Thursday, May 19, 2011

I have ranked the top 68 television shows of the '00s, and will be presenting them, one-by-one, starting with 68 and working down. The rankings are more or less based on the show's popularity, it's cult status, it's critical acclaim, and my personal liking of it, with a heavy dose of arbitrariness added in. If a show was a big enough phenomena, I'll keep it on the list - but if I don't like it, I may drop it some spots. One other caveat - these are primetime shows (I apologize if I put a cable show that wasn't, I thought they were all primetime shows - the main point of this is just that no talk shows, no Colbert and Daily Show that would be on otherwise).

8: House

House has been Fox's scripted mainstay (and second only behind American Idol in importance to Fox) through the past decade, anchoring its lineup with a show that, for the most part of its run, has been both critically lauded and commercially successful.

I watched most of the second and third season of House, and while I enjoyed it very much, it being 85% procedural and 15% serial led me to feel less compelled to watch it weekly - this could instead be the stuff of Sunday afternoon marathons post-football season like Monk and Law & Order: SVU.

Of course, if Hugh Laurie didn't do such a good job, the show could have run out of legs a long time earlier. The formula really isn't all that wonderful - it's one of those situations where, if I described the show to you - a crack medical team led by a moody arrogant savant assisted by his three acolytes take on a strange medical case every week and figure out what's wrong with the patient, often some ridiculous disease you've never heard of - it doesn't sound all that great (to be fair, it actually sounds better than I thought it would sound before writing it out). However, the cast, mostly Laurie, but with a shout out for his only friend, fellow doctor Wilson, portrayed by Robert Sean Leonard, takes it to above average.

I'd like just a quick word about the CSI-like super up close shots of medical organs and other fairly disgusting parts of human insides, and that word(s) is(are), stop showing them, they add absolutely nothing to the show, and seem strange and out of place - the show is not really stylized like CSIs in any other way.

The show has certainly by now reached grand-old-man status - it's a legend in its time slot, but more for what it did, than for what it's doing now. And although most of what I know about the recent episodes comes from reading articles and other people's opinions, I don't find it hard to believe that the show, while perfectly acceptable I'm sure, has passed its prime (and believe me, I do hate those people who are so quick to jump on shows from being passed its prime - but of course, it does happen). As if to give new life to the show, a whole bunch of new characters were introduced in the fourth season. His three helpers all were either fired or quit, and through a gradual winnowing process House chose three new ones.

One of the three new doctors chosen in season 4 was portrayed by Kal Penn, who left House, and well, acting, to join the Obama administration after the election of 2008. The writers of House deigned to do something creative with his leaving the show, and instead of having him get fired, or some other way leaving open the door for later reappearances, decided to have him hang himself and pose this as something of a mystery, regarding why he did it. While I appreciate the going for the gold approach to story telling - there can be no doubting this is a bold manuever - it never made a whole lot of sense for me. Yes, I suppose there's some potential character-mining to be had here, and that was the idea - can House deal with there being no reason, no rationale, blah, blah, blah, I think that benefit is outweighed by the forced feeling the whole action generated.

The newest out of camp House is that Lisa Edelstein will not be returning next season as Cuddy, and if the wheels weren't already spinning, they are now, and although next season will probably be the last, it seems as if, if it could have been better planned this season should have been. While sometimes cast changes work, it's always unfortunate to have one of those last seasons that just seem one season too far, when some actors and actresses wanted to carry on and some didn't, and you end up with kind of a muddled mess and an end that doesn't do justice to a show's beginning and middle.

Still, House is the big medical drama of its day, bigger I think overall in impression than Grey's Anatomy (though with less impact on the pop charts) every decade needs at least one defining medical drama (90s - ER, 80s St Elsewhere to start), and House is the '00s.

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