Doctor Who used to be a cult TV show. In America, the Doctor, Tardis, Daleks and assorted characters were adored by small groups of people throughout the 1970’s through 90’s. The science fiction nerds would seek out the shows on PBS. And when they couldn’t get enough, they’d trade tapes of other episodes, read the books and pick up rare merchandise wherever and whenever they could find it. The Doctor Who viewers were a small, tightly-knit community of die-hard fans who were passionate about the series, knew every fact about the show that originated in 1963 and slowly but surely spread the good word about the Doctor throughout the United States.
These days, Doctor Who is a mainstream commercial hit in the US. It’s one of the most popular shows on the US TV network BBC America. And the most recent Christmas episode was viewed by 1.43 million people stateside.
The parallels between Doctor Who and top flight English football are quite similar. The old First Division and early years of the Premier League had a similar core set of devotees in the United States even when TV coverage was sparse to non-existent. And the rise in popularity of soccer in the United States recently generated a viewing audience of 1.67 million for an EPL match.
However, in both the cases of Doctor Who and the Premier League, there are devotees who prefer that the shows should have remained cult followings instead of mainstream hits. When a program is a cult TV show, there’s a feeling of belonging to a small set of people who are passionate about it without the mainstream knowing or understanding what it is. It’s akin to feeling like an insider. Knowing a secret that gives you extreme pleasure.
There’s also the feeling that you’ve earned it. You may have spent years following the show, staying up late to watch it on PBS and putting in a lot of time and effort. You’ve paid your dues. You’ve got an intimate knowledge of the show. You’ve spent your hard-earned money over the years, devouring every piece of information about the show.
Plus, in some ways, the Premier League in the earlier days or older Doctor Who shows were “our show.” We felt a closer connection to them because we “discovered” them and loved them when very few others did.
But now that both Doctor Who and the Premier League are so accessible, the mainstream tunes in, has some understanding of the history but perhaps isn’t as devout as the original die-hard viewers.