A Case of the…. Medical Dramas – ER & House

With ER celebrating its 300th episode, I felt it fitting to discuss the last few episodes of the long running series. While on the topic of medical dramas, I thought I’d also briefly discuss the official new team on House.

I’ve noted before that this season seems to be making an added effort to enhance the personal relationships between the main cast, and that’s become especially apparent with Pratt and Luka. What a wonderfully, well developed relationship these two share. Just a few years ago, Pratt and Luka had such a heated relationship that Pratt refused to even report to him. Now, these two seem to genuinely care for one another, with Pratt looking up to Luka as a mentor. I’ve enjoyed their scenes together (particularly when Luka advised him on how to get into the good graces of the higher ups), and Pratt’s concern over Luka’s well being in regards to his father.

I don’t know if I’ve stated this before, but I’m really glad they had Neela join the surgical staff. After Corday left (and one could argue since Benton left), the surgical representation of this series had been sorely lacking. Despite the show being called “E.R.,” when you think of the original cast, the characters were pretty spread out amongst the ER, OR, and nursing staffs. Yes, the odds were stacked in favor of the ER (and rightfully so, given the title and the general intensity of that environment), but every aspect seemed properly represented. For quite some time, however, the ER staff has dominated the series, with seemingly all of the main character nurses either leaving or opting to become doctors. Neela’s role as the surgical resident has freshened up the series notably, with characters like Dubenko and most recently Harold (Harold + Morris = Comedy Gold) being very welcome additions to the supporting cast.

That John Stamos really gets around, doesn’t he? It looks like he’s going to start shacking up with Sam, despite currently being in a relationship of sorts with the hospital Chaplin. By the way, a couple of weeks ago Gates did an Elvis impression, and it brought back some fond memories of the Uncle Jesse days. Anyway, Gates and Sam could make a cute couple, perhaps even leading to Sam remembering that she has a son.

For the most part I’ve enjoyed the storyline with Luka and Abby, and I think both actors have done a superb job with what they’ve been given, but it brings attention to a gripe I have with television writers in general, which is this erroneous belief that you need conflict in order to keep a relationship interesting. I don’t agree. How many times do you read a negative review of a show, where the columnist states that two characters were far more interesting before they got together? The examples are endless: Cheers, Moonlighting, Dawson’s Creek, Friends, and even most recently with Jim and Pam on The Office immediately comes to mind.

You know what my problem is with this mentality? As a viewer, you become so emotionally involved with a character that you truly want to see he or she find happiness, and when it seems like they finally do, the writers create a scenario that brings them to shambles in order to keep things “interesting.” What ends up happening, more times than not, is that the writers don’t allow characters to become truly happy until they are written off of the show, or when the series comes to an end (so the climax or resolution essentially occurs off screen). So you spend all this time waiting for and hoping that the character finds happiness, only to be deprived of enjoying the final result.

If you want a perfect example of a relationship can be interesting and enjoyable to watch without resorting to major conflicts, just take a look at Seth and Summer from The O.C. The build up to them getting together was very well written and involved a great deal of character development from both sides, and aside from, what, two or three brief break ups and a few minor tiffs (that were usually resolved the same episode it was introduced), the two of them remained together, quite happily so, for three years. The secret to their success, so to speak, is that Seth and Summer were both individually strong characters, that were both exceptionally likeable that had phenomenal, believable on-screen chemistry. It’s probably the only time, ever, that I enjoyed watching Rachel Bilson with another man.

The idea of the viewer “missing out” on the climax also presented another fear of mine. When Abby and Luka were in the living room, and she finally stated to him, “Luka, I need help” only for it to immediately go to a commercial break, I had worried that we’d return to the scene with the two discussing her drinking problem. I had really concerned that after all this build up they’d have her confession occur off camera, which would have been a tremendous cop out on behalf of the writers. I was thankful that that ended up not being the case. I also liked how uncharacteristically nasty Abby got once her jig was up with Neela (showing how far she’s fallen and how desperate she’s become). I do still have issues with the fact that all these people are so ignorant to Abby having previous bouts with alcoholism.

With that rant aside, I really enjoyed the ceremony held in the break room, especially when each of the cast members reminisced about past patients that have touched their lives in various ways. The montage, using clips from past episodes, was really touching and effective.

I do have one grievance with the ceremony, though. On a day where the hospital gets 300 patients in ONE DAY, do you think that perhaps it’s not the wisest thing to waste an entire bag of saline, when tap water would have done just fine? If I was a real dick, I’d also bring up the fact that virtually all of the Attendings, Residents, and RNs managed to slip away from the onslaught of patients to attend the séance, but I won’t do that.

To be honest, I don’t have all that much to say about House. I’ve really enjoyed the drawn out “picking his new team” story, and I was pretty close to predicting the final three (I thought they’d go with the two girls and Kumar). I probably wouldn’t have thought that Taub would be picked when the season kicked off. I’m glad that Thirteen and Kumar (not calling him Kutner yet) got picked, though. Part of me hopes that we really never do find out what her real name is, as long as the situations don’t become too contrived. She could be House’s version of Noah Bennet!

One thing I have noticed, though, is the significant difference in screen time that Chase and Cameron get this year compared to previous ones. I mean, taking them off the team guaranteed that they’d see less screen time, but they went from being in practically every single scene to doing a one or two minute scene per episode. I also don’t get the love for Foreman and why there’s been a special effort to incorporate him into every episode, and not his two former cohorts.

Oh, and Wilson still rules.

Sir Linksalot: Television New

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