Would I Care If House was about Grammar?

I was recently able to purchase House, Season 2 from Target for $18! This is a GREAT buy--even House pre-viewed seasons go for over $25, and I have promised myself that I won't purchase any seasons unless they are under $20--otherwise, I would have way too many DVDs and no money.

I watched the episode about the model and then went to Polite Dissent's review of the episode. My brother Joe introduced me to this site, and I get a kick out of the reviews and the medical insights.

What surprises me, though, is how many of Polite Dissent's commenters (not all) have this "I can't stand it when they get the medicine wrong! I had to stop watching the show!" reaction. I appreciate the fact that Scott (creator of Polite Dissent) grades both the medicine and what he calls "the soap opera"; I also appreciate that he seems to think they can balance each other out.

I appreciate it because--I confess!--I have the same reaction to the medicine on House that I do to the forensics on CSI and, frankly, to the technobabble on Star Trek. I'm sorry, I'm sorry to group those three shows together! But, honestly, the moment the characters in all three shows start doing the technical-exposition thing, I . . . well, I don't stop listening. In fact, with House, I'm particularly attentive because of the metaphors (I use a clip from the episode "Autopsy" to explain metaphors to my students: in about three minutes, a tumor is compared to an octopus, a girl's body is compared to a "lemon" (car), and House makes an extended metaphor about cancer cells and terrorists: good stuff!)

Yet even though I listen to the dialog, I don't really listen for the technobabble unless it is thematically relevant as in "Skin Deep," where House says, "The perfect woman is a man!" after his rant about estrogen.

For me, it's mostly about HOW the language (script) is put together rather than WHAT is being said.

Here's what I mean: I love the Red Dwarf episode where Lister is trying to explain time travel to the Cat with words like "interstellar dimensional space-time continuum." Finally, Lister says, "It's a magic door." "Oooooh," the Cat says, "why didn't you say so?!"

That's what technobabble is to me--fancy words for "a magic door."

I have wondered, though, if this is because I don't specialize in medicine or forensics (or interstellar travel). I don't believe everything I hear on House or CSI (one reason I like Scott's site), but I don't much care when the technobabble is wrong either. (And I kind of take for granted that all the technobabble on Star Trek is wrong.)

But I suppose if I were watching a show about English teachers, and the teacher characters kept misdefining subjects and verbs and stuff, I'd get really ticked. That kind of stuff matters to me even when I know it doesn't matter to my students. (Thanks, Eugene, for clarifying grammar rules for me!) So I suppose I would get upset if the writers got it wrong.

However . . . most television writers are English geeks like me who get their forensic and medicine technobabble second-hand (no matter how many experts they have on staff), so they probably care more about dangling modifiers and metaphors in any case!

1 comment:

Joe said...

Has any show event depicted something as simple as an office meeting accurately? How about computers? This isn't anything new; does royalty get all upset about Shakespeare's depiction of their class?