Fuck the children's show thing annoys me.
Not the very idea that Doctor Who is a show for children to watch, that bit is fine. I have no problem for that and it would be stupid to pretend otherwise.
My problem is quotes like this:
It’s really a children’s show which adults “happen to love”:
“But ‘Ah!’ I hear some sobbing imploring, ‘a large percentage of the Who audience were adults!’
From a brief perusal on Behind the Sofa, whilst looking for some of Alan Stevens' trademark ranting. Yes, obviously when I speak my case I break down in girlish tears at the imminent threat to my own masculinity, you effing wanker.
It's the militantism about the "Doctor Who is a children's show" group that pisses me off. They argue it in so agressive a nature that you can't help but feel that it's a direct attack against you, that these buggers are prancing up and down in front of you screaming "YOU WATCH A KID'S SHOW, YOU WATCH A KID'S SHOW!", as if I'm some closeted homosexual keeping a shameful secret from my family.
And the thing is... I still don't think it's true. The timeslot was specifically catering for two audiences, as we all know between Jukebox Jury and the football results, with some eye-candy for the dads, at the time that fish fingers were being served and all those nauseating 70s cliches. Yes, it was the children audience they mostly aimed for (until the 80s...) but in execution, and design (for this was what Sydney Newman had intended) it was a family show, and has never been produced by the BBC's children's department.
It is as much a kid's show as The Goodies and Blake's 7 were. But 'Ah' at this point would say somebody desperate to piss me off, as all too many are... 'Ah, but they ARE called kid's shows!'. Yes, thank you that was the point I was getting at - they really aren't. The Goodies was only marketed as a children's show as of the third season, and they liked to keep brief shots of nudity into the series as late as the fifth season (Although it was clumsily edited out here by the AB friggin' C) and Blake's 7... no.
This leads into the cross-cultural issue, which I think is the reason why a lot of Aussie people like myself resent this festering load of crap that people like to bring up when there aren't enough elements to spoil to piss groups in fandom off - here in Australia, our kids shows tend to be pretty cut and dried. As far as I can remember - since turning 9 or 8 or one of those I haven't watched any, because that just isn't done. At least in the country, where we are all dead hard. Kid's shows, from my sketchy experience, are made with zero budget, low levels of talent, ropey premises, and frightening amounts of enthusiasm. Pleasing to a child, but instantly disposable.
To apply this label to Doctor Who feels not just like an insult to the viewer's masculinity, as is the belief of the pro-childers who mock us, but to the show itself. And no matter what your thoughts are on Doctor Who, it's a show with a lot to it... equating it to Agro's Cartoon Corner (if that was the name of it) and The Ferals (which I think later became Feral TV..) and, even though it's not Australian it's of a similar nature, The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers just doesn't add up at all. There's also the fact that no Australian kid's show has ever been watched by upwards of 11 million viewers (which would make it, like, the most watched ANYTHING in the country..) or gotten... or achieved any place in the consciousness equivalent to DW, in spite of the sterling efforts of Bananas in Pyjamas and Play School (I seriously don't remember that show at all. People make references to the Windows and The Clock... I have no idea what they're talking about..)
Of course, there are people like a certain miscreant I know who pull out Press Gang as an example. BUT - it really isn't a fair example, is it? It may be brilliant (never seen it) but most of them... aren't. It's like saying that because of Cracker all police psychology shows are brilliant, ignoring Bones, Monk and, especially, NCIS (shudder).
The other element of the cross-cultural difference is one brought up during some of blogger Ben "Yahtzee" Crowshaw's finest rambling, when he talked about the bewildering differences between living in the UK and living in Queensland. He described Australia as a sickeningly happy place, and as his prime example he used our kid shows, because they featured... people. Happy people. Before he explained that UK shows for children are dominated by creatures like The Teletubbies...as he explained it as though the Poms are so miserable that the idea of people behaving like that was too incredible and that they needed alien beings to make it credible.
And this got me thinking - tying back into The Goodies and Blakes 7... could it be that rather than ever looking, really LOOKING at the shows and what they were about, it was the elements that were not everyday, that required some modicum of imagination and abstract thought, that convinced people that this was 'kid's stuff' in the conservative nature of British 'stuck-in-the-mud' society?
Well.. I don't find it implausible.
The thing that really gets me down, though, is tying the show down in this way. Why? Why a kids show? It can be so much more, it IS so much more to so many people... it's a science fiction (or 'fantasy' if you're an odious pedant who doesn't realise that the 'real science fiction' genre is a figment of your imagination) first and foremost and does a brilliant job, being utterly unique without a show like it encompassing a brilliant array of worlds and monsters and ideas... it will find its own audience? Why tie it down?
And... for the record, as somebody who only came to the show during the ABCs repeat run, I've only seen Doctor Who from my mid-teens onwards - out of the ridiculous 'children' demographic and into the slightly-more-ludicrous 'young adult' demographic. As we all now, in that age bracket you're pretty derisive of 'kids stuff' (apart from some of my weird friends who were still watching Play School when they could for some reason..) I can really say that - give or take a scene where William Hartnell explains how a light switch works for 2 minutes straight - I only thought the show ever had a 'childish' feel was during the late Pertwee era (the time that the majority of 'modern' fandom came to it, coincidence?) and over the course of three middling-to-badly received episodes in the 27th Season (curiously all made by the same director who seems to now be banned from the program for life. Coincidence?)
Again, of course, there's the counter-point that a kid's show doesn't have to be 'childish' for children to watch it - and this is the crux of the opposing argument, the ability to use the considerable ambiguity over precisely what the term really means. In all the time that I have seen OG bombarded with "IT'S A KID SHOW, YOU PILLOCKS!" posts, I am yet to see an actual argument citing any evidence or... well, anything beyond "A lot of kids watch it!" The truth is... these people just think there's something really cool about watching a kid's show for all of their adults life. As if it somehow makes them different, and cool by not conforming to society's expectations... or they just use it as a means to piss off people who take the show 'too seriously'.
Doing a little bit of non-exhaustive digging: Justin Richard's The Legend never uses the phrase 'kid's show', nor does Peter Haining's Key to Time (shut up, I don't have the 'proper' reference books..) the Wikipedia page never mentions the phrase either exept in relation to Totally Doctor Who and Blue Peter, I've looked at a half dozen "What is Doctor Who?" pages, none of which use the term... and finally I re-watched Melvyn Bragg's quite delightful Whose Doctor Who doco.
Conspicuously, again, never called a children's show and one of the first facts noted is that 40% of the audience are adults. Forty percent. That is a lot. And that's clearly not including teenagers who, of course, are a different demographic.
And, finally... I have never, in any references to Doctor Who in the media... heard it referred to as a 'long running children's television show' or any other variation. It's always referred to as what it is - science fiction.
The annoying thing is, though, that Steven Moffat is one of the mob who just say "IT IS!" and leave it at that with no qualification, save for some token rambling about the 'spirit' of the show which returns to the point of the British equating 'not miserable' to 'kid's stuff'. And The Moff's cheerleaders are in full flight and, illogical though it may frigging be, the argument will go in his way.
Thanks a lot, OGers. Were you championing everything the guy did when he was writing seven minutes of fart jokes for Rowan Atkinson and Julia Sawalha?