At present, our addictions are 24 (of course) and, most recently (thanks to our going-to-be-a-doctor-DV son) House, M.D. We've been watching House each week and, at the same time, catching up on past episodes through the wonder that is Netflix. Since the show's only in its third season, we're almost caught up.
We like the show a lot. It's very intelligent, mostly very well-written, and the actors (particularly Hugh Laurie in the title role) are very good. Actually, Laurie is marvelous, particularly given that he's a Brit acting in a flawless American accent.
House himself is a terrible man, just terrible. Absolutely brilliant doctor, wreck of a human being. I doubt we watch an episode without me turning to Valerie, exclaiming "He's awful!" He's unsympathetic, impatient, never suffers fools (or even non-genuises) gladly, has the bedside manner of Hannibal Lector, and horrendous ethics.
But he's tireless in his pursuit of the cause of each week's disease, he's funny; and often, as he is watching, he has the most haunted look of yearning sadness that the viewer hopes that something is going on inside.
Plus, the episodes often do a surprisingly good job of raising ethical issues, and that in a non-clichéd way. And usually these episodes are kind of like (if you'll pardon the metaphor) a road-kill pizza: a real array of meatiness, yet complex and knotty. For instance — SPOILER ALERT ON — there was the episode of the pregnant woman who would die unless she accepted a treatment that would kill her unborn child. But the woman was (to us Christians) unsympathetic in that she was unmarried, and had the child fathered by a homosexual friend's sperm. Yet she was absolutely insistent that the child would live, even if she died. And she insisted on calling it a child, while House insisted in calling it a "fetus." Plus his boss, Dr. Cuddy — whose spirituality and ethics are better than House's, but that's not saying a lot — was pursuing saving child and mother as intensely as House usually pursues his weekly mystery disease.
And then House does surgery on the unborn child -- who reaches out and grasps his finger. He's clearly moved. He calls it a "baby" after that. The last scenes shows him alone in his apartment, looking at the finger the child touched.
Yes, you read me right. That was on network TV. — SPOILER ALERT OFF —
If I had one criticism, it mght be of the fact that every episode we've seen follows exactly the same formula. Opening scene shows some happy soul, who within a minute or two is struck down by The Mystery Disease of the Week. And whatever else happens, it will take the whole episode to figure out what's afflicting this person. Plus, the hospital's tests alone will usually worsen it, as will initial treatment.
Now, if Joss Whedon were directing....
In case you don't know him, Whedon was the genius behind the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly TV series, as well as the movie Serenity. How would House be different if Whedon were in charge?
- He would certainly mess with the formula. It would not be the same from week to week. One week — it might be a musical!
- He would have killed some major character by now. Probably either Dr. Cuddy or Wilson; it has to be one everyone loves. I say it'd have been Cuddy, since House needs the counterpoint of Wilson (who plays Dr. Watson to House's Sherlock Holmes).
- Religious characters would not have been portrayed so sympathetically. I've often remarked that Joss Whedon (a self-described "angry atheist"), like most Hollywood writers, has evidently never ever known well and liked even one genuine, practicing Christian.
- The humor would be as sharp, or sharper.
- Sexuality would be about the same (which isn't good), except that one heterosexual character might "go gay" for no apparent reason whatever.
- The seasons would have serious plot-arcs. At present, they've had a weak arc here and there, but basically you can jump on this train at any time, and not have missed much.
- There would be more character-evolution. As it is, every one of the four major characters is basically exactly the same as when we first met him or her. If Whedon were at the helm, this would not be so.