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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

House: "Private Lives"

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Look, I know we all don't want to admit this, but I think this whole Internet fad may be in it for the long haul. Oh sure, it looks like just another flash in the pan, with all these "message boards" and "blogs" and "websights," just a lot of of pointless typing floating off into the electronic ether, but something in all that babble seems to have struck a nerve. Somehow, all this ephemera has been built to last, despite all our attempts to mock it with bad puns and condescension. It's been happening, it's going to keep on happening, no matter how much it scares us. And it really scares us so hard.

Okay, that's probably not exactly what went through the minds of the writers of "Private Lives," our first new House in a month or so, but in terms of dealing with the complexities of Internet writing and online intimacy, this wasn't what you'd call cutting edge. The show has always followed the grand television tradition of presenting popular trends a few months (sometimes years) past the time when such a discussion could be considered even remotely relevant, and while blogger Frankie (played by this week's ailing guest star, Laura "tragically blond" Prepon) and her inability to keep secrets isn't as out of date as, say, an episode about snap bracelets might have been, it's all still fairly shallow and silly. But then, House's patient issues are all about broad strokes; one of the series' gifts is that its strongest elements (Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard, mostly) transcend the rote procedural aspects. The possibility of consistent excellence keeps me coming back, even when that possibility is so often disappointed.

Thankfully, the blogger plot was mostly just set-up. We get some arguments between Frankie and her boyfriend about her need to post every life choice on line to let all her online buddies weigh in, but "Lives"'s heart doesn't really feel in on the discussion. Instead, the concept introduces the episode's major theme: the face that we hide away forever, the face that we keep in a jar by the door, and the gap between the two. Nothing shocking, drama-wise, but it made for some entertaining vignettes. The speed-dating scene is similar to just about every other speed-dating scene (just like the  blogging, this is a topic that, while still vaguely relevant, doesn't feel exactly fresh), but it was fun seeing Wilson get destroyed by his decency yet again, and House de-constructing one woman's attempts to play it cool. Chase's sudden concern over his own good looks actually seemed somewhat new, even if it was eye-rolling to watch the show's two most physically attractive people discussing how hard it is to be good-looking. (I'm sure there are trials, but look, there's stuff I'm good at, and it can be tough at times, but I never complain about being good at it. Suck it up.) Really, though, who hasn't obsessed at one point or another how physically attractive they were? Who hasn't tried to determine just how other people see them?


The speed-dating also inadvertently tipped over into the evening's next sub-plot, the discovery that Wilson had been in a porno. Very sitcom-esque (and a little similar to "Robin Sparkles" from How I Met Your Mother), but well-executed, and House's increasingly elaborate pranks, along with the discovery that everyone in the hospital saw the tape, was funny. I'm still not huge on House having a different biological father than the man who died at the start of last season. I can see it from House's perspective, given his obsession with finding answers and his scientific approach to every problem, but it comes across too much as a way to extend his daddy issues after milking all they could out of the funeral. That House is reading the book his father wrote isn't hugely compelling, although I did like Wilson's speech at the end about House being essentially alone.

There were other things going on here too, but nothing all that spectacular. Overall, this wasn't hugely embarrassing, which, sad to say, is generally what I hope for when I sit down to watch an episode. The PotW was largely irrelevant; her scene's were short enough that it didn't kill the pacing, but I was never that concerned with the mystery of what made her sick, and the reveal (Whipple's Disease, and there was talk of poo) was fine, but forgettable. There was some brief Cuddy interaction that wasn't horrible, though, and House flirted with her in a way that wouldn't have been too out of place in the earlier seasons. Boring as much of the team is, I still really like House and Wilson, and I find myself siding more and more with the people who wish the show would just eschew the focus on PotW altogether. Apart from habit, what's the point?


Stray Observations:

  • So Frankie and her boyfriend's neighbor, Stuart, hears them arguing (paper thin walls or not, it wasn't much of a fight), comes by to complain about the noise, sees that Frankie has bruises on her face and immediately calls the cops. Not even a, "Hey, what happened to you?" Domestic violence is a horrible, horrible thing, but wouldn't you want at least a little context before getting the police involved?
  • I wonder if Wilson's outfit in the "student video" was a joke on Dead Poets Society.
  • The porn House was taking out of the DVD player at the start of the episode was, How Wet Was My Valley. I didn't realize porn studios riffed on movie titles over half a century old.
  • Hey, I liked The Golden Bowl.

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