New House

Last night as I was channel-surfing I saw an ad for the new season of House, which apparently will be starting up in September.  It came as a bit of a surprise, because I never know when new episodes will start for any shows anymore. 

(Don’t you miss the old days, when all shows started airing new episodes at about the same time kids went back to school?  You’d get the Fall Preview episode of TV Guide and be able to read short write-ups of all of the casting changes and programming changes for existing shows and descriptions of the new shows.  On any given night during the first week of new TV shows, you could watch a number of totally new shows and enjoy the return of old favorites.  It wasn’t pleasant going back to school, but at least the start-up of the TV season made it a bit more palatable.)

From the ad, it looks like House actually was institutionalized for mental treatment, which would quash my theory that the weird, dream-like ending of last season was just a Vicodin-induced hallucination.  The ad shows the good Dr. House with an institutional haircut and a grown-out beard that has replaced his trademark stubble, and we also see him haranguing Wilson from some rotary phone in the hallway of the psychiatric hospital.

I’m not sure what they are going to do with this plot line, but as I’ve noted before I like House, because it is one of the few consistently challenging shows on TV.  I hope that continues.

Odd House

We’ve had our debates on this blog about House — see here and here — so I’ve resisted posting anything about the unsettling season-ending episode. Today, however, my friend JV and I spent some time at lunch talking about the episode and what it all meant, and I realized that fact just demonstrated, again, why I think House is a show well worth watching.

This season’s ultimate episode challenged viewers to distinguish between reality and fantasy. There will be no “right” answers until next season begins and we find out what “really happened.” The episode ended with Dr. Gregory House apparently entering a psychiatric institution — but, did he really? The final scene has Wilson wordlessly driving House to some stereotypical-looking, forbidding Victorian institution. Wilson stops some distance from the entrance, he and House exchange meaningful looks, and then he watches as House approaches the door of the facility and is helped inside. The camera then shows that the building is a mental hospital. The scene is so strange and dream-like that it made me wonder whether it really happened at all, or whether it was just another Vicodin-flavored hallucination along with much of the rest of what (apparently) happened in this episode and last episode. Was any of what we saw — including the patient of the week and the wedding of Cameron and Chase — real?

I understand that not everyone likes House or finds it entertaining, but not many TV shows are so thought-provoking that you can have a detailed lunchtime conversation about them. That counts for something, in my book.

In Defense of House

The very strange Dr. House

The very strange Dr. House

I have to respond to Richard’s post about House and explain why I like, and continue to watch, the show. I know that some people say that the show has “jumped the shark” (and it seems, incidentally, that some people are just eager to claim to be the first to say that a show “jumped the shark”), but I still find House entertaining.

Why? Well, for one thing it is one of the most contrarian, un-P.C. shows on TV. House says the most appalling things imaginable, and the show isn’t afraid to poke fun at anything. Second, the theme of individual shows often address weighty topics, and in interesting ways. One of the running issues in House is the disdain that Dr. Greg House — the consummate dispassionate scientist and intellectual — has for organized religion, and his exasperation at the fact that many of his patients and fellow doctors continue to adhere to deeply held religious beliefs, despite House’s view that he has convincingly shown that such beliefs are stupid. I like the depth of some of these philosophical issues, which many TV shows don’t touch in anything other than the most superficial ways. At the same time, House also recognizes that it is just a TV show, and sometimes steps outside the normal frame of reference to wink at the viewer. For example, one of my favorite episodes, called Three Stories, featured a moment where House, after making a “continuity error,” looked straight at the camera and said something like: “Fortunately, time is not a fluid construct.” How many TV shows manage to comment ironically on their status as TV shows? The characters are interesting — Dr. House is arguably one of the most outlandish, unconventional, misogynistic characters in TV history — and some of the medical mysteries are fascinating. Often it is not the “main” patient, but the clinic patient that doesn’t get much time on screen, that is the most memorable — as when House deduced that a guy who was dating a vegan and claimed to be a vegan was experiencing floating feces because he was eating cheeseburgers when his girlfriend wasn’t around. There are other reasons, but this is sufficient to give a flavor.

Sure, House is not a particularly believable show, and often it is uncomfortable to watch. At any normal hospital, Dr. House would long ago have been fired, and House and his friends suffer more dramatic events — illnesses, job changes, life-altering epiphanies, deaths of loved ones, and so forth — than average people would. But it is, after all, a TV show — and one that I still think is worth watching.

House Is Right

Fictional TV character Dr. Gregory House famously states: “Everybody lies.” Recent news indicates, once again, that House is right. Star baseball player Alex Rodriguez, after denying steroid use, admits that, at least for a certain period of time, he did use banned substances. The new President and the new Congress, after promising to conduct the people’s business with unprecedented transparency, write a 1000-page, $800 billion spending bill that has no legislative hearings and is not even printed and distributed to the members of Congress until a few hours before they vote on it. The new Illinois Senator, after conveniently forgetting contacts with the brother of the disgraced former Governor during his testimony before the state legislature, belatedly remembers and discloses those contacts in a supplemental affidavit. The list could go on and on.

I’m a big boy, and I understand that politicians and celebrities often don’t tell the truth. What really bugs me, though, is my nagging sense that those politicians and celebrities think they really fool us with their falsehoods and their hypocrisy. I think that, deep down,many of those individuals have complete contempt for the average, working American, and get a secret chuckle out of their belief that they have put another one over on us. So, I want to declare for the record: I have not been fooled, and I don’t think my friends have been fooled, either. We don’t believe politicians who say that they are altruistically doing things for the greater good rather than for personal gain, self-aggrandizement, or favorite lobbyists, we don’t believe athletes suddenly possessed of bulging muscles who swear that they don’t use performance-enhancing drugs, and we don’t believe celebrities who tout their lifestyle sacrifices to prevent global warming before they drive their Escalade to the local airport and hop on their personal jet.

The next time one of these folks tells a whopper, I hope they look in the mirror and feel a sick, creeping realization that they aren’t fooling us, because we don’t expect anything better from them. We know that they are corrupt and duplicitous. And I hope they feel embarrassed and ashamed for what they have become.