Television Anniversaries: A Celebration of Beloved Characters

by Shirleon Sharron, HAI Archivist

Are you ready to feel nostalgic?

This year (2023) marks the anniversary of several beloved television shows and here at HAI we would like to share a short history of some of them.

The first, and oldest on our list is Doctor Who which aired on television on November 23, 1963. What started off as an educational show to some, developed into a long-loved science fiction show for all ages. It ended in 1996 after a made for TV film. But fans kept its popularity going and in 2005 the series came back with all new adventures and all new doctors. The world coverage of the JFK assassination tragedy delayed the launch of the new show, which worried some. Luckily, the delay was a short one and the show ended up being well received by audiences. One of the most famous aspects of the show is the regeneration of the titular character, The Doctor. But did you know that this wasn’t an original plan?

Mike Mozart: holding Dr. Who Tardis pedal bin (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0) November 28, 2014

The first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, struggled with his health and so the showrunners began looking to casting a new Doctor. But this also led to the need to explain the change in appearance. The Doctor’s regeneration was born. Over the course of 60 years across 26 seasons, there have been, officially, fourteen Doctors. Doctor Who isn’t limited to television, though. You can also enjoy space adventuring Time Lord in various series of books and comics. Due to the many mediums that the Doctor Who Universe can be consumed in, a fan base of die-hard “Whovians” has emerged. Ranging in age, fans show their love of The Doctor by collecting all sorts of merch to decorate their homes with. Not to mention the number of cosplayers out there who dress as the many incarnations as The Doctor to attend various conventions, Renaissance Faires and Halloween parties.  Many fans have their own favorite Doctor – this writer is partial to the 10th and 11th Doctor personally.

Green Mighty Morphin Power Ranger; RyC – Behind The Lens from San Francisco, United States of America (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0) May 17, 2014

Next on our list is something for all the ’90s babies out there. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers turns 30 this year (I know) and in celebration, we’re even getting a special reunion movie on Netflix, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always, which is streaming now. I don’t know about you, but I have fond memories curling up in my parents’ bed watching rerun after rerun of the original series. I’m pretty sure we even recorded them onto various VHS tapes. The Power Rangers we know today is much different then what it could have been. In the ’70s, Stan Lee – yes, that Stan Lee – made a deal with the company behind the popular “sentai” tokusatsu shows, Toei, based in Japan. Lee saw the opportunity that this genre brought to the States and so making a deal with Toei, Lee let them use some of his famous characters, such as Spider-Man. While, in the end, the deal didn’t go far for Marvel – Spider-Man wasn’t too popular – Toei saw the popularity of the giant robots versus monsters that the deal made famous and ran with it. It took some time, but soon Saban Entertainment saw this popularity and reached out to Toei, offering a partnership. Unlike Marvel, who wanted whole shows, Saban Entertainment rather asked to use the action sequences that had been shot and build their own show around them. Because these action shots had actors with costumes that covered faces, Saban was able to create their own characters in their scenes. Taking place in a fictional California rather than ’90s Japan was another change to the original Sentai show, as well. With these changes made by Saban Entertainment, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers became an instant, overnight success in America. This success resulted in a number of spin-offs – too many to list here – but you can check out this link here to see a ranking of the series from worst to best. But don’t think that the popularity of the show lived purely on the screen – oh no. The true testament of a good show usually shows up in its merch sales. Thanks to the unseen faces of the Rangers in their armor, kids could imagine themselves fighting the bad guys and this translated extremely well to toys sales. In the 1990s, kids broke toy sales, just so they could try their hand at fighting Ruta Repulsa themselves.

While our final TV show anniversary isn’t that old it still took some of us by surprise by already being ten years old. In 2013 many families welcomed adorable rescue pups into their home in the form of a show called PAW Patrol. Topping other children’s franchises such as Mickey Mouse and Elmo, PAW Patrol has become one of the leading brands for kids up to 6-years old. From 2016 to 2020, this kids show was the most-watched for children ages 2 to 5. It airs on screens around the world in more than 170 countries, which is about 350 million households.

2019 Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade; PAW Patrol (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0) November 28, 2019

Unsurprisingly, the shows conception came around in part by a toy company. They were searching for a way to hit the (much) younger audience and several ideas came their way. From the artist behind Bob the Builder came the idea of a German Shepard police dog, a Dalmatian firedog and a transforming doghouse – Spin Master (the toy company) was hooked.

The show was pretty much an instant success with parents reaching out to Nickelodeon, the company that aired the show, for merch and other gear. Normally, merchandise rolls out almost two years after the show airs, but this quick demand meant a quick turnover. The show aired in August of 2013 and by June 2014, toys were on the shelves. Since those toys hit the shelves, PAW Patrol has earned eight billion dollars in global retail sales. Want something PAW Patrol-themed for every moment of your child’s day? Have no fear – there are: an assortment of bedclothes, toiletry items, clothing, car seats, backpacks, books, and toys. Does your child want to enjoy meals with the PAW Patrol? There are chicken nuggets, cereal, popsicles and string cheese they can enjoy. The characters even help with the potty training years with their favorite PAW Patrol character training potties and training pants.  

Shows of our childhood and youth are a lot of fun to look back on – however, does anyone else feel really old now? Being able to share shows like Doctor Who or Power Rangers with the younger generations, like our kids, is really some of the best times that can be had. While this writer didn’t grow up watching PAW Patrol, there is no doubt that kids watching the superhero pups will one day turn to their kids and share the wholesomeness and lessons of the show with them.

(Cover image:  Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Beth Willis at the Dr. Who panel at Comic-Con 2012; [Creative Commons Attribution 2.0])

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