Two current TV series, one back for its second series, the other probably embarking on its only series, illustrate one of the most controversial arguments in Digimodernism. In chapter five I assert - at nothing like the length and in nothing like the detail that the theme requires - that "popular culture", such a favourite of postmodernism and of postmodern criticism, has been supplanted by a dominant children's entertainment which does not correlate to any extant sense of "popular". This has very different meanings in the various contexts where it is found, nor is it an entirely negative development.
Merlin (BBC) is an enjoyably mystical/nonsensical/Potterish re-telling of the Arthurian sagas for the digimodernist age. It's packed with CGI and earnestness (in place of irony), and it reshapes the inherited narrative structures in one very striking way. The sorceror Merlin himself is no longer the bearded, wrinkly, ancient oldster whose literary descendents include Gandalf and Dumbledore. Instead, he's about 19 years old (above left). Consequently, he doesn't transfer the baby Arthur from his threatened father King Uther to a foster home, but is Arthur's exact contemporary, and is obliged to protect the once and future monarch from a status of uneasy peer/rival. Reducing Merlin to one third of his usual age, the show keeps Uther alive and difficult, while Merlin, far from being the finished magical article, is still at conjuring school under the tutelage of a tetchy oldster. Guinevere is also Merlin's age, as are most of the peripheral characters, so that, as an ensemble, the cast resembles a pop group like Hear'Say, complete with token nods to racial inclusiveness. The assumption here is, I think - and this is not a thought that would have occurred to the makers of children's entertainment forty years ago - that child-friendly entertainment must be focused on semi-children and on juvenile issues (getting on with teachers and Dad etc.). It's supposedly for families, but Mary Poppins it ain't.
The execrable Trinity (ITV2, above right), on the other hand, is essentially what you would get if you made a class of comprehensive school fifteen-year-olds watch Brideshead Revisited and then had them write a TV show about a black kid starting at a posh college. He is relentlessly patronized and bullied and humiliated by a group called the Dandelion Club who are vaguely based on David Cameron's Bullingdon Club, and who are equipped with ludicrous dialogue endlessly adumbrating their class superiority. All they appear to do all day is saturate the world around them with their snobbery. The entire college is basically run by this clique of arrogant beaux, who effortlessly bend the Dean and the Warden and the Council to its will (they are guaranteed their degrees and have no need to work [!]). Filmed in a school, Dulwich College, the locale for this tomfoolery doesn't look anything like a university, and nobody behaves remotely like people who have been through higher education. Super-privileged students at Oxbridge, I know for a fact, just ignore those they socially despise; they don't seek them out and strut ostentatiously around them. Equally, the only colleges controlled by their students figure in the narcissitic dreams of particularly immature teenagers. And yet these days almost 50% of the English go to university; half the population will therefore be immediately aware that Trinity offers a laughably unreal image of higher education. The show's makers, tellingly, don't seem to care about this; instead, they have chosen to construct HE as what you might imagine it is before you go there, because they assume that their audience must be under 18.
The primary goal of both shows seem to be to gain the attention of children, either by throwing them and their concerns up on to the screen regardless of the source material, or by consciously inventing worlds which correspond, no matter how risibly, to their limited prejudices. Actors over 30 appear as parents or teachers whose only wish is to impose boring and petty restrictions on the glamorous stars, which the latter nevertheless easily get round. Of the two, it is Trinity that is more radical, because - scheduled at 10 pm and filled with sex and violent death - it is not in fact sold as "children's entertainment". Most people would probably file it under "popular culture". Narratologically it's primarily the former, because the latter has largely become the former.