by Julian Spivey
I had had a particularly rough day at work when I got home that night to do my usual nightly routine of searching entertainment websites to devour news or search for potential article ideas. When I glanced at the lead story on EW.com my day quickly became twice as rough.
It was a bit of news I was not expecting, unprepared for and even though I knew would happen one day was somewhat devastated by – Matt Smith announced he would be leaving “Doctor Who” at the end of the year.
It’s not unusual for Doctors to come and go. Smith has played The Doctor for 42 episodes or three seasons – about the average life span of a Doctor. But, the thing that makes Smith’s upcoming departure from the long-running British science fiction series so hard is that he’s my Doctor.
Everybody has “their” Doctor – their favorite one – oftentimes the one that introduced them to the series, as Smith did with me. There are “Doctor Who” fans out there who still pine for David Tennant, the tenth and previous Doctor, three and a half years after he left the show. I feel like it’s possible this could be my reaction to Smith leaving the show. I just hope it doesn’t unfairly affect the way I feel about whichever poor soul is tasked with following Smith as the Twelfth Doctor, the way some people did with Smith following Tennant.
Just under a year ago I embarked upon “Doctor Who” – after previously giving it a brief shot and it not capturing me for some idiotic reason – because I knew so many friends and critics who raved about it. I started this time around with the season seven (Smith’s third) premiere “Asylum of the Daleks” and there was something about Smith’s acting that appealed to me and as I quickly began to binge-watch his episodes two and sometimes three at a time – running through much of his tenure in mere weeks – I quickly realized he was one of today’s finest actors with a tour de force performance that could range from laugh out loud funny to Shakespearian-like seriousness in a matter of seconds. I know that shows like “Doctor Who” are never taken seriously, for some asinine reason, but it’s almost a crime that Matt Smith has never been nominated for an Emmy Award.
With Smith’s brilliantly quirky performance and under the words and guidance of show-runner Steven Moffat the Eleventh Doctor has truly become one of the finest characters in television history. And, that’s one of the greatest things about the character of The Doctor – every time he regenerates he is effectively in many ways born anew, with not just a new appearance, but also a new personality and a new style among other things. This is why the show has thrived for 50 years, but it’s also why I have slight doubts if the show will ever be the same to me again. I fear I may miss too much things that are unique or particular to Smith’s Doctor, many of my favorite aspects of the show, like his unique quirk, his bowtie (because bowties are cool) and that devilish smile of his.
However, I know from watching the episodes of Tennant and Christopher Eccleston before him – I watched the show backwards – that the show somehow and incredibly stays strong regardless of who plays The Doctor. Yet it’s something that fans – no matter who their favorite Doctor is – incessantly worry about until the next Doctor’s debut because The Doctor is television sacred ground.
The next Doctor will probably work his way into our hearts like those that came before him (or her), hopefully sooner than later. For some he’ll even be their reason for watching and will become “their” Doctor. When the time comes for his debut I’m sure I’ll be hesitantly excited for the things to come. Until then, though, I’ll mourn the impending loss of Matt Smith, but will be relieved by the thought of knowing that just like with companion Amy Pond, he’ll always be my Doctor.
'The Voice' is Broken
by Julian Spivey
NBC’s hit singing competition series “The Voice” is probably the best thing to happen to the struggling network (at least ratings wise) in the last five or so years. However, after four short, but incredibly successful seasons “The Voice” is essentially broken.
When the show debuted in the spring of 2011 the premise of “The Voice” was original and unique. Four celebrity coaches would choose a singer based solely off of their voice and would mentor and influence those singers until ultimately one of the singers was crowned ‘the voice.’
However, it didn’t take long for the show to become like every other reality singing competition on television … an overblown, overrated and oftentimes blatantly obvious popularity contest, but with one little twist from the typical reality competition. The popularity contest would have very little to do with the show’s actual contestants, but with the show’s celebrity coaches.
It wasn’t so obvious over the show’s inaugural season or even over the show’s first two seasons, but over the last two seasons (which NBC managed to squeeze into the 2012-2013 broadcast season – squeezing every bit of juice out of its ratings darling) it’s become blatantly obvious that “The Voice” is not so much about the singer after all, but about who the singer’s coach is.
Celebrity coach Blake Shelton, a multiple time award-winning country music singer, has had a contestant win “The Voice” title in the show’s last three consecutive seasons and honestly shows no signs of having his streak snapped any time soon as he seems to be growing more popular by the day, tabloid article and tweet.
Shelton’s likability is easy to understand, even though his personality can sometimes be grating and venture into douche-y territory. He’s fun, humorous, attractive, in a high-profile country music marriage with fellow award-winning singer Miranda Lambert and has a flawless voice that most singers would and should be jealous over. In television a TV personality’s likability and popularity is measured by something called a Q Score. I don’t know what Shelton’s Q Score is, but I would bet it’s through the roof.
When Shelton joined “The Voice” he was likely relatively unknown to most people who listen to music outside of the country genre and could have been the least recognizable coach on the show. This is probably the main reason why Javier Colon, a singer from Adam Levine’s (who shares many qualities with Shelton right down to the douchebaggery) team won. As more fans of the show became familiar with Shelton and more country music fans already familiar with the Okie started watching, his success on the show grew, as did his career. In the two short years since “The Voice” premiered Shelton has gone from middling country music singer to maybe the genre’s biggest name and presence. Ironically, his music has gone from superior to average or even occasionally (like with his current single “Boys ‘Round Here”) revoltingly awful.
Not only has Shelton’s mostly likable personality played hugely into his team’s success on “The Voice,” but so has the fact that his genre of music is the most popular genre in the country – based on things like numbers of radio stations and music sales. His popularity on the show has also gone a long way in bringing even more listeners to the genre.
It’s, of course, up for debate whether or not Shelton’s winning singers really were the deserving winners of the show or merely won based on his popularity. I believe the show’s most recent winner Danielle Bradbery was probably the best choice, at least of the three finalists (two of which came from Shelton’s team) to win the crown. However, the previous two winners from Shelton’s team beat out better vocalists: Cassadee Pope over Team Cee Lo Green’s Nicholas David in the previous season and Jermaine Paul over Team Cee Lo’s Juliet Simms the season before that.
The most telling sign of Shelton’s mass popularity positively affecting his team was the fact that all three of his team’s finalists this season (Bradbery, The Swon Brothers and Holly Tucker) made the final six, while the three remaining coaches only saw one of their three contestants each make the cut. This lead to a moment where it became obvious that even some of Shelton’s fellow coaches seem to believe it’s about more than just the contestant’s talent when Levine was caught on air muttering: “I hate this country” knowing full well that voters are overlooking things like vocal ability in favor of popularity.
Personally during the show’s try out period where the coaches simply listen to the vocalists and decide whether or not they might want them for their team it would be unwise for any singer with the opportunity to choose between multiple coaches to choose anybody but Shelton. Shelton gives you the best chance at winning the show simply by being Blake Shelton, especially if you’re a country singer.
I don’t think Shelton has any plans to leave “The Voice” any time soon, because it’s been the best thing for his career and let’s face it, he seems like a complete attention whore. I don’t think “The Voice” has any plans to replace Shelton any time soon either, because he’s essentially their biggest star and they wouldn’t want to mess around with one of their few sure things.
So Blake Shelton will keep picking winners of “The Voice” whether they deserve to win the crown on their own merit or not. The majority of viewers probably won’t care all that much either and the show will continue, at least for now, being a major hit for NBC. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the show, at least the one that it initially set out to be, is broken and much of that falls on Shelton’s immense popularity.