Friday, November 27, 2009

TV Tidbits: House, Curb, and Monk

Catching up on some tv viewing.

House, the recent episode called “Ignorance is bliss.” House says the line during the episode, in the general sense of “not knowing is good.”

It’s one of the great literary misnomers (if a phrase can be considered as a single word.) “Ignorance is bliss” is a phrase wildly out of context. It’s from Thomas Gray’s “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.” The narrator is looking at the playing field of Eton, at the young boys playing football, and he’s musing upon the gift of being young and not knowing about the pains of life. Then he starts thinking about how difficult life is, and the added burden of knowing you will die one day.

He restates that “thought would destroy their Paradise” because

“WHERE ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.

The actual quote is all about the second phrase, “’Tis folly to be wise.” Gray is one of the finest writers/poets of all time. His “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is held by many as the pinnacle of English poetry. He would not make such an unnuanced statement like “Ignorance is bliss.”

Ignorance is blissful in children, so that they can enjoy unburdened time. The line is not a blanket endorsement of being unaware.

In the annals of tv, however, it will now be known as the “throw in the towel” moment for the series for Alan Sepinwall. That’s pretty big. Alan was an early, big supporter of the series, but David Shore and the writers clearly don’t know what to do with their distinctive doc and the fans are leaving. For Shore, this is clearly not a time and place WHERE ignorance is bliss. He had better wise up fast.

Curb Your Seinfeld Nostalgia

Speaking of awareness, self-awareness, self absorption: Larry David. I’m not a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I watched the season finale 2-parter to see the Seinfeld reunion. It was terrific.

I hated the finale back in 1998. Larry David had come back to write his cocreation’s ending, and it felt like he brought nothing but anger to the story, for his own characters, for the loyal viewing public. He put the Fab 4 on trial for violating a Good Samaritan law, allowing the whole universe of Seinfeld to parade by and say how horrible they are, and by extension, those who follow them.

I saw it only once in syndication, just a few years ago. I still didn’t like it, but I didn’t feel the anger I had in the nineties.

But it doesn’t come close to how well the show-within-a-show reunion worked on Curb. David said he didn’t want to do a reunion show, because they are always so lame. Well, he broke the mold, and has set the new gold standard. So many delicious parts, like Jerry saying, “We already screwed up one finale, we can’t do it to another,” and Larry playing George. The characters were all funny--so at ease in the diner, in Jerry's apartment--the dialogue was funny, and watching Larry David watch the reunion on his flat-screen tv was a great tv moment.

Monk. D.O.A.?

Monk is paying homage to one of the classics of the film noir genre, D.O.A., the original 1950 film directed by Rudolph Mate and starring the handsome Edmond O’Brien. Breckman and Hoberman lifted the plot for the first half of their finale 2-parter straight from the film: someone has poisoned Adrian Monk. He doesn’t know who or how or why, but he’s going to die in two days if he can’t identify the poison. It’s an interesting, unexpected set up.

Will they really kill off their detective? If they follow the film—-short for 'dead on arrival'——he will die.

But Breckman has acknowledged his debt to Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, which lead him to create the Dr. Watson-like charcter in the nurse Sharona, and the Inspector Lestrade-character in Captain Stottlemeyer. If that’s the paradigm, then they may create a Reicehnbach Falls, where Holmes fell to his death in "The Final Problem," along with his archnemesis Professor Moriarity, until Doyle resurrected him 4 years later. Doyle wanted to stop writing these stories and do more serious literary work, but the outcry for more Holmes was overwhelming, and he relented. Maybe they will kill Adrian, but in that ambiguous, there's-no-body kind of way, so that's it's possible for him to come back.

I am a big fan of the series, but I’m glad it’s ending. In the recent seasons/episodes, Monk seemed more buffoon and less the brilliant detective. I like the episodes that show the broken man who does the best he can to live after his world fell apart.

Taking another cue from the film D.O.A., Adrian tells his shrink Dr. Bell that he’s sorry that he wasted so much time, being a prisoner in his own head since Trudy died. In the movie, O’Brien’s Bigelow also has an awakening, knowing that he has little time left. Maybe Breckman and Hoberman will let Adrian enjoy his new-found consciousness, finding bliss in knowing that it’s better to live than to fear.


blue girl said...

Those last two Curb episodes were priceless. So many great moments. George jumping out of the window and running away really fast. That was hilarious.

Jerry saying, "Larry David. Wood detective." lolol

Mocha Joe.

I feel so greedy because all I want now is MORE.

blue girl said...

Also, Hi M.A.!

M.A.Peel said...

Hi BG, you old Seinfeld fan you. I think there is no way any more of the gang could be as good as this coda to their work. They have righted the wrong that was their own series finales, and we can all now rest in peace :)