shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


and I agree it's unrealistic ... because it's TELEVISION

NYT piece on magic TV medicine:

On the Fox television show 'House,' a misanthropic, pill-popping, grizzled uber doctor named Gregory House leads a group of impossibly bright young physicians in the department of diagnostic medicine at a teaching hospital in New Jersey.

Dr. House and his team solve medical mysteries with the flair and resourcefulness of private investigators. On a recent show, doctors made multiple visits to the home (even the school bus) of a teenager with convulsions before determining that he had a rare pesticide poisoning.

My wife, a general internist, finds the show absurdly 'unrealistic.' 'Doctors don't do that,' she cries whenever a House physician blithely ignores the boundaries of medical subspecialties. (The same doctors, for example, might perform cardiac catheterization, gastrointestinal endoscopy, bone-marrow biopsy and liver ultrasound.) I agree the show is unrealistic, but for a different reason. It portrays a world where doctors have time to solve problems.


  • At 8:58 AM , Blogger Chris McLaren said...

    One wonders how this sort of reviewing would work on oh say... Shakespeare.

    I wonder if the current Prince of Denmark would find Hamlet realistic.

  • At 10:56 AM , Blogger David Moles said...

    Why does television get a free pass?

  • At 11:37 AM , Blogger Melly said...

    I fully agree that House is unreal. Doctors don't cross boundaries of specialties, don't disregard patients' orders, and don't have time for anything.
    However, it seems that people started to lose the boundaries between fiction and reality. House is a _fictional_ show and as such it is, well, fictional. Not a reality show. Entertainment.
    I like it for what it is, not what it isn't.

    In short - I agree with you :)

  • At 11:42 AM , Blogger CAAF said...

    All this said, it does make me laugh when the young doctors are deputized to break into the home of the "patient of the week" and explore his or her refrigerator, bathroom cabinet and dresser drawer for pathogens.

    Usually at least two doctors are sent to do this. It's like, "Dude, they couldn't send a P.A.?"

  • At 11:59 AM , Blogger gwenda said...

    It's not that it gets a free pass, it's just that I don't agree that realism is an inherent trait of TV (I'd come closer to arguing the opposite actually, including news--probably moreso for news). Especially not in the sense of it realistically reflecting exactly what happens on a day to day basis in any field in a fictional dramatic context that's primary purpose isn't to be realistic.

    Plus, like, no one in real life looks like people on TV. No one dresses like they do. Most of the time the places they live aren't matched up with what a real life counterpart could afford. Ditto the haircuts.

    TV's fiction is not realist. Period.

    The women of House all wear stilettos!

  • At 12:54 AM , Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

    I used to love St. Elsewhere, but that ran before I went through medical school. ER first came out while I was in residency training. I watched the first five minutes of one episode, screamed at the television, and never watched it again.

    These are dangerous shows because they build the wrong expectations in people's minds. Not everyone sees these shows as entertainment; I suspect many see them as reality TV.

    Then again, I may just be bitter because I went through residency with the nickname Doogie.

  • At 8:25 PM , Blogger David Moles said...

    Hmmm... the Writer's Desk Reference diagnoses this as a reading protocols problem. Gwenda, I hear what you say, but I think there are unrealisms (is that even a word? argh. long day. week. month.) that are conventions of the form and ones that aren't. The way supposedly realism-obsessed Hard SF nuts don't complain about the inexplicable persistence of Anglo-American mercantilism into the distant future, but shy at time travel.

    I think TV -- news is a great example, so's reality TV -- often tries to have it both ways. If it attracts viewers, pretend you're being all gritty and mimetic. If anyone catches you and complains, tell them it's just entertainment and they shouldn't get so excited about it.

  • At 12:07 AM , Blogger gwenda said...

    It seems to me the primary concern is of people misreading something unrealistic as realistic (not necessarily something higher vs. entertainment) and that's a problem of the people who do it, not the TV. It seems pretty straighforwardly not real. I don't actually think most of the TV that I'm talking about--or use House as the example since it was--tries very hard if at all to be gritty or mimetic. So if people think it's "real," it's a problem of reading protocols in that they're giving it too many checks in that box and not thinking hard enough about the actual experience of their day to day lives. I quoted Laurie here some time ago saying something I thought was pretty smart in response to similar charges: "Making a fetish of realism is a mistake."

  • At 12:08 AM , Blogger gwenda said...

    p.s. I shouldn't be awake right now!


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