Pop Culture Timelines Go-To Thread

Inspired by the approaching finale of Supernatural, this idea has been rattling around inside my head:



I was halfway through the third episode of the WB’s Tarzan when my wife walked in and asked for a recap. Having just read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pulp classic Tarzan of the Apes, I was eager to explain all the ingenious ways this new series handles the source material—how cool it was that the cabin his dead father built has become a Park Avenue apartment wing—but I had already lost her attention. “God, he’s hot,” she said, looking at Tarzan’s star, former Calvin Klein underwear model Travis Fimmel. “You should see if he’s in Tiger Beat yet. There’s a lot of 11-year-old girls who are going to love this show.”

"Brad Turrell, the network's corporate spokesman, brandished charts that tried to play down the declines. The charts indicated that the wild swings among young viewers this fall -- including sizable drop-offs in overall viewing among WB's core audience of younger women, which got much less attention than the even bigger slide among younger men -- called into question Nielsen's measurements."

The WB's core demographic -- female, ages 12 to 24 — failed to deliver the network sufficient profits to stay afloat in this brave new world of reality television. So, it sought to attract a broader demographic. Women and men. People between the ages of 24 and 36 — you know, the eldery! This effort would ultimately fail, leading to massive layoffs in late 2005 and a merger with a fellow struggling network, UPN, to form The CW in 2006.

In an omen for modern Hollywood's remake fever, executives at The WB concluded that known IPs were the secret to success. The 2001 pilot for Superman prequel series Smallville attracted 8.4 million viewers, a record for The WB. A sitcom vehicle for country music singer Reba McEntire would be the network's lone successful comedy series and a ratings smash hit, often landing The WB ahead of UPN and even Fox in the rankings for its time slot. The WB's other successes in this period were relative ones. Original content like Gilmore Girls attracted critical acclaim but not big ratings. So it seemed obvious to conclude that audiences craved the familiar. Which probably explains why The WB greenlit a modernized Tarzan.

Except, as Hollywood has also demonstrated time and again lately, just because audiences are familiar with an IP doesn't mean they necessarily want to see more of it. Tarzan flopped hard, cancelled after eight episodes. Its showrunner, Eric Kripke, wasn't blamed for the failure given the general decline in fortunes affecting The WB's lineup. He was even asked to pitch another show.

Kripke pitched two different shows to network executives, and both ideas could be summarized as "The X-Files meets Route 66." The first pitch was about a female photojournalist criss-crossing the country, investigating demons infiltrating society. The WB passed. Too played out, they said. The second pitch was about two brothers driving the backroads of Middle America, hunting the things that go bump in the dark. The WB was intrigued, but ultimately passed on that pitch as well.

In fact, the suits at The WB weren't actually interested in any of Kripke's pitches. They already had a new project in mind for him, and Kripke's fixation on monsters only cemented their belief that he was the right man for the job of updating another old IP for modern audiences. Before a desperate Kripke could improvise a third pitch, the Senior Vice President of Drama Development, Susan Rovner, leaned forward. "We love the idea of you doing a horror show for us, but want something with firmer footing. Have you ever heard of an old PBS series called Doctor Who?"
  • Extract from the SF Debris special "Rebooted!" 2014

People often think that the BBC gave up on Doctor Who. That absolutely isn't true. I adore the Doctor, and there are others here who feel the same. He's scary and fantastic and more than a little funny. We tried to get him back on the screen with different proposals, but there were profound issues of money and ego at play. A negative energy became associated with the show. Doctor Who had been shopped around America for years and years, and all the stops and starts were enough to frankly drive people mad. It wasn't a jolly day when word came down that a deal had been inked. We were blasé. We felt it would fall apart yet again.
  • Excerpt from an interview with Russell T Davies, 2007 [1]

The cult classic returns! After Ian and Babs (Jensen Ackles [2], Alona Tal [3] ) check in on a troubled friend, they are transported back to 1963 and become embroiled in the JFK assassination. Susan: Leighton Meester [4]. The Doctor: John Slattery [5].
  • TV Guide description for Doctor Who: 1x01 "Pilot" (September 13th, 2005) [6]

[1] The POD. I'm still ironing out the details, but the gist is that the Fox TV Movie dies in Development Hell. Without the TV Movie flopping in the United States, BBC Worldwide is slower to give back Doctor Who to the BBC's television people. Without the TV Movie doing well in Britain, the BBC underestimates popular support for a Doctor Who revival.

[2] [3] [4] The WB had (and its successor The CW has) a tendency to rotate actors between various projects. Jensen Ackles had a recurring supporting role on Smallville before he jumped ship to Supernatural in OTL. Alona Tal had a recurring supporting role on Veronica Mars, and was the runner up for the role of Veronica Mars. Leighton Meester is only minor actor at this point OTL and ITTL, as she hasn't enjoyed her OTL breakout role as Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl. Meester was, however, one of the main characters on Tarzan, so it isn't a stretch that Kripke would think of her for the role.

[5] While he later rose to fame with his role as Roger Sterling in Mad Men, actor John Slattery was still a relatively obscure actor at this point OTL. He had just starred in 21 episodes of The WB's Kennedy nostalgia piece Jack & Bobby, a drama about two young brothers, one of whom eventually grows up to become president. Circa the early 2000s, Slattery was one of the few older white men in The WB's youth-focused roster. It seems natural he'd get asked to audition, especially since The WB wasn't financially healthy enough (or that prestigious) to attract known talent at this point in its lifespan. That, and the Doctor Who reboot isn't being helmed by an award-winner like Russell T Davies. Eric Kripke is a nobody at a dying, wannabe minor network. The project isn't one that screams surefire success.

[6] As of 2020, Eric Kripke's three original TV series in OTL — Supernatural, Revolution, and Timeless — all feature a heavy emphasis on family drama and parent-child relationships. I imagine that his ITTL version of Doctor Who would be in that mold. Luckily, the Doctor has an OTL relative in the form of Susan Foreman. Also, in OTL, Kripke has commented that The X-Files is a cautionary tale for writers about how burdensome a show's mythology can become over time. Combine those two facts and I think he'd be inclined to just take Doctor Who back to square one, if modernized in many ways.
 
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@Lavanya Six So a total Reboot of Doctor Who then, not even an attempt to tie it back into the old stuff?

When I read Slattery I thought you mean Tony...

I guess Kripke would at least bring some of the Monsters/Horror back to the show- possibly not reinvent the Daleks?
 
@Lavanya Six So a total Reboot of Doctor Who then, not even an attempt to tie it back into the old stuff?
Yup. 100% reboot. That approach got proposed a few times during the 1990s, but Philip Segal (who largely led the efforts for an American-partnered revival) was a fan of the original series, and pushed for it to be a continuation of the original series. But a direct sequel/revival wasn't a given. Especially if you put people in charge who don't have any real nostalgia for the original material.

That the BBC would even partner with a minor network like The WB is my one unicorn in the garden, I'll freely admit. But my reasoning is that ITTL, the Doctor Who brand is a lot less healthy by the mid-2000s, and the BBC doesn't realize they're sitting on such a lucrative IP. If I ever actually write this as a proper timeline, I think I'd include backlash for the BBC selling its magic cow for beans.

I guess Kripke would at least bring some of the Monsters/Horror back to the show- possibly not reinvent the Daleks?
I think the Daleks would appear, more or less in classic form. As for monsters/horror, it'd be heavy on those, to the point that the first season of Doctor Who ITTL would be shown after the watershed. (Season 2 would depend on the dice rolls.) Production values would be more akin to Smallville than the OTL revival. Especially with 22 episodes in a season verses 13, there'd be a lot of "historical" stories wallpapered with cheap vintage clothing.

I didn't mention the dice rolls! Inspired by various quests at the Spacebattles forum, and the "Separated at Birth" Draka TL here, I cooked up a "dice template" to help me figure out the production staff drama.

* Unless otherwise noted, all roles are 1d20.

SEASON [X] PRODUCTION QUALITY
Script quality:
+4 legacy material to riff off from
Direction:
+2 nuts & bolts WB/CW competency
Production:
+3 British cash
Music:
+2 classic rock
F/x:
+3 British cash


NATURAL 1s: For one turn, (-3) to the WB-BBC Relations roll
NATURAL 20s: For one turn, (+2) to the WB-BBC Relations roll

OVERALL PRODUCTION QUALITY = (Sum of "Production" rolls, divided by 5)
1-5: (-4) to critical reception and ratings rolls this turn
6-10: (-2) to critical reception and ratings rolls this turn
11-15: (+2) to critical reception and ratings rolls this turn
16-20: (+4) to critical reception and ratings rolls this turn


SEASON [X] ACTING
John Slattery's material:
John Slattery's performance:
+2 veteran actor

Leighton Meester's material:
Leighton Meester's performance:

Jensen Ackles's material:
Jensen Ackles's performance:

Alona Tal's material:
Alona Tal's performance:

"Material" refers to the quality of the scripts provided to the actor. This covers their arc(s) over the season, their character-centric spotlight episodes, and memorable scenes/dialogue. "Performance" refers to what the actor does with their material.


NATURAL 20:
* The actor gets an Emmy nomination. (Roll individual d20s for the five nominees)
* (+3) to final "Overall Acting" composite score.
NATURAL 1:
* The actor leaves the show or is fired. (DC for show to avoid backlash: 10)
* (-2) to final "Overall Acting" composite score.

COMPOSITE ACTING = (Sum of "Acting" rolls, divided by 4)
1-5: (-3) to critical reception and ratings rolls
6-10: (-1) to critical reception and ratings rolls
11-15: (+1) to critical reception and ratings rolls
16-20: (+3) to critical reception and ratings rolls


Season [X] ratings (America):
+1: it's science fiction
+1: "scary just got sexy" factor

Season [X] ratings (United Kingdom):
+1: "scary just got sexy" factor
+2: 'member Doctor Who? I 'member

Season [X] critical reception (America):
-1: it's science fiction
-1: it's on The WB / CW

Season [X] critical reception (United Kingdom):
-2: perception it should be a family program
-1: it's made by Americans!

WB-BBC Relations:
+1: thankfulness this project is finally getting off the air
-2: not family-friendly (Seasons 1-2; penalty reduced to -1 in Season 3 onwards)

NATURAL 1s: (-3) to all Production rolls next turn.
NATURAL 20s: (+3) to all Production rolls next turn.

1-5: (-1) to all Production rolls next turn.
6-10: (+0) to all Production rolls next turn.
11-15: (+1) to all Production rolls next turn.
16-20: (+2) to all Production rolls next turn.


BLACK SWAN ROLL (d100)
(1): A fatal on-set accident veils the show in controversy. (-4 to all rolls next Turn)
(2-99): n/a
(100): The Queen sends an understated fan letter. (+4 to all rolls next Turn)

In my test run for the system, Alona Tal got canned after two seasons.
 
Here's another Disney one: what if, instead of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and the like, Disney had brought back the Sherman Brothers to do songs for the Disney Renaissance?
 
In God Emperor Truex’s INDYCAR Timeline we just finished Marlboro Weekend at Michigan consisting of the Marlboro Challenge and the Marlboro 500. Also, some HUGE silly season was announced before and during the Weekend, including one that changes this TL forever.
 
So, I've been thinking about the TL where Frank Wells isn't killed and Jeffrey Katzenberg stays at Disney. Here's what I've come up with:
  • The Disney Renaissance will last longer, and Michael Eisner won't become as corrupt as he did IOTL. That means Disney will probably have a better relationship with Pixar, and maybe Toy Story 2 will be butterflied (since the reason that film exists is because Eisner demanded a Toy Story sequel). And in that case, maybe the company won't churn out as many direct-to-video cheapquels as they did IOTL.
  • Since Dreamworks was a big part of the death toll for 2D animated films IOTL, maybe 2D animation will last longer ITTL, with CG animation being relegated to mainly Pixar until some other studio gets the courage to try it.
  • Steven Spielberg stays at Amblimation, which releases Cats in 1997 and Shrek in 1999 (the latter will be 2D-animated and different from OTL's version).
  • I have two different ideas for Don Bluth. Maybe he stays at Fox Animation and directs Ice Age as a hand-drawn film as was originally planned (especially since part of the reason that was reworked into a CG film IOTL was Shrek's influence). Or after Titan AE flops, he joins Amblimation and reunites with Spielberg.
Any other suggestions?
 
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I have been wondering about this for a little while: Could there be a way where social media websites like MySpace and Friendster still exist and are still prominent into the 2010s?
 
I have been wondering about this for a little while: Could there be a way where social media websites like MySpace and Friendster still exist and are still prominent into the 2010s?
Friendster is fairly easy. Just have them accept Google's acquisition. Myspace kinda depends on what happens with Facebook, though so I'm not absolutrly certain regarding that.
 
Wanna guess what that silly season announcement is @Nivek ?
Just posting the idea, maybe unlike this forum, i don't consider dr who a holy cow(for me...i watched the revival/2006 version..never liked it at all, watched on english with subs on a regional channel..Luther was miles ahead of who) so what is no Dr Who at all?
 
Just posting the idea, maybe unlike this forum, i don't consider dr who a holy cow(for me...i watched the revival/2006 version..never liked it at all, watched on english with subs on a regional channel..Luther was miles ahead of who) so what is no Dr Who at all?
Uh this is for that NASCAR Timeline I just mentioned @Nivek .
 
Was thinking about a scenario where the Resident Evil franchise begins as it did in OTL, but the Paul W. Anderson movies aren't made and instead a joint American-Japanese production called Resident Evil: The Animated Series takes its place, debuting on the fledgling cable channel FX in Summer 2000. The show has a distinct violent 80's-90's anime OVA style and generating a lot of controversy for its TV-MA rating and graphic content, but it becomes a smash hit and gains acclaim despite its animated format.

Unlike the schlocky sci-fi action of Anderson's films, this animated series is like George A. Romero meets The Shield and the first three seasons roughly correspond to the first three games, with some intentional canon discrepancies (but not to the severity of the RE movies in OTL) and this would have a major impact on the development and cultural perceptions of television, animation, and video games.

Oh, and Capcom buys out White Wolf in 1996 after Mark Rein-Hagen is ousted from the company and sells all his shares to the gaming company. This is the initial point of divergence.
 
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Yup. 100% reboot. That approach got proposed a few times during the 1990s, but Philip Segal (who largely led the efforts for an American-partnered revival) was a fan of the original series, and pushed for it to be a continuation of the original series. But a direct sequel/revival wasn't a given. Especially if you put people in charge who don't have any real nostalgia for the original material.

That the BBC would even partner with a minor network like The WB is my one unicorn in the garden, I'll freely admit. But my reasoning is that ITTL, the Doctor Who brand is a lot less healthy by the mid-2000s, and the BBC doesn't realize they're sitting on such a lucrative IP. If I ever actually write this as a proper timeline, I think I'd include backlash for the BBC selling its magic cow for beans.



I think the Daleks would appear, more or less in classic form. As for monsters/horror, it'd be heavy on those, to the point that the first season of Doctor Who ITTL would be shown after the watershed. (Season 2 would depend on the dice rolls.) Production values would be more akin to Smallville than the OTL revival. Especially with 22 episodes in a season verses 13, there'd be a lot of "historical" stories wallpapered with cheap vintage clothing.
I think a bigger unicorn is having it run after the watershed. Dr Who always was a childrens' program. The UK memory of it is that children ran behind the sofa to hide from the monsters. OK the US watershed is different from the UK one. US allows much more violence (see the US version of Tomorrow People) but the UK can do more normal relationships but still I think that would be a show stopper.

As for Daleks that might depend on Terry Nation - I think he owns the rights not the BBC.
 
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One of which involves Turner keeping MGM/UA perpetually instead of selling back some of its assets back to Tracinda and keeping the rest.
Not quite what you wanted but Ted Turner did take a run at CBS in 1985. It’s possible he succeeds. Also quite possible that General Electric buys CBS to ward off Turner, which perhaps pushes him to buy NBC?
 
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Not quite what you wanted but Ted Turner did take a run at CBS in 1985. It’s possible he succeeds. Also quite possible that General Electric buys CBS to ward off Turner, which perhaps pushes him to buy NBC?
I was very much aware of that proposal. I'm unsure whether or not GE was interested in CBS as much as it was with NBC, but its interesting nonetheless. It would also be funny (even if implausible) if Viacom ends up acquiring CBS earlier than IOTL instead of acquiring Warner-Amex Television
 
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