Guinness World Records named Doctor Who “the most successful sci-fi series” yesterday, a distinction based on ratings, DVD sales, and Web popularity. (The announcement comes during a strange time for Who devotees, as they're getting prepared for a new doctor to take the lead.)
Maybe I'm a purist, but I like my world records to be really specific and not debatable – most hours spent jumping on a trampoline, most people on space hoppers, biggest sandwich, etc etc. Defining “success” for a show – sci-fi or otherwise – is a much more amorphous proposition, and I think the Guinness folks are confusing “successful” with “lucrative.”
Not to cave to my inner hippie here, but… there are lots of modes of success, aren't there? As long as I'm not running a network (and I'm not), can't a show that was a ratings failure, say Freaks and Geeks for example, still be “successful”? I mean, it certainly made me laugh often and much; that has to count for something. I'm not trying to diminish Doctor Who's popularity or scope of influence – epic, on both counts – but I'm not sure holding a record really makes a difference to fans.
How would you define “success” for a TV show, PopWatchers? Is it really just a money-making endeavor, or do your favorite shows succeed or fail on a different market?