Fox finally pulled up the sheet over House’s face on 21 May, bringing the long series to an end with an aptly titled finale episode, “Everybody Dies.” As season finales of long-running shows often are, it attempted to encapsulate the show in an hour, leaving viewers with a taste of old characters and a final bite of the show’s distinct style as well as tying up loose ends to generate a feeling of completion with a touch of nostalgia.
May is upon us, which means that season and in some cases series finales are about to start rolling out as the 2011-2012 television season wraps up and the cable networks prepare to take over the summer airwaves with shows like The Newsroom, True Blood, Breaking Bad, The Closer, Perception, Leverage, and Weeds. With scores of shows attempting to draw viewers in for a last ratings push and a finale ending designed to pull people back in the fall, which finales should you bother tuning in for, and which are likely to be a snoozefest?
I know I’ll be trying to catch at least seven finales, each for entirely different reasons.
There comes a time when even the greatest of television shows must be brought to a graceful and quiet end; see, for example, the stellar and possibly unbeatable closure in Six Feet Under’s finale episode. Creators, actors, and producers alike eventually need to move on to other projects because they’ve said what they need to say.
Unfortunately, some shows currently airing have apparently not gotten this message, and it appears they need a bit of a gentle kick in the rump to remind them that it’s time to exit stage right before they get too much longer in the tooth.
I have a love/hate relationship with House, MD, which is really reflective of the main character himself, who seems to vacillate between being mind-numbingly irritating and absolutely delightful. Sometimes the show is drama at its finest, with nuanced, complicated explorations of characters and their motivations. At other times, it’s a frustrating example of the worst side of medical dramas, like the hyperfocus on attributing all negative behaviour to illness, rather than intrinsic character flaws.
This season, House has felt like a bit of a mixed bag. There was a period in the middle there where I had trouble sitting through a whole episode because they all felt so dull. Everything started to blur together and I lost some storylines in the middle. This is a common problem with US television and its endless nature, the ‘run it ’til the ratings fall through the floor’ approach where creators keep having to generate new content even if they’re out of original ideas because there’s no set end in sight.
Medical dramas have a particularly hard time with this because there are only so many exotic diseases viewers will tolerate, even on a show dedicated to the most exotic of the bunch. There are only so many ways to kill a patient, only so many dramatic scenarios to set up, and only so many ways we can watch the characters hook up and pair off. Medical dramas start to stall out after a certain point because they back themselves into a corner and there’s nowhere else to go. Viewers become attached to a particular tone and style and will resist vigorously if the show attempts to step outside of that.
The Russian writer Count Leo Tolstoy famously began his novel/brick Anna Karenina with the observation that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This made for a very clever and pithy start to a book about an unfaithful woman and generalised aristocratic misery, but as aphorisms go it’s exactly wrong. Unhappy couples are amazingly, tediously, predictable. Unhappy couples always fight over the same things – lack of money, lack of intimacy and communication, lack of sex, infidelity (i.e. too much sex, or at least too much sex with the wrong person or persons).
Conservatives would have you believe that the culprit is The Gays. Gay marriage is, after all, currently destroying the institution of marriage in ten countries, four American states and Mexico City. And sure, our editor Sarah Jaffe might point to capitalism as part of the reason why the divorce rate’s so high, since so many of us are so badly paid at our jobs that we don’t have the time or energy to make our relationships strong over long periods of time. But I have a much better culprit: television. Continue reading
As you may know, “House” is a drama that deals with the medical practice of the highly anti-social Dr. Gregory House. Though this show remains highly popular, weekly it plays upon racism, ableism, heterosexism, class privilege and white privilege to drive home its neurotic message of the nothingness of being. Most relationships between the characters are dysfunctional and focus around whatever obsession “House” manifests on a particular week.
Ableism is a major feature in this medical drama. The main character himself is a differently abled person and this seems to function as justification for the writers to take creative license with the experiences of others. Each week Dr. House is presented with a medical mystery that he has to solve. The patient is minimized and the issue becomes the disease. Though this models much of what the medical establishment advises in an effort to reduce undue attachment, not all patients are as submissive and/or docile in their medical care as presented on House.