In another one of those British talent invasions, the lead talent behind the new Doctor Who -- including Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor -- barnstormed the U.S. last week supporting the show ahead of its April 17 debut on BBC America.
In New York, dashing 27-year-old Smith, glamorous 22-year-old co-star Karen Gillan and lead writer/honcho Steven Moffat did screenings and panel sessions three nights in a row, Monday-Wednesday.
The first was at the Paley Center for Media, then the Apple store in SoHo and finally a 370-seat movie theatre on the Lower East Side.
The Lower East Side event Wednesday night was free to fans on a first come, first served basis. For a 7 p.m. screening of the opening episode and a chat session after, fans started lining up that morning. It was nice weather, but still.
The event felt like a mini ComicCon, the de riguer destination for shows like the Doctor Who franchise because of the fan adoration and word of mouth of blog and tweet testimonials that result.
"We really couldn't have asked for a nicer, more exuberant, more glorious welcome," Smith said during the on-stage chat after the screening Wednesday.
He and Moffat drilled into a key early scene. Smith's character has just morphed into a new body. He starts experimenting with food he can tolerate without spitting out. He finally finds something he likes: Fish fingers dipped in custard. (A commentary on British cuisine?)
Moffat said that since the episode aired in Britain on April 3, fans have been posting YouTube videos of themselves eating fish fingers in custard. (One random example here.)
He said he might "make up other ideas, in future episodes," to see what happens.
Smith said he ate 12 of the dipped fish sticks, what with retakes. "My pet hate is people in scenes that are meant to be eating but don't eat," he said. "So I thought, well, I'd better eat then."
How were they? "Not that bad," he said, quietly.
USA Today Pop Candy blogger Whitney Matheson noticed more humor in this version of the decades-old British sci-fi series.
"I think Doctor Who should be funny," Moffat said. "He's one of the -- and possibly the only -- hero who's completely mental. He's absolutely, genuinely, truly mad. ... You feel he could be defusing a bomb and forget that's what he's doing, and be distracted by somebody's shoelace."
Despite that bomb reference, Matheson asked if more humor might mean less blood and explosions?
"It's absolutely going to be terrifying, trust me" Moffat said. "Fish fingers in custard is only the beginning of the horrors we have to show you."
Next night was a screening and panel in Los Angeles and Friday night was a combo at the C2E2 show in Chicago. All in aid of getting the viewership closer to U.K. levels. The opener on April 3 drew an average 7.7 million viewers there, according to TV By The Numbers. The best-ever Doctor Who episode on BBC America averaged about 1.015 million in live and same-day ratings -- which was BBCA's highest-rated telecast ever, achieved this past January. It was David Tennant's finale as The Doctor. Again by contrast, the U.K. airing drew more than 10 million. That's a lot of fish fingers.
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