In Canada, Teletoon has tasked DHX Media with creating a new version of Inspector Gadget. DHX’s senior VP, distribution Josh Scherba says Inspector Gadget already has lined up a “significant” group of broadcast partners, highlighting the continued impact of a show that first hit screens in 1983.
“We’ve got a generation of people who grew up on it that are going to want their kids to experience it too,” he says. “Gadget is such a classic character – we’re keeping the physical comedy very much alive as that remains very relevant for audiences in 2015.”
I find that last sentence there a bit amusing. Physical comedy remains very relevant for audiences in 2015. That's almost as basic as saying, "entertainment value remains very relevant for audiences in 2015"... but, oh well, I think I get his drift.
However, the most interesting statement by far comes in the part about modern-day "consumption patterns", where Scherba addresses the shorter run time:
Consumption patterns have changed significantly in the multimedia era, and this represents another challenge for producers looking to remain true to their classic brand. While Studio 100 is keeping Heidi at its original 22-minute episode length, others such as Maya the Bee have been reduced to 11.
DHX made a similar choice with Inspector Gadget. “One of the big things was go with an 11-minute format, rather than the 22-minute that was the norm in 1983,” says Scherba. “That definitely brings it up to date.”
So clearly, the 11-minute format was an integral part of DHX's rebooting Gadget for modern audiences. That in itself brings it up to date, apparently. I'm just not sure I get that. Okay, yes, shorter formats are becoming more popular. Television viewers - kids in particular - are far less patient than they were 30 years ago. But I'm still not buying that kids can't or won't sit through a 22-minute animated show. That all depends on how good the show is. Successful, animated reboots retaining the 22-minute format can certainly still be found. One example is Nickelodeon's current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a somewhat flawed series in my eyes, particularly when compared to the superior 2003 version; but still hugely popular). Plus, as for 22 minutes being "the norm" back in the early 80s... one needn't look further than to DiC's own Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats from '84 for an exception to that rule. And there were of course many exceptions.
Bottom line - as I've said before - I really hope the decision to go with 11 minutes was ultimately also a creative one, not purely driven by the idea that all modern-day kids' shows need to be 11 minutes. I think it's important to say out loud that this is not really true, regardless of what networks and broadcasters seem to think. The execution determines whether an 11-minute or a 22-minute show will keep the viewer's attention.
And as long as the new Gadget series also targets adults who grew up with the original - which they did say it would - I tend to think 22 minutes might work better for including elements like character development, drama, overarching storylines... in other words, things that might make adults invested in addition to the comedy and action. (Again, though, much of this is still execution and how well the run time is spent. I might be prejudiced towards 11 minutes based on the fact that I've seen many more 22-minute series that I like.)
I'm not trying to pretend, by the way, that the format and production of the original Inspector Gadget was not affected by business decisions. The way the 1983 series was made - 65 half-hours pre-ordered for the first season and produced in less than a year - was very much steered by commercial interests. But speaking as a fan, I think the original 22-minute format ended up working really well for Gadget. It enabled the writers to juggle a lot of different plot points within one storyline, most of them adding greatly to the entertainment value.
I'll try not to make such a fuss over the run time in future posts. You must be getting tired of hearing me repeat these points. Seeing as the series is produced like this anyway, I honestly do hope to be proven wrong in my scepticism towards 11-minute episodes. I hope the reboot works fantastically with 11-minute episodes. And at the same time, I hope it manages to appeal to both adults and kids.
We'll just have to wait and see how all that is juggled, right?