In the last 24 hours, Chris and I watched two very different programs. Yesterday we saw the conclusion to Broadchurch season one for the first time after having people recommend it to us for years. We also went to see the documentary on Mister Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. This my seem like an odd set of things to combine into one post, but looking at the life of beloved children’s TV icon, Fred Rogers, really put Broadchurch and the future of Doctor Who into perspective. Be warned that spoilers abound for all three programs below.
Last night finishing Broadchurch, after having quite enjoyed the build up of what was shaping up to be a compelling, dark murder mystery, we both really hated the conclusion. As a mystery story, this basically completely wrecks the show. This wasn’t that big of a deal. There is crap TV made all the time and we obviously just won’t watch this one again or watch the subsequent series. It did make me wonder what so many people I know see in it, but no matter.
What didn’t sit well with me upon finishing Broadchurch wasn’t just that it was unsatisfying, but that the end conclusion was ‘everyone is a bit horrible and has at least one appalling secret, and more than that, even if are married and your marriage appears healthy to you and everyone around you, your spouse can easily be a murdering pedophile even though there was zero evidence of this for nine bloody months or at any point during your marriage before that.’
This was especially concerning given the man who created this is the new showrunner for Doctor Who. This bleak view on humanity is pretty much the opposite perspective required to make Doctor Who. Someone who was like a living, breathing, human version of the Doctor is the wonderful Fred Rogers. Like many American children, I grew up watching him on PBS midday after Sesame Street. I totally took Mister Rogers for granted, but looking at his life, he was wonderful.
He loved children. He loved them because he seemed to have a more universal love and compassion for humanity than you will typically see in a room of 100 people over the course of their collective lifespans. He saw children as people who needed special help and understanding to navigate the world and felt it was his job to assist in this. He saw television as a medium to educate and help rather than just have sensationalist rubbish to make money. He fought for public broadcasting as a means to help in the upbringing of the nation’s children to fight back against the tide of violent or vapid commercial programming. He went on the radio numerous times to speak to American parents to help them speak to their own children after national or international tragedies. He dealt with hard issues like death and racism on his program with such a grace and subtly I didn’t notice as a child, but I was surely influenced by it along with countless other American children for several decades.
More than all this, much like the Doctor, he saw the best in normal people, both children and adults. He believed in them and tried to inspire them to believe in themselves. He toward the end of his life, while giving a commencement speech, he explained that when he said we were all special, he meant we didn’t need to do anything extraordinary to be loved. Being ourselves was enough. He tried to make sure children felt intrinsically valuable as human beings just by virtue of being a sentient person alive on this planet.
Rather than poorly executed sensationalist rubbish like Broadchurch sowing ideas about mistrust in our neighbors and fellow humans, we need someone like Fred Rogers again. We need someone to remind us of the good in our neighbors, in the people around us, and it’s not just the kids that need it. We need more people in the world like Fred Rogers and for more of them to be in the public eye and on the air.
I hope that the new showrunner of Doctor Who will give us something more like Fred Roger’s vision of humanity because, at least so far, the writers of Doctor Who have tapped into at least some of that open, warm vision of humanity that encourages people to grow and blossom rather than cower and hide from the universe. May new showerunner, Chris Chibnall, find his inner-Mister Rogers so the Doctor’s will remain with us as Jodi Whittaker takes on the job of filling those massive shoes.