Reading Tim Conway’s autobiography made me smile…

Spent the first day of my summer vacation (which didn’t start until all grades everywhere were calculated and posted) in my most favorite way to spend a day – reading an entire book in my garden in a series of sittings (interrupted by tea and lunch and hanging laundry and dinner, etc).    What book you ask?  Something deep and dark like War and Peace or Dr. Zhivago?  Nope.  I opted to open my summer with the autobiography of an old friend, though we’ve never met (though why he never appeared as a guest on Touched by an Angel is a mystery to me).  Tim Conway, aka Ensign Parker on McHale’s Navy; aka Barnacleboy on Spongebob Squarepants aka a dozen crazy characters on The Carol Burnett Show

Why did I choose that to begin my summer reading?  Partly because he was raised in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where my Mom used to take me for ice cream treats during the summer; partly because he graduated from Bowling Green State University (as Doug and I did); and partly because I knew it would be full of fun tidbits about the early days of radio and television both in Cleveland (where he worked with Ernie Anderson before he became Ghoulardi) and in Los Angeles.  Just about as funny as the book Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III) wrote with his wife, Henny, in the 1980s.

Conway’s book is full of funny stories about scrambling to fill time on early radio and television shows and honest discussions of being happy in life even if you’re always the second banana, never the star.  He talks about being raised by his immigrant parents – Dad Daniel from Ireland and Mom Sophia from Romania — and then raising his own 6 kids with their lessons in his mind all the time.  He talks about being bilingual (English and Romanian) and losing that second language as he grew up.  He talks about the joy and honor of meeting and working with the great stars of his childhood movie-viewing including Cary Grant and Ernest Borgnine and his enthusiasm for all the blessings in his life is catchy.

I smiled often until page 70 when I fell on the floor laughing (much as I did while watching all those Carol Burnett shows in elementary school) and pretty much never got back in my chair.  It was too precarious to ponder.  I found myself regaling Doug with several of the stories even as he tried to read something else.  If you’d like to spend some time in happy company I highly recommend What’s so Funny?

See all my favorite book and DVD picks in the WelchWrite Bookstore

Doctor Who Writers change culture from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Transcript:

I got to interview Russell for a magazine we do for the Writers Guild of America. This is an interview with Russell T Davies when he came to America to do a 4th season of Torchwood. And so, I was talking with him about some of his choices and what not. It was interesting. He said he knew from his childhood that the hardest thing to do was to watch television and not see yourself as one of the people there. That is unfair to a child because that means you don’t belong in the universe. You don’t fit in the world.

There is a character named Captain Jack and Russell, specifically once everyone was comfortable with what he was doing with the Doctor — because, when he first brought the show back, the fear was he would make the Doctor gay — and that would just ruin it. It wouldn’t really ruin it, but the network was scared it would, right? So, he couldn’t do that. He said, “I’m not going to do that. The Doctor’s iconic. I’m not going to change him too much.” That’s probably why he’ll never be a girl and he likely will never be a Doctor of color — which is too bad. But, he can surround him with people that offer visuals to children and Captain Jack was exactly that — both in Doctor Who and in Torchwood, which is the show, then the spinoff, that was created to give Captain Jack his own troop that he would work with, save the world from bad aliens.

We’ve seen Captain Jack kiss men, dance with men at weddings, right, have his heart broken by people, and so full and complete, 3 dimensional same-sex relationships have been opened to children through watching Doctor Who and Torchwood, if you let your kid watch Torchwood. Which I did do, because he liked it. That was really important for Russell, so he truly had a, if you will, a social justice mission, with being a writer. And so, as much as the title of this does say, “The Doctor the Changed the Universe”, I would have to say it is actually the writers, who write the Doctor, who change the universe, because it is writers, whether they are writing books or they are writing television, or they’re writing films, that give us this influence that we live by and that’s why we’re wearing stuff from Doctor Who and we like all the stuff we like.”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

Steven Moffat and his Characters from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Drwho moffat characters

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Transcript:

So these 3 characters of color are treated very well and very completely and this impressed me. I like Russell. I’ve always liked Russell. I was glad to find out he was doing that well. I assumed Steven Moffat would do it even better and I was wrong. I was shocked to be wrong. So let’s get with Steven Moffat and who he invented. It starts to look really interesting and then it falls apart. I think that’s so sad.

This is Liz 10. She is the tenth Queen Elizabeth of England. So, Steven is telling us that in so many generations from now, English population is going to be brown. So that’s a pretty cool move. That is a pretty cools statement. However, she pretty much shows up in the episode, saves the Doctor’s life, and disappears. She has no sex life, no love life, no family, no relationships, no job — except being queen. She’s a one dimensional character. That shocked me. I was like, Whoa, Liz 10!” She’s really nothing. She’s a prop — as far as the story goes. That’s your job, making a character — a ful character.

So this shocked me. So, who else did Steven Moffat invent who is a character of color. Well, I know, super-cool Mels. Mels is very cool. If you haven’t seen the show I’ll try not to spoil it, but she is related to another character we really like a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

She only shows up in a short bit, in order to explain a plot situation and she moves on and she never has any real deep association with The Doctor after that. So, she’s used as a gimmick, because if you know who she is later in life, you recognize the gimmick. No one guessed that because she doesn’t look like the person she regenerates into. So, it was a trick. That character is just a trick. She’s not a 3-dimensional complete character and that really bothered me. Steven, dont’t do this to me! Do something good, please, cause I really think he is a smart writer. That’s River Song. We’ll get to her later.

Rita show up in only 1 episode. She’s not just a character of color, She is also a woman with a different religion because she is Islamic. So that was really interesting, exciting and wonderful. She’s only in one episode and guess what happens to her at the end of the episode? She dies. Oh, my god! So he invented this really cool, interesting 3-dimensional person and he killed her. So, as far as I was concerned, Russell did characters of color better and I think that is really interesting. And the scary part is — you probably already know this, as it pretty open and obvious — Russell is one of the first gay — openly gay men in England to get the OBE from the Queen. So, he is known to be an out-of-the-closet gay man. He understands how badly people who are not of what is considered the norm can be created on television. So, his focus was to make sure he took the characters who weren’t given that full coverage by other people and to give it to them.

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

Creating Companions of Color from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Transcript:

Other cool characters that Russell T. Davies invented was the very first companion of color. The Doctor always travels with someone, generaly a human, these days, generally a girl, although eventually we got round to a boy. Martha Jones comes on to the show and she is the opposite of Rose, not just that she happens to be an Englishwomen of African descent, she’s and intern — she’s about to be a doctor. Whereas Rose is a shop girl. so she is low class/high class, right?

So, he made a character of color who was from the higher class. Not someone from the ghetto. She was someone with a good education, moving forward to a good job. She gets to be a full. 3-dimensional person, complete with falling in love with the Doctor, because who wouldn’t fall in love with David Tennant? The problem is, so had Rose, briefly and he actually fell in love with Rose so you can’t fall in love with every girl or then he is just, you know, a traveling womanizer.

So, Russell T. Davies actually took some flack for not allowing David Tennant to fall in love with the character of color, but it was just the way the story happened to fall. It would make him look cheesy if he fell in love with every girl he met. But Martha gets to be grown up enough to say, “I get it. You’re never going to feel about me the way I feel about you and I’m not going to waste my life waiting. I’m going to move on.” Which is hugely mature. So there is her character arc and she goes off to do very interesting things.

There are 2 really interesting characters of color, so far. Coming up to the 3rd one who only shows up in one episode. It’s a Christmas episode, as well, where there is an alternate Doctor and an alternate companion. There in sort of a Steampunk world. Rosita here, it looks like she should just be a maid and basically just a prostitute from back in the day. But again, 3-dimensional personality, she saves their lives in the course of the episode. She is hugely important to this episode. She doesn’t just stand around and say, “Ooo, I’m cute!”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

Davies creates fully realized characters from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Davies creates fully-realized characters from

 

 

Transcript:

“When Mickey shows up on the show, he is the boyfriend of Rose who is the blonde, white, girl, who is going to become the companion to the Doctor and there is no discussion about it. The show wasn’t about, “Oh no, they have an interracial relationship and it’s difficult.” It’s not. It’s just Rose an Mickey and they’re together and that’s how life goes. Right? So Russell T. Davies, in my argument, has a better representation of characters of color. He gives them 3 dimensionality. His characters of color have real lives. They have jobs. They have relationships and they have sex. Real people have sex. They really do.

(Laughter)

Wooo!

All married people…well they weren’t married.

(Laughter)

So, that makes a full character. So I was interested, when I looked at characters that Russell created. Right? So here is Mickey Smith. What’s also interesting about Mickey is that he starts out afraid to join the Doctor. It’s too much for him. It’s too scary, but Rose goes along and after a couple of seasons, Mickey starts to realize, “I missed out on something. I made the wrong choice. Can I change my mind?” So he grows as a human being. He doesn’t just stay the same funny guy the whole four seasons or 5 seasons we know him. So, a character being given a true character arc means you are taking that character completely seriously as a full human being. That’s what Russell Davies was able to do.”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

Video: “Doctor Who Regenerated” with Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education is back by popular demand with a new lecture on Doctor Who and Television!

This time, the Doctor will focus on a deeper look of the themes of the writers behind “Doctor Who.” Above and beyond race and gender, they include social justice and the power of childhood. 

** See Dr. Welch’s original talk, Doctor Who and Culture, in this video

Doctor Who RegeneratedPresenation

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Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Whoand therefore writers make culture.”

Writers Save Doctor Who from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Drwho writers save

 

Transcript:

“What was great about the show from my standpoint — from a writing standpoint — is that they had a problem in the first few years. William Hartnell was an older man and he started to get sick and he didn’t want to work anymore. And this is is where writers save the day, because one of the writers back then realized if Wiliam Hartnell resigned, everybody lost their job. 200 people who work on set, who do the writing, who do all the work is gone. So this writer said to himself, “Hey, wait a minute. Our lead character is not human. He’s not a human. He doesn’t have to die. What if our aliens regenerate in a completely different body any time they get sick. Brilliant! He can retire. We can wave goodbye and we can invite new actors to play the character and every time a new actor is hired he can be unique and different and bring a whole different personality to the story.”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

 

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Other Countries/Other Perspectives from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Drwho othercountries

 

Transcript:

“This is one of the first programs to that has crossed over to be so popular in this culture from another culture. We’re slowly getting there. Ugly Betty came from Mexican Tele novellas. In Therapy came from an Israeli show. We’re slowly realizing we aren’t the only people on the planet. Really, we thought that for a long time. One of the nice things about the Doctor Who program is that it reminds us that there are other countries with other perspectives and Americans need to remember that every now and then.”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

 

Subscribe to Dr. Welch’s YouTube Channel

Science Fiction and Humanity from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Drwho humanity

Transcript:

“So we are talking about humanities and what makes people human. Science Fiction is brilliant, because it reminds us about our humanity. It is the reason we watch it. It’s not for the monsters and the cool Dalek dress over here. (Laughter) All right. Those are cool, but its about how people behave when they’re put in stressful situations. And that is what makes the Doctor so exciting.”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

 

Subscribe to Dr. Welch’s YouTube Channel

 

Video: Doctor Who and Culture with Dr. Rosanne Welch at Cal Poly Pomona University Library

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

Dr who culture thumb

Tons of Doctor Who products on Amazon.com

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A few scenes from the video in animated GIF form