Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Consider the shark jumped Dr House

"Can anyone else see the shark!"
House proves that you can have a formula show that at the same time fights against formula.

On any given episode House and his team will be presented with a medical mystery that deepens as the show goes on. The guy admitted with a fit of sneezing that can't be stopped will suddenly develop bleeding from the eyes, his legs will turn blue, his hair will fall out and then a hole will appear in the centre of his hand - all whilst he lays in a hospital bed under the supervision of the most brilliant medical brain there has ever been. That's the same brain that diagnoses three or four different maladies before coming up with the right one in a moment of inspiration and clarity drawn from looking at the patterns in the wallpaper.

That's the formula bit.

What's made the series so successful - and so watchable - are the things House gets up to in a bid to circumvent the system, get one over on Cuddy, annoy Wilson, confuse his team and make life interesting.

But we're a long way down the road now, series seven, and coming up with new and weird things for House to do hit the floor in the episode I watched last night. It's the one that starts with the kids firing a model space rocket that leads them to accidentally set fire to a homeless guy in the woods. As Homeless Joe watches his arm burning he can smell liquorice. he's admitted to hospital where House and the team try to solve the mystery of his inability to smell the right smell.  The homeless guy plot was clever, it twisted and turned and had one of the best last lines to any episode ever.

But what was going on around it - for me - jumped the shark.

If you're not conversant with the term it's used to mark a defining moment when you know that your favourite television program has reached its peak. An instant of absurdity when you know, from now on...it's all downhill.  From that moment on the program will simply never be the same.

Jump the shark comes from a scene in the fifth season of Happy Days.  In the episode, the central characters visit Los Angeles, where a water-skiing Fonz, wearing swimming trunks and his leather jacket, jumps over a shark, answering a challenge to demonstrate his bravery. In a series that was never that believable to begin with this moment was Totally unbelievable. (Happy Days went on for another seven years but by the end the original cast and premise had long gone). The shark moment marked the shows decline.

The subplot to the House episode I watched last night has him arriving at work on a two wheeled Segway PT bike - with his Russian bride to be on board.  This was funny, in-keeping with his behaviour since splitting up with Cuddy. But next he's playing table tennis on the X-Ray table with his team...o-kay.

Then he turns up for work driving a Monster Truck! What? What's more he then has a diagnostic conference with the team, in the truck, whilst driving through town. If that didn't Jump the Shark I'm a monkey's uncle.


Come back to the A plot - the Homeless Guy. Like I said it was a very, very  good story and ended on an incredibly powerful note - but I nearly switched off, I nearly missed the great moment and all because they'd overloaded House with absurdity.

However funny we think out C plots and runners are the message here is simple - don't overdo it, it could be to the detriment of a very fine story.

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