From Newsarama today:
Chabon: My six-year-old loves it, my eight-year-old loves it, my 12-year-old loves it, my 15-year-old loves it, my wife loves it, I love it...everybody loves it!
It’s not necessarily a case where we all find the same things about it appealing, though the wit, the brio, the sly humor, the kind of carefree way that the absurdities of the plot are handled with the often-quite-serious emotional themes that are layered in...it just makes it, at my house at least, a universally-appealing show.
It’s not like there’s some kind of Chinese Wall between children and adults – what will please one will not please the other and vice-versa. I don’t think that’s the case at all. And that’s kind of a dangerous assumption to be making if you’re hoping to score any kind of a significant success.
Nrama: Which is interesting, because there’ve been two spin-offs from Doctor Who, one of which, Torchwood, is explicitly aimed at adults, and the other, The Sarah Jane Adventures, is aimed primarily at children.
Chabon: Oh yes, and I don’t feel comfortable letting even my older children watch Torchwood. It’s too gross. I actually think it’s kind of awful.
And Sarah Jane Adventures, because she’s Earthbound, it kind of doesn’t have the same appeal for me. She can’t range freely over all space and time the way the Doctor can. Ultimately, I find it kind of dissatisfying for that reason.
Nrama: I like John Barrowman more when he’s on Doctor Who than on Torchwood.
Chabon: Me too. I know the show’s popular and people like it, but in a way, it kind of proves what I’m talking about. People are so often mistaken in this idea that if something’s for "Adults," it has to be sexual and violent, and the things I like the least about this show is when it’s violent or sexual, though it seems they often do both those things at once.
To me, Doctor Who is the ideal. It satisfies everybody without pandering in either direction.
Nrama: It has that reputation as a children’s show, but your essay inspired me to re-watch some old Tom Baker serials, stuff like "Genesis of the Daleks," and it seemed even darker and more serious than the modern version – dealing with fascism, genocide, eugenics...
Chabon: Yeah! Apparently, it got quite scary. I’ve seen some of the Tom Baker ones recently, and the show was famous for being frightening, and being watched from behind the sofa, and they got into trouble for that.
My kids are really good about it, though. If they’re scared, they’ll say they don’t want to watch something. That’s all I need to hear, and we’ll turn it off.