. It's there and gone in a minute or two, and at most you'd miss a quick laugh.

    And no, I'm not living in Britain. 🙂 But I have a similar relationship to the American show that I'd guess is the nearest cultural counterpart, Survivor; it's a cultural phenomenon, people toss around references like 'getting voted off the island' in casual conversation, but I've never seen it and have absolutely no plans to. And I would have similar objections to a US show basing an episode around Survivor references that are crucial yet unsupported in the same way that Bad Wolf does.

    I also think the argument is still reaching for strawmen. "there's no reason to make a piece of art comprehensible to every single human being on Earth"? Maybe not, but that's not what I'm arguing; I could just as easily say "there's no reason to make a piece of art that casually excludes huge swaths of people just because they haven't seen a source reference and the writers are too lazy to demonstrate what they're referring to." We're not talking about spending so much time explaining things that someone in an Amish community who's never seen a TV set will understand.

    If the source is good enough/important enough to be a centerpiece of a work like this, surely the work can afford to show enough of it that the references make sense?

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  19. SK
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:14 am

    If the source is good enough/important enough to be a centerpiece of a work like this

    You mean 'good enough/important enough' to be a centrepiece of a bit of Saturday evening light entertainment?

    That's not a very high bar…

    Thing is, every moment spent explaining Big Brother would have been a moment of crushing boredom to the target audience, who would be screaming, 'Why are you acting like we've never seen big Brother?'. So you're basically asking for the work to be made worse for the target audience, to benefit people who, well, it isn't being made for.

    And it is, after all, only Saturday evening light entertainment. I think even Davies would agree with that, except he'd say that there's nothing 'only' about Saturday evening light entertainment…

    Reply

  20. Anton B
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:21 am

    I've lost count of the number of times I've been brought up short by a topical reference to some product or celebrity in U.S. TV shows. My usual reaction is to mentally shrug and say to myself 'this wasn't made for me. I can't be expected to understand everything'. It's usually possible to contextualise the reference and get the gist of tbe meaning. I remember a whole episode of 'Friends' revolving around the inherent hilarity and cultural significance of 'Pottery Barn' , I still don't know what kind of store that is specifically but by back engineering the gags I figured it to be some kind of pretentious faux retro shop. It didn't spoil my enjoyment, it actually probably enhanced it, I learnt something about another culture. Doctor Who is so quintessentially British that I would have thought this muat be a common occurance for non-Brits.

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  21. Travis Butler
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:59 am

    Sigh. No, I'm not asking for the show to spend 20 minutes 'explaining' Big Brother. I'm asking for it to demonstrate enough of the show that the references make sense.

    Take the Honeymousers cartoon I referenced at the start of this thread. It was a 1956 cartoon based off of an early-50's TV series called the Honeymooners, starring Jackie Gleason as a working-class schlub with a short temper, an oddball friend, and a wife he would trade smart-aleck remarks with. He and his buddy would often get into impractical schemes to 'make it big' that failed spectacularly.

    Did the cartoon stop to explain all that? No! It just showed the character expys doing their normal routines, getting up to schemes reminiscent of the original show. And it was funny. It was funny to people who knew the original show, because here were mice doing great takeoffs of the original show and characters, adapted to the world of cartoon mice. But it was also funny to people who'd never seen the show, because the characterizations and plot were developed to the point where they were funny in themselves – not just as satires of the original.

    And that's the standard I want to hold this kind of thing to. You think Big Brother is cool enough to spend half an episode referencing? Then show it! If it really is entertaining, then people shouldn't mind watching the cast go through enough of the regular schtick for the references to make sense, as long as the writers do a good job of portraying the original.

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  22. Ununnilium
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:59 am

    Same! It's pretty great.

    Reply

  23. Contumacy Singh
    May 31, 2013 @ 8:17 am

    Oops. Thanks for clarifying for us non-Brits. 😉

    Reply

  24. Froborr
    May 31, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    I'm an American who's never seen an episode of Big Brother. I had absolutely no problem whatsoever following "Bad Wolf."

    Frankly, the "What Not to Wear" bit was more confusing–for years I thought Jack was stuck backstage, being prepared for some show that he never actually got to because he escaped first.

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  25. Froborr
    May 31, 2013 @ 8:32 am

    "Jack’s up against the most sinister expression of the principle – television that encourages you to reject yourself, to vote your own identity out of the house"

    Oh good. I was worried I was the only person who thought "What Not to Wear" is one of the vilest, most evil things ever put on television.

    I've never seen the British version, but the American one basically boils down to, "Oh, hello person who has their own sense of styles or differing priorities. Your friends are weirded out by this, so we're going to force you to throw out all your clothes and conform."

    I imagine by now they're probably just shoving people into Dalek shells and calling it a day.

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  26. peeeeeeet
    May 31, 2013 @ 9:54 am

    I figured it to be some kind of pretentious faux retro shop

    I assumed, as I usually do when something gets name-checked that heavily in a US show, that it's product placement! I know the episode centred around Phoebe's hatred of Pottery Barn, but everyone else was going "HOW CAN ANYONE HATE POTTERY BARN!!!" so much. I mean, who couldn't use an apothecary table?

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  27. Arkadin
    May 31, 2013 @ 9:55 am

    I do wonder what Doctor Who fans in 50 years are going to make of this episode. Will there be enough cultural memory of reality TV that it makes some kind of sense, or will it be as incomprehensible now as the role of holiday camps in The Macra Terror? (RTD bringing back the Macra makes a weird kind of sense in that light.)

    Either way, I am looking forward to reading an erudite blog post from whoever the equivalent of Philip Sandifer is about the history and context of reality TV.

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  28. Archeology of the Future
    May 31, 2013 @ 10:40 am

    I hate the idea that things should be timeless. Nothing is timeless. Things are always of their time, even things that try to pitch for a timeless quality.

    The idea that something 'dates quickly' is only an issue for people who have a beetling discomfort with being in the now of popular culture for the fear of backing the wrong horse and being shown up, in future, to have had dubious tastes.

    Things that persist tend to either also include something that makes the story speak to those not present into its first blush of exposure (themes, characters etc) or become celebrated for the very textual or textural qualities that do precisely date them.

    This blog has talked a lot about the fan embarrassment terror of Doctor Who, the feeling that the show that you love will look silly or childish when there are others around to witness it. This for me seems to be similar to the idea of soul deadening idea of 'guilty pleasures', cultural artefacts that you herd into a pen away from your respectable likes so that no one will ever suggest that you are one of the plebs rather than respectables.

    It always puzzles me a bit when Doctor Who fans love 'classic telly' but don't like telly now. It's as if they're waiting for history to decide what the 'correct' and comfortable taste to have is rather than getting in there and rooting about in the dense and confusing undergrowth of popular culture for themselves. It's a strangely posthumous business, only allowing yourself to like something once its finished. It's almost as if you're trying to avoid a betrayal.

    I think there's a kind of battle going on here over shared culture and who gets to define it. The idea that Big Brother and Doctor Who are separate types of entertainment seems to suggest a discomfort with the idea that shared culture isn't just placed in one container. Similarly with the idea that Doctor Who must be 'timeless' or only concerned with its own self referential world. Both seek to create a space for Doctor Who that is outside of the normal world and normal concerns, and more importantly, as far away as possible from 'those people', those people who are loud and brash and vulgar.

    I think there's a lovely tension in the way that RTD first encapsulates that tension himself (Doctor Who nerd, committed telly watcher, devote of popular culture) and the fact that it eventually finds its way into 'The Waters of Mars' and the discussion of 'little people'.

    I loved Big Brother up until the point where the manipulation outweighed the people. I still love 'reality television'.

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  29. Anton B
    May 31, 2013 @ 11:00 am

    Yeah Travis I get your point but I think the episode spent exactly enough time on BB and the other game shows. I suspect you think you've missed something or some 'clever' reference that just wasn't there. The setting pastiched the idea of game shows in general using specific shows that were contemporary at the time because..well, why not? Would you rather they'd made up some fictitious ones rather than use existing references that, yes may have had a frisson of recognition for Brit audiences but that wasn't the point. The point was a bit of fun then Daleks and regeneration!

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  30. Anton B
    May 31, 2013 @ 11:12 am

    peeeeeeet (was that the right number of eeees?) Of course product placement is another thing entirely from pastiche and I suspect you're right about the apothecary table. I wouldn't be surprised if a little bit of product placement/network balance was behind the inclusion of What Not to Wear and Weakest Link, particularly as they are BBC programmes where BB is not. This is, I believe, why those sections fell a little flat where the BB house scene worked well as both a literal incarceration for the Doctor and as social satire. There is probably something to be explored in the choice of of bitchilly hosted general knowledge quiz for Rose and flirty fashion embarrasement for Jack. I'm sure Doctor Sandifer will oblige.

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  31. Anton B
    May 31, 2013 @ 11:36 am

    Classic Doctor Who also had contemporary pop culture references which have 'dated' or had their meaning changed by subsequent events. In the very first episode there is Susan's startling prediction of decimalisation ( not such a hot topic now) and, as has been pointed out, the Doctor specifically compares the 'bigger on the inside' nature of the TARDIS to the effect of watching a television. In a later scene the Doctor shows Ian and Barbara footage of the Beatles which Vicki is surprised to recognise as 'classical music' In The War Machines a girl in a night club looks at Hartnell and says 'He looks like that DJ' ( bit unfortunate this one in light of current events as it's a reference to the disgraced Jimmy Saville), the various hints in the UNIT era of female Prime Ministers etc. I guess in a show about time travel it would be odd not to contrast current events with an imagined future.

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  32. Froborr
    May 31, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

    I'm not sure "guilty pleasure," at least as it's now used, actually denotes any guilt. I read it–and use it–more as "things I like for personal reasons, but am unwilling or unable to defend the artistic merits of."

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  33. Scurra
    May 31, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    But Big Brother is the only "reality" television we have or have ever had because of its unedited nature. The reason it works at all is that some of the observers* are not making judgements based on carefully edited highlights (or lowlights), but on long term experience. I can't think of any other show in the genre that doesn't distort the "reality" significantly – although obviously it's hard to make a fair judgement about that because we don't see the rest of the material. But the folks who put The Apprentice together can't be that cynical about the contestants, surely? 🙂

    *obviously most observers/voters were making judgements based on highlights shows or surreal parallel channel discussions, but some were prepared to invest the time to do it properly. Although not me.

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  34. Alan
    May 31, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

    I remember the Brigadier's reference to a female PM in "Robot" and assumed at the time it was referring to Thatcher. I was stunned to realize years after the fact that"Robot" aired several years before she became PM.

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  35. Froborr
    May 31, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

    How is it conceivably possible that anyone anywhere saw an unedited version? I mean, I suppose if there were a version with only one, fixed-position camera, and all the housemates stayed within that camera's field of view at all times, you could have an unedited version. Or you could spend months watching all the feeds from all the cameras for a single week, but by that time (a) you have already imposed an editorial judgment by selecting which order to view the cameras in, and (b) you've long passed the voting deadline for the week.

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  36. JohnB
    May 31, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

    "I imagine by now they're probably just shoving people into Dalek shells and calling it a day."

    Only on other channels. 😉

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  37. Scurra
    June 1, 2013 @ 12:52 am

    OK, that's a fair point – it's a definition argument as usual: by "unedited" I meant approximately that the transmission feed was uninterrupted rather than that a single person could encompass everything that happened.
    I think I was merely trying to differentiate a long-form broadcast in which you could spend all day observing if you so chose from a show which selected "highlights" for you and served them up later in a concise narratively constructed package. BB was a rare example of the former.

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  38. Ross
    June 1, 2013 @ 5:51 am

    @Froborr: For me, the behavior of the droids in the 'What Not To Wear' segment fit enough other stereotypes about OTT fashonistas that it took about ten seconds to just go "Oh, this must be some kind of extreme fashion makeover thing"

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  39. Ross
    June 1, 2013 @ 6:14 am

    It's as if they're waiting for history to decide what the 'correct' and comfortable taste to have is rather than getting in there and rooting about in the dense and confusing undergrowth of popular culture for themselves.

    Fits a bit with what I said a lot after I had my falling out with the fan-industrial complex:

    You can pretty much take any conversation you've ever overheard between two Doctor Who fans, and boil it down to two people shouting "Why can't you just accept that I am better than YOU?" at each other over and over.

    It's a strangely posthumous business, only allowing yourself to like something once its finished. It's almost as if you're trying to avoid a betrayal.

    This I have a bit more sympathy for. I imagine "Got heavily invested in caring for something, only to have it turn out to have been a catastrophically bad idea" is a pretty common part of human experience, possibly even more common among those inclined to nerdish interests.

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  40. jane
    June 1, 2013 @ 6:23 am

    The show will do what it wants to do, and we can choose to do what we want with it. As I'm going to watch them over and over again anyways, for such is often the nature of fandom, anything I miss I'll pick up one way or another — I am capable of doing basic research. I for one applaud the game show references, they enrich the text.

    By 2005, reality shows were been pastiched in all kinds of shows, and we were having conversations about the impact of such shows on scripted drama. So I was very excited to see Doctor Who drop into a game show and deform its narrative (though obviously I didn't have such words to describe it as such back then.) It's been hard on talent, because you don't need so many actors for it, you don't need a stable of writers, you don't even need to pay much attention to production values. They're cheap, they've got questionable values, and they've crowded out all kinds of other scripted shows.

    And on that basis, to anyone who didn't get the references, get your head out of the sand! This is what's been happening to television, to popular contemporary television. This is mainstream, and relevant, and anything in the mainstream is fair game, especially stuff that's relevant.

    The references themselves are quite artful in relationship to Rose, the Doctor, and Jack, playing on their insecurities. As our lovely guest writer so eloquently inscribes, there's a lot to glean from dropping the Doctor into Big Brother — especially the view of his psychology, just like a quiz show challenges Rose's insecurities about her intelligence and learning; in a delicious twist, the body-makeover show exposes Jack's complete lack of insecurities regarding his body, but it's still the perfect show to put him in.

    Stepping back, the fact that the game shows are run by Daleks speaks to their role as agents of narrative collapse, and by extension the kind of narrative collapse that's threatened by these shows in our own world. Given narratives of brutal competition and winner takes all (hmm, I smell a political subtext here) we can expect an apocalyptic world that's not so different from what we have today.

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  41. Chadwick
    June 1, 2013 @ 9:36 am

    For me, it would have been better if the contest was an original construct, but with enough bits to make it a reference to BB rather than trot out the idea that centuries into the future, BB, The Weakest Link and Trinny and Susannah are still considered mainstream entertainment. It came across as clunky but the tabloid press at the time thought it was all so funky for it to be referenced into Dr Who.

    I have this idea that while JNT courted the fanbase, RTD courted the tabloids and show biz TV.

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  42. Ununnilium
    June 1, 2013 @ 11:38 am

    For me, the behavior of the droids in the 'What Not To Wear' segment fit enough other stereotypes about OTT fashonistas that it took about ten seconds to just go "Oh, this must be some kind of extreme fashion makeover thing"

    Yeah, same here. Simple enough concept even if you're not familiar with the specific show.

    And on that basis, to anyone who didn't get the references, get your head out of the sand! This is what's been happening to television, to popular contemporary television.

    …well, okay, but it's not out of bounds to speak on whether these references were done well. Which is what's been happening here.

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  43. Ununnilium
    June 1, 2013 @ 11:39 am

    Yes, perfect. XD

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  44. Ununnilium
    June 1, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    The idea that something 'dates quickly' is only an issue for people who have a beetling discomfort with being in the now of popular culture for the fear of backing the wrong horse and being shown up, in future, to have had dubious tastes.

    Or, alternatively, not that.

    I mean, you're really going to throw every criticism ever made based on datedness into the "they're just covering for their own personal fears" trash bin? For shame, doc; that's how the debate gets diminished.

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  45. Toby Brown
    June 1, 2013 @ 11:57 am

    But the difference between Bad Wolf and those examples is that there would be nothing left of Bad Wolf if you took away the reference. Once Big Brother is forgotten, Bad Wolf will be incomprehensible. Once Jimmy Saville's forgotten, there'll be one line in the War Machines which won't make much sense, which has already been shown in that the reference is now unfortunate (as you mentioned) and it changes exactly nothing about anyone's opinion on the story.

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  46. BerserkRL
    June 2, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

    Scif-fi tells you nothing about the future, and everything about the precise time it was made

    Surely an overstatement.

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  47. GarrettCRW
    April 20, 2014 @ 11:04 am

    @Travis: I'm going to assume that you're referring to "What's Cookin', Doc?", which isn't really that irrelevant, as most of the celebrities referenced (Bogey and Bacall in particular) are still pretty well-known. However, knowing some of the other celeb cameo-heavy WB shorts, I definitely get your point, as, say, "Book Revue" loses a bit if you don't know your '40s celebs (even the Sinatra riff in the short relies on details germane to the period).

    "The Honeymousers", however, succeeded not just because it behaves exactly like an episode of The Honeymooners (with the addition of the cat-vs-mouse business), but because the McKimson unit "got" TV in a way that no one at Termite Terrace did in the '50s, which is remarkable since Bob McKimson a) was suffering from creative brain-drain in the '50s (staffers were poached by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng, as well as departures after a brief shutdown of the studio in 1953), and b) McKimson was Termite Terrace's longest-serving continuous employee, and certainly the most outwardly conservative (McKimson came to work, every day, in a suit and tie, up until his death in the '70s). The "getting" of the source material is what served RTD with the Who-meets-reality-crap mashup.

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  48. Katherine Sas
    August 4, 2014 @ 6:58 am

    Very, very interesting analysis, especially in light of Sandifer's "aesthetics/ethics" equation (or distinction?) made earlier – i.e. bad tv = evil tv, and vice versa.

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