Rebranding Doctor Who and reimagining Sherlock: ‘Quality’ television as ‘makeover TV drama’

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-331
JournalCultural Studies
Volume18
Issue number3
DOI
Publication statusPublished - May 2015
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Abstract

This article adopts an unusual approach to ‘makeover TV’ by suspending the ‘unities of discourse’ linked to discursive clusters of ‘quality’ TV drama and makeover television. These are typically positioned as two completely different arenas of TV output – one concerning valued, aestheticized fictions, the other involving devalued and artificial factual entertainments. While ‘quality’ TV is articulated with notions of auteurist vision, makeover TV is supposedly penetrated by consumer culture and its ideologies. Challenging these naturalized discourses, I argue via two case studies – BBC Wales’ Doctor Who and Sherlock – that celebrated TV dramas significantly engage in makeover modalities. Doctor Who repeatedly displays the branded ‘reveal’ of transformed content (new designs; new lead actors). And Sherlock exhibits an emphasis on transformative individuation rather than fidelity to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original writings, despite generally being discursively positioned by critics as an ‘adaptation’. Whether reinventing a brand or a character, Doctor Who and Sherlock share many of the processes of consumer-cultural ‘makeover TV’, albeit in the arena of ‘quality’ TV drama. By temporarily setting ‘facts of discourse’ to one side, it is possible to illuminate ideological ‘powers of transformation’ running across valued TV fictions and devalued factual entertainment.

Keywords

  • branding, Doctor Who, quality TV, reinvention, Sherlock