Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Best Show on TV, Part 8

The Best Show on TV

"The Office" (NBC) -- 2/9/2006 - 4/2/2006
"Huff" (Showtime) -- 4/6/2006 - 8/26/2006
"Big Brother" (CBS) -- 8/26/06 - 10/4/2006
"South Park" (Comedy Central) -- 10/4/2006 - 11/30/2006
"The Office" (NBC) -- 11/30/2006 - 1/14/2007
"24" (FOX) -- 1/14/2007 - 4/5/2007
"30 Rock" (NBC) -- 4/5/2007 - 4/10/2008
"House" (FOX) -- 4/10/2008 - present

Okay. We're setting aside some rules here.

Generally, the title is recognized to have changed hands on the day upon which the title-change-inspiring episode aired, not the day upon which The Best Show on TV blog entry was written by me.

Generally, I have to be a regular viewer of a show to be able to declare it The Best Show on TV.

But there are special circumstances. First of all, I haven't done one of these in over a year, which is mostly "30 Rock"'s fault because it kept being The Best Show on TV, but I miss doing this series. It's a lot of fun.

Second of all, the strike messed everything up.

Third of all, I just realized that I was just a tiiiiiiiiiiny bit more excited to be able to start watching new episodes of "House" than I was about the NBC comedy lineup ("30 Rock" being the sharpest tool in that drawer, though not by much) coming back.

Fourth, and finally, I watched the "House" Christmas episode on after having caught a rerun of the post-Super Bowl episode on USA or somewhere. Those two episodes -- along with a string of reruns from past seasons that confirmed that the greatness of those two episodes was no fluke -- did it. "House" is The Best Show on TV, even if I just got into it and have never actually watched a new episode on the actual night it aired.

I didn't watch "House" for a few years even as I heard from relatively reliable source upon relatively reliable source just how good it was. And not just good; absolute-top-tier-of-anything-on-TV good. I resisted because I knew the show was about a cantankerous, physically challenged doctor who solved medical mysteries with his staff ("staff" in this case meaning either "employees" or "cane;" take your pick), "CSI"-style, and, although I had no reason to doubt those who said the show was great, how great could it be? I figured the excellence ceiling for a procedural was right about at the D'Onofrio episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" or the original "CSI," both of which I enjoy, but not as much as a "Shield" or "Office" or maybe even a particularly good run of "Survivor."

But it turns out my calculations were incorrect. The excellence ceiling for a procedural is The Best Show on TV, and "House" has reached it.

"House" does a masterful job of making sure each episode works as a self-contained piece -- a must for procedurals -- while weaving in character development that generally ties into the medical mystery du semaine. Hugh Laurie's Dr. Gregory House is a brilliant, stubborn malcontent who can't possibly accept that things aren't always the way he thinks they should be, and that people don't always think the way he thinks they should. He's also a classic narcissist-with-low-self-esteem, who sees himself -- though he wouldn't admit it -- as the proverbial piece of shit around which the entire world revolves. He has clearly channeled his frustrations in this regard not only toward the destructive practice of alienating everyone in his life, but also toward the constructive practice of attempting to bend illness itself (i.e., nature itself; i.e., existence itself) to his own will.

Long story short: he's not just your stock "closed-off grump who refuses to let anybody in" character. It runs deeper than that. Fathoms deeper.

But you don't -- as LeVar Burton used to say -- have to take my word for it. Check out "It's a Wonderful Lie" and "Frozen" for yourself. The latter episode features some guy drinking Oscar winner Mira Sorvino's pee, if you're into that sort of thing (which, based on a website I started in 1997 and can't talk about anymore due to ongoing legal action, I can assume that at least 86,000 of you are).

[it should be noted that "30 Rock" (as well as "The Office" and, for that matter, "Scrubs") return from writers strike-imposed hiatus tonight, so the title reign for "House" could be a brief one, in the manner of Kane or the late Yokozuna. We'll see. All hell's probably going to break loose when "The Shield" comes back this fall, in any case]

Hugh Laurie is a genius. He and the magnificent Stephen Fry used to be a comedy team in Britain. If you haven't read his novel "The Gun Seller," make it a point to do so. It's nothing like "House" but I'm betting you'll enjoy it even more.

I've only watched about 90 minutes of "House" because, like "Rescue Me," I came late to the show, and, like "Rescue Me," I knew it was supposed to be really good, which meant I'd have to add it to my weekly lineup, which is already overcrowded. So that would mean dropping some lesser show to make room, and I didn't want to face that decision so I kept on watching a show I knew was inferior and ignoring a show I knew was very good.

I can't explain this logic - perhaps it's a dismal side effect of the Annual TiVo Gauntlet of New Fall Programming.

Thanks for the tip, though. Maybe I'll finally make the switch. It's nice the reruns are on USA: their original programming is better than anyone else's in the 60-minute format, so having their stamp of approval on old "House" episodes adds a little luster.
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