Go ahead and get beat with your 2nd best pitch  


There are two types of baseball cliches that bother me: ones that are untrue, and those that contradict other baseball cliches. Al Leiter, despite being an annoying republican, sometimes fights back against Kay on Yankee broadcasts. Kay was going on and on about how some pitcher just got beat on his second best pitch. Leiter was defending the pitcher, but he didn't go all the way. He said something to the effect that in that situation, maybe he thought his slider was in fact his best pitch. Here's how i would argue against kay.

me: well, what is his best pitch a fastball?

kay: yeah, his fastball.

me: So, he should just throw a fastball every single pitch then?

kay: no, that's not what i'm saying....

me: but it is what you are saying. the pitcher doesn't know what pitch in the at bat he's going to get "beat", so, i suppose he should just always throw his "best" pitch. The problem though, as, i HOPE you can see, is that if he's always throwing a fastball, it no longer becomes his best pitch. The hitter will be able to sit on it.

kay: that's why good pitchers have to mix it up.

me: but, that cliche is in direct contradiction with the other one!

kay: I'm just saying, i don't understand why farnsworth would throw a slider there when his fastball is clearly his best pitch. If he's going to get beat, it should be on his best pitch.

House S1-E1: “Pilot”  


House S1-E1: “Pilot”

By definition, a pilot is generally one of the weaker episodes of a series. It’s hampered by the requirement of introducing the characters to the audience, and thus it paints with an overly broad stroke. However, as far as pilots go, this premiere episode of House was above average.

Plots don’t interest me much when it comes to this show. Rather, I’m interested in the character development. This series is very formulaic anyway: 1) Episode starts w/ a stranger getting sick (note: half the time, the scene will lead the viewer to believe person A is going to be the one getting sick and then “shock” us when it’s person B) 2) House et al think they have the cure 3) person gets sicker 4) House fights to try his long shot diagnosis and 5) House is right.

Not a very compelling concept, I know. I still chuckle when I think about Colbert faux-ripping on House (b/c it, not he, was nominated for a Peabody) by pointing out that it was just a rebel doctor who plays by his own set of rules. If this was all the show was, I’d put it on the level of Law and Order (or slightly below): interesting to watch, but not thought provoking.

What sets House apart from other shows is the deep character development. The protagonist is miserable and disliked by almost everyone around him. That’s generally not a formula for mainstream success for a television show. However, the reasons for his misery (and contempt from his peers) is very complex. Extremely intelligent, Dr. House is able to both examine, critique, and reject societal norms with cold rationality. He’s also disturbingly honest and accurate when it comes to explaining other character’s motives and personality. A lot of the resentment towards House is that people are either afraid or unaware that he is right.

But, getting back to this episode…. The templates of the characters were well established. House walks with a bad limp, and is apparently self conscious of it (though I think they went way overboard in this area. It’s too simplistic to just label house as vein. House’s theory (which was validated in a nice subtle scene w/ the patient straining her neck to get a glimpse of the infamous “Dr. House”) is that patients don’t want a crippled doctor. He’s addicted to pain pills (there wasn’t much subtlety in the camera focusing on his hand as he popped them) and doesn’t trust people nor conform to general social norms. Basic stuff, for sure.

The two interesting portraits were of Dr. Foreman and Dr. Cameron. Foreman finds out he was hired because he stole a car as a kid. This is an interesting take on the general “young black professional has something to prove against the world” cliché. In this case, the negative stereotype actually helped him. It’s also an interesting development of House, who can take a negative quality and find its positive corollary. Being a criminal means that Dr. Foreman is also streetsmart. Likewise, this series will also have times where Dr. House finds the negative aspects of an otherwise positive quality. Those are always much more interesting, especially when House is forced to suffer insults for not jumping on the positive bandwagon.

Dr. Cameron demands to know why she was hired, as her qualifications are inferior to her peers. It turns out that Dr. House hired her because of her looks, but not for the normal reasons. As opposed to just being eye candy for him, Dr. House theorizes that someone who is beautiful but still went through the rigors of proving herself (instead of just being handed a comfortable life) must be extra motivated. He also assumes that Dr. Cameron is “damaged” in some way, and her stunned silence would be a good indication that he is correct. Another nice little character development was how Dr. Cameron always stood a little closer to House when he was talking than the rest of the doctors. She’s also the first one to comment on House’s peculiar personality. Her explanations almost borderline on a defense. It’s subtle enough where you don’t instantly sigh “oh, she has a crush on her boss, how clichéd.” Instead, it’s more interesting to see that the nicest doctor (throughout the episode she was more personable to the patient than the other doctors) is also the one most tolerant and accepting of House’s “mean” behavior. This issue will flesh out nicely throughout the season.

The one thing that caught my eye while re-watching this episode (and what inspired this rant) was House’s obsession with “General Hospital”. I always got a kick out of him watching GH, but didn’t think much of it. Throughout the episodes, he’ll be seen watching GH as a way to clear his mind while he’s struggling with the diagnosis. However, there may be a double meaning for his viewing. At the end of the episode, House is watching GH and one of the soap actor doctor says “If we make mistakes, people die”. His slight eyebrow raise was a nod to the fact that Dr. Cuddy (his boss) barked the same thing at him earlier in the episode. More than just the comedic effect of the coincidence, I think it’s possible that the writers are almost apologizing for the format of the show. Dr. House needs to space out to GH to really dive into a complicated issue. Likewise, us viewers need the “dramatic plots” of a hospital setting in order to embrace these characters and watch them develop. This show isn’t a medical drama…it’s a study on human interaction, societal norms, morality, psychology and sociology. Like in the play “our town”, some people need the scenery before they can dig deeper. With the GH reference, I think the writers were admitting to using this device, while also saying “bare with us, because we have some interesting topics to explore.”