MARTY RUSSELL: Television’s reach over time

By Marty Russell

Call me a geek but while most of the world was tuned in Sunday night to watch the opening of the Academy Awards, that annual overly-long, overly-hyped, over-the-top glitz fest of over-paid, overly-egotistical and overly-dressed Hollywood types patting themselves on the back, I was reveling in a small-screen television production that hadn’t been seen since 1964 (and which I had never seen since I was 7 years old at the time and it never aired here in the states).
When you think about TV shows with staying power, shows that have survived the whims of viewers, advertisers, critics and network executives, what comes to mind?
For those of us of a certain age, you might say “Gunsmoke,” that prime-time Western that ran from 1955-75 and racked up a total of 635 episodes.
For younger viewers you might think “The Simpsons,” which first aired in 1987 and celebrated its 500th episode this month.
Truth is, the longest-running television program here in the United States is NBC’s “Meet the Press,” which was first broadcast on Nov. 6, 1947 and has been on the air ever since. I believe some of the political talk show’s original guests are still in Congress.
But, being the geek that I am, none of those shows ever really interested me. I was always a science-fiction fan.
So which sci-fi TV show has been around the longest and no, despite Capt. Kirk’s appearance at this year’s Oscars, it’s not “Star Trek?”
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest-running science-fiction television show on the planet is “Doctor Who,” the British production that first aired on Nov. 23, 1963 and, except for a brief hiatus in the late ‘70s, is still around today, racking up more than 790 episodes as of last year.
The show, which has featured 11 different actors over that long run portraying the time-traveling Doctor from the planet Gallifrey, celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year, quite an accomplishment, even for a Time Lord.
So you can imagine my delight when I turned on BBC America Sunday night and found the first of what I’m sure will be many teasers leading up the 50th anniversary special episode this November.
It was an old, grainy, black-and-white episode from 1964 featuring the actor who played the first Doctor.
Rumor has it that the producers are working on a storyline for the 50th anniversary episode that will reunite the surviving eight actors who have played the Doctor (three have since passed away) and that it will be broadcast in 3D.
“Doctor Who” currently airs here in the states on BBC America and on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where I first discovered the series years ago while I was still in college. If I’m still alive come November, you can bet I’ll be there for the 50th anniversary show.
And to the Ole Miss student whose license plate reads, “TARDIS,” don’t be surprised to find it missing one day.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at marty.russell56@gmail.com