The Moralities of House (3×19, "Act Your Age")

I’ve noticed that several members of the Catholic blogosphere will often post reflections on their favorite primetime shows each week (here I’m thinking of Julie D. in particular, though Amy Welborn will do so as well for a noteworthy episode).

Well, I’ve noticed that no one seems to be talking about House M.D., with the exception of the “Fetal Position” episode that I briefly posted about last week, which garnered some scattered attention for its pro-life elements.

As I’ve admitted before, I’m fairly addicted to House. It’s the only television show I currently make time for, and I’ve managed to see the entirety of its previous seasons over the past couple months. So I think I’m fairly well situated to start commenting on it. The show is primarily about medical, interpersonal and business-place ethics – prime fodder for discussion. From what I’ve heard, House has been renewed for a fourth season (in its 3rd now) and is currently Fox’s top-rated scripted drama. This means that it will probably be around for awhile longer, and in the meantime, plenty of people (almost 20m) will be watching it each week. Finally, the title character of Dr. House is played by Hugh Laurie, one of my all-time favorite British actors, ever since he was the Bertie Wooster of Jeeves & Wooster. I hope that’s a satisfactory account of the contributing factors to my addiction.

First things first – *spoiler warning*. I’m writing with the presumption that readers are either familiar with the show, have scene the episode in question, or are not worried about having plot arc points given away. Also, House treats of fairly explicit themes often (“viewer discretion advised”), so be warned. Enough said….

3×19 – “Act Your Age”

Here’s the TV preview spot for this episode:

PoliteDissent provides a weekly plot recap of each episode, and then (helpfully) evaluates the medical claims made by the show. They actually gave this week’s episode a failing grade, which I’d agree with given even I found the final diagnosis to be contradictory with the preceding symptoms. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

The Moralities:

This week focused less on Dr. House and allowed some of the secondary characters to develop.

Chase and Cameron remain tense after breaking off their inane “friends-with-benefits/sex-without-strings” relationship. At least the writers of House are willing to show that such an arrangement is foolish and unnatural between humans. Interestingly, Chase is coming off the better of the two in this situation. Typically he is the office playboy, and its good to see him being given some credit (i.e., being unsatisfied with Cameron’s desire to keep their relationship only physical). His gift of flowers to her in the end at least has the surface plausibility of being disinterested, and that’s more than we’d expect from him given his past tendency to self-serve.

Cameron’s decision to enter the “relationship” (and end it when Chase voices his dissatisfaction) remains unintelligible to me. It doesn’t make sense objectively, or even within the context of the show where Cameron is normally the most “moral” of the four doctors. Classically she’s the one pointing out how a physical procedure has emotional, psychological and moral dimensions that can’t be ignored for the sake of utility. And yet, she initiates this deal with Chase which positively reeks of physical utility at the expense and danger of emotional, psychological and moral considerations. I guess that is probably the irony of her choice, but we’ll see where the writers take it.

The emerging love triangle between Wilson, Cuddy and House has nothing except disaster written all over it. Sure, it might keep people interested, but the pathological inability to maintain relationships evidenced by Wilson and House’s personal demons aren’t going to be overcome by Cuddy’s late-middle-age-professional-style desperation to find a partner. At least it won’t be overcome for longer than an awkward one-night-stand or two somewhere near the end of this season to keep the ratings up. Which, I’d imagine, is the same reason the Chase/Cameron relationship started-up early season – following the disappointing trend in almost every major TV drama where most of the main characters need to be sleeping with each other by the end of the second season (early third if you’re lucky, never if you’re Mulder and Scully).

In terms of the episode-specific character, I think the lesson taught was good. The father’s decision to begin a relationship with the caretaker of his children, so soon after his wife’s death, is definitely given a critical treatment. The fact that this caretaker is much younger than him, and that his third-party solution to his impotence problems are the direct cause of his children’s sufferings only highlight the inappropriateness of his choice. The four doctors even suspect him of child abuse for a good portion of the episode because of his failures in duty. If I could put the message to the father curtly: “Keep it in your pants, and take care of your kids, dude.” Or as House puts it: “A guy gets a little somethin’-somethin’ and a couple of kids have to die… it’s the circle of life.”

More House resources:

Conclusion:

I’ve penned this rather hastily rather than wai
ting to give it more attention, and subsequently having it slip through the cracks. I’d be he happy to hear your thoughts in the combox below or via email. Hopefully I will have time next week (around finals!) to pen another review if this sort of thing is useful and/or interesting to folks.

Here is the preview for next episode, 3×20 – “House Training.” House airs Tuesdays, 9/8 central.

Legalize: pictures (except for top) �2007 FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY Credit: Isabella Vosmikova/FOX.

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