Wednesday, December 05, 2007

TV Blogging, As The Effects of the Writers Strike Loom Large : House

I wanted to take a few minutes before we all forget what scripted television actually looks like to recommend a few shows to my tv watching friends and readers. I want to write about two- House and Pushing Daisies- that I don't think any of my friends or readers actually watches. I'll start this entry with House and try and get to Pushing Daisies later on.

First, House is currently in it's forth season, although it seems to have finished it's stock of finished episodes for the time being. I started watching the show during season two and quickly fell in love with the character of Dr. House, the shows take on human nature, and the shows unyielding skepticism in the face of a public that seems to be far more interested in the supernatural and mystical.

Dr. House is one of those all time great tv characters who probably gets shortchanged by some potential viewers because he comes across as this obnoxious, eccentric, arrogant prick. All those adjectives are true, but Dr. House is fascinating because he combines those characteristics with a logical, inquisitive mind, and the inherent contradiction of an anti-social personality and a burning desire to understand why people do the things that they do. He's entertaining in his defiance of social norms and conventions, yet also endearing as that same defiance aids him in solving medical mysteries and curing ailing patients.

The show is set up as a medical mystery. Similar to the way in which the X-Files would have a new victim to start the show every week, House always opens with the latest medical case collapsing from an as yet unknown medical problem. The medical mystery is the show's basic structure, which, at times, can get a bit dull - the best episodes showcase a patient who helps to brings out an emotional or personal conflict with House or his team of doctors and answer (or perhaps raise) interesting questions about human nature. The show delves into questions of truthfulness and questions about just what happiness is. On the surface, the show makes viewers decide whether they'd want a doctor like Dr. House- brilliant but no bedside manner- or a doctor with less competence who might sugarcoat the truth. But deeper than that the show is asking the meaning of the conventions that make us tip-toe around death and demands sympathy before action.

Finally, it's nice to see a show that maintains such a strong foundation in science. It seems today as though a lot of dramas on tv are about ghosts, spirits, or something supernatural. House has shows in which reality is brought in to question - we have dreams, we have hallucinations, but there is always a proper scientific and medical explanation. At the same time, the show is very fair to faith and spiritual beliefs - it doesn't question deeply held beliefs, only the ostentatious displays of faith healing, magic, or communication with the dead. Additionally, it's just plain nice to see a tv doctor putting tv patients in their place when it comes to things like avoiding vaccinations and overly all-natural diets.

House isn't the best show on tv - I think it's formulaic structure prevents it from being as interesting as it could be. A show like the X-Files blossomed because it moved beyond it's initial conventions and became something more than the show about UFO's and monsters of the week. While House could never have the same opportunities that the X-Files did as a science fiction show, there's no reason it can't vary from it's typical structure. Case-in-point was last night's third season repeat of what I like to call "House on a Plane." House is on board a plane home, when other passengers begin to show mysterious symptoms. It puts the character in a different situation and just adds a little variety to the routine.

Regardless, House is enjoyable and well worth watching. For those of us who tend to get involved in heavily serialized dramas, it's nice to enjoy a change of pace show that actually has closure every week. For those that haven't watched it, I'd give it a try - at least unlike those serialized dramas you can basically jump in at any time. I believe the show is done with it's new episode run, but I think Fox plans on showing repeat episodes several nights a week during the writers strike - And reruns are also shown Thursday and Friday nights on USA.


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