The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - No! I Am Not Doctor House, Nor Was Meant To Be;
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No! I Am Not Doctor House, Nor Was Meant To Be;|
“How can you not like House?” people ask. “Or Monk?” And it’s a chronic weakness of mine, not being able to endure the plots.
See, I love the characters House and Monk. But to justify their screen-time, every week the writers have to have them solve a mystery of some sort. The mystery is invariably not as interesting to me as the characters, since the mystery is usually overblown and trying too hard to be WEIRD AS YOUR CENTRAL CHARACTER, and so I get bored.
If there was a half-hour sitcom called “HOUSE IS A DICK,” then I’d watch. But you have this so unique character, and you’re strapping him to bog-standard mystery/medical plots, and that bothers me. So I don’t watch.
I am, however, loving Fringe.
Fringe is basically an updated X-Files, with a mad scientist thrown in for good measure. And it’s interesting how little I’ve come to expect from J.J. Abrams. Reading the Wikipedia summaries of each show after I’ve watched it, I see the reviews for the monster-of-the-week shows are pretty universally, “WHO CARES ABOUT THE MONSTER OF THE WEEK? SHOW US MORE OF THE OBSERVER, OF MASSIVE DYNAMIC, OF THE SHOW’S MYTHOLOGY!”
And I’m all like, “I don’t give a shit about the show’s mythology because, just like Lost and X-Files before it, none of it will ultimately make any sense.” I know they don’t have a master plan in place, no matter what they claim, and when Fringe ends that mythology will be revealed to be a mess of incomprehensible plotlines and unsatisfying explanations.
So for me, Fringe is the House of science-fiction shows – I turn up to watch the characters, and mostly ignore the stereotypical weird mystery of the week. And I was wondering, “Why? Why can I do this with Fringe, but not House?”
The reason, I realized yesterday, is Walter Bishop.
Walter is perhaps the best mad scientist in all of science-fiction – an old man who spent seventeen years in an insane asylum, but has an IQ of 196. He can create devices that will read the minds of dead brains, but can’t remember the name of his loyal assistant Asterix or the conversation he had ten minutes ago.
The thing is, unlike most mad scientists, who laugh manically a lot but seem to function well otherwise, Walter is genuinely damaged. He has these absolute moments of brilliance, but can’t live in normal society without the help of his son. There’s a heartbreaking episode where Walter, sick of being coddled, runs out to investigate the mystery of the week by himself – then gets lost after talking to a few shopkeepers, can’t remember his son’s phone number to call, loses his money for the bus, and eventually winds up weeping on a bus stop until some poor Chinese lady takes pity on him.
That’s when it occurred to me: I am Walter Bishop.
I’m not as smart or as damaged as Walter, but I feel every inch of his condition. I am absolutely brilliant at some moments and then hopelessly dysfunctional at the things everyone else takes for granted. I understand on some levels how deeply damaged I am, and get by only thanks to the kindness and love of the people around me – a love I don’t fully deserve, but they recognize the shattered bits inside me and try to help out. And the moments I’m really on my game don’t quite balance out the gigantic pain in the ass I am, but you can at least see why people would stick around.
And like Walter, I’m semi-lovable now, but you probably don’t want to dig too deeply into my past.
So I’m not watching Fringe because of the mystery of the week, or the show mythology – I’m watching it because in some strange and parallel universe, there’s a copy of my soul working through difficulties, and I have to find out how it turns out. For Walter, I’ll endure the nonsense travails of ZOMG OTHER DIMENSIONS to find out how he’s doing.
I hope it’s well. But I know it’s not going to be easy, Walter. It never is for us.
(NOTE: I am halfway through Season 2, and if you spoil me in any way as to what happens I WILL CUT YOU. If you’re unfamiliar with Walter Bishop, well, have some choice quotes.)
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/188076.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
The thing is that J.J. is capable of having a master plan. It's really clear once you finish Alias (particularly if you watch it twice and see all the hints you wouldn't notice until you find out how it's going to turn out) that he did have a master plan with Alias. Why he hasn't since with other shows I'm not sure.
That said, the reason I'm into Alcatraz is that it has "monster of the week" and I fully intend to completely ignore the ongoing mythology because it has the LOST writers and I don't believe those guys have a master plan.
I might get into Alcatraz. Angie says it's good.
It's good, but it is very creature of the week so far - which is fine, because J.J. does that well.
Hey, I've seen an episode of this show! My first ever. And yeah, that character looked like the most interesting. .... and I saw a current episode, so that's all I'll say for now.
And you know (this is tangential, but maybe its relationship to what you were saying about worldbuilding is strong enough to merit saying it anyway), a thing I realized is this: I really, really don't want people to try to explain to me the story to date if I plunge into something in season three. My older daughter tried to do it, and I realized I was getting all confused about dimensions and timelines and whaaaa? But it doesn't matter. Just sit down and watch, and if the characters and interactions are engaging enough, and if the moment-to-moment events make even 60 percent coherent sense, you'll (I'll) watch on. That's the only way to tackle something like a long-running comic, or a soap opera, or whatever.
I don't think that always applies. For me, show me the start. If that's interesting, I'll catch up. If not, well, shoulda started stronger.
Yeah, I probably shouldn't have said "that's the only way."
|Date:||February 4th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)|| |
I just appended "for me" to the end of that statement as I usually do when people are overly specific. ;)
I'm with Ferrett though. I need to start from the beginning. Webcomics especially - I just got through reading a 5 year backlog for one of my new additions just so I could catch up and know everything.
I am a sci-fi fan, but I cannot watch Fringe exactly because it seems to be an updated version of the x-files. I tried watching the pilot twice, and the cow was the only bit that even slightly interested me.
That and Walter.
But alas, I think a lot of shows have this issue. The Mentalist and Castle, as much as I love them have this problem. The over-arching plot with Red John is interesting in The Mentalist and with Castle, Beckett's mother's murder is intriguing, but as far as the cases? They're laughably easy to solve. You can pretty much guess as soon as all the characters are introduced.
But then, I watch Mentalist and Castle (and Monk when it was on) because I love the characters, and the MOTW always have something fun to glean from them, so I tune in.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)|| |
I was really hoping, at the beginning of this season that Patrick had really-o, truly-o killed Red John. I'm _tired_ of Red John. I'm tired of super-genius villains in general, and of shows that are terrified of resolving some long-running plot element when they overstay their welcome. I'm tired of heroes who never, ever get to (or never prove capable of) getting over some tragedy in their pasts and moving on.
The Mentalist has been boring me as of late because the Jane/Lisbon dynamic never changes. It's always stagnant and I don't necessarily want to see them get together, but...I want their relationship to evolve, because relationships do that. Red John isn't the biggest issue of the show to me, it's that...Jane never changes.
Bones had Brennan's mother's murder solved in s3, but now the show has nowhere to go as far as the story-arch. This is the good thing about Buffy...they always managed to keep the show fresh because there was a new Big Bad every season.
|Date:||February 5th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)|| |
For me, Fringe is the anti-X-Files - from the word go, everyone in power believes that there is something out there, and are willing to throw resources at the problem. Unlike Mulder's continuing troubles with being ignored.
Might have to try it for Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy isnt like Shatner, who'll do anything; if hes in it i think its gotta be good.
Nimoy is pretty much Nimoy everywhere. He doesn't really act. But he's an affable presence nonetheless.
He seems to be choosier about his projects though.
I cant remember anything hes been in since the first Transformers movie in the 80s.
William Shatner will work for cake.
Im not spoiling anything cause i havent seen any of them-i just know he appears at some point.
>I know they don’t have a master plan in place, no matter what they claim, and when Fringe ends that mythology will be revealed to be a mess of incomprehensible plotlines and unsatisfying explanations.<
I don't watch Fringe, but still--this. Oh, yes, this.
So many people were upset at the end of Lost. I wasn't. We've come to place too much of a premium on how things wrap up, to the point where we forget the many felicities we encountered on the way there. It's the journey, not the destination, ya know?
The thing is, I DO believe that the destination matters. As Cat Valente said once, you wouldn't present us with a murder mystery and tell us, "Oh, it's not important who killed who or why, it's the journey." I am of the opinion that if you bring in Random Weird Shit to provoke a reaction, that should have a reason behind it.
But with Fringe, I've opted not to care.
I am very annoyed by shows doing lots of random weird stuff because it seemed too cool at the time to worry about continuity, or to keep the audience from guessing how things turn out, and then not having things turn out. "Life on Mars", for instance (the original Brit one; I hear the American version was dreadful).
|Date:||February 3rd, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)|| |
Yeah, that's why I bailed on LOST at the end of the first season. I'd hung in there, hoping they were going to show me they really had a master plan, but (among other thing) all that time and effort spent getting the hatch open only to find...another hatch was the last straw.
I'd watched the X-Files for years, paying absolutely no attention to the "arc" stories but loving the Monster of the Week episodes once I realized that Chris Carter did not, in fact, have a master plot of the conspiracy on the wall above his desk but was making shit up as he went along. I was able to put that aside for X-Files, but by the time LOST came along I couldn't do it again.
|Date:||February 4th, 2012 02:30 am (UTC)|| |
I lost hope with LOST ever being tied together after watching some special where they admitted that a Logo, briefly shown on the shark in one of the first episodes was a complete accident and it was never supposed to appear on screen. For some reason, from that moment on, I was convinced that they were pulling everything out of thin air.
I was right, and glad I never expected them to pull it conclusively together.
I rather liked Life on Mars. To me, that's an example of a show that worked with the ending.
I liked the show. The ending did not work for me. You are a sharp guy whose opinion I respect, so I'm now going to regard my reaction as more personal than I thought it was.
I actually have read mysteries that I enjoyed mostly for the characters and fun scenes and found myself not really caring whodunnit. But I wouldn't think it a good idea for an author to write a mystery like that intentionally.
House starts to focus on character development over mystery of the week around season 4 or so.
I somewhat miss what it was like in season 1 and 2, though.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2012 04:22 pm (UTC)|| |
No spoilers, but I'm watching Fringe because I actually like the three central characters and a lot of the recurring ones, and want to find out what happens to them. I'm not too bothered about the wrapper of the overarching plot.
So you're in the same boat as me.
A shame Asteroids apparently never gets any character development, though. I like her.
I watched about half of Season 1 and really wanted to like it. In fact there were a lot of things I did like. What turned me off? Not the MOTW, not the fact that it is X-Files 2.0, it was the fact that they did such a terrible job of portraying the City of Boston. I know that it wasn't filmed here, but they couldn't even fake it well. They'd go to real places that I knew and I would rage at the screen "South Station looks nothing like that!!! It made it impossible for me to suspend my disbelief when the weird science kicked in.
I've heard a lot of good things about the show and I really liked Walter and Pacey... errr.. Peter. I should get over it and give it another try.
Edited at 2012-02-03 07:34 pm (UTC)
|Date:||February 3rd, 2012 06:08 pm (UTC)|| |
I'm not a fan of House or Monk either. Maybe I'll try out Fringe. Kind of looks like Chuck closed down and NCIS isn't doing it for me these days.
|Date:||February 4th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)|| |
I was so sad to hear Chuck closed down. It was my favorite show on the airwaves.
|Date:||February 4th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)|| |
Yes. It was a bit formulaic and I was still waiting for the fourth person on the team to get the Intersect, but the finale made it pretty clear.
White Collar seems (to me) to be the best game in town these days. We'll see.
Walter Bishop is my favorite character on that show, and I think you just pointed out why.
He's a wonderful character.
When I still watched House, I started fast forwarding over the science. It turned a 42 minute drama into a 22 minute comedy.
That's a pretty good idea.
You are so excellent at explaining things like this. I am so not Walter, but I am totally House. Minus most of the brilliance and the drug addiction. I'm cranky and conceited and and I hate social nicety bullshit, but underneath all that I really do give a damn. I want people to be better than they are. I want people to be smarter, and I believe they can be. I want us as humans to fix stuff with science - because I believe we really can.
For all his nasty exterior, I feel like House is a basically hopeful character.
In a way, from what I know, he is.
i have a really bad case of short attention span theater going on, i really do. its hard for me to watch ANY thing, so i dvr shows that interest me so i can speed through commercials, or stop watching when its like itchy little ants crawling through my brain.
i'm amused that my ex has finally learned this, and while he wanted me to see this movie he brought over, he was able to say "i'm putting the movie on, and i'll tell you the parts you need to watch because they're funny" instead of bitching that i wasnt paying attention. VERY helpful to me.
there's a few shows i like...bones for one because i like the charachter development, and NCIS because of the same thing. other than that, its mostly history, home improvement, and the occasional "whee, ghosts!" show on a couple of different channels.
|Date:||February 3rd, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)|| |
My husband keeps insisting that I am cuter than Zooey Deschanel. ZOOEY fucking DESCHANEL!!!!!! All eyes and fringe and perfect skin and, well, you know. And he means it, the scoundrel, he's not just saying it so I won't dissolve into a sludge of self-loathing that he'll have to deal with ad nauseum.
WE will just have to accept the fact that how we see things, especially ourselves, is not how others view us. And take comfort in these times when we are just plain wrong.
John Noble is fantastic as Walter Bishop. After you've watched another season or so, go back and watch the Lord of the Rings movies so you can marvel at how good he is as Denethor.
I've always marvelled at his Denethor. Watching him do another, more nuanced, take on madness is quite fascinating.
|Date:||February 5th, 2012 01:44 am (UTC)|| |
I second that. You get to see a little of the Denethor occasionally with Walter, too. At least in one episode that I recall, and that only makes it better.
wait, the same guy who plays Walter played Denethor? Wow, that's Gary Oldman levels of chameleon acting for me! Of course I've only seen about 2 episodes of Fringe. Wow.
This is exactly the way I love Supernatural--especially the early seasons where there's a lot of monster-of-the-week. I'll put up with quite a bit of hackneyed urban legend as long as I can get that single awesome scene where we see the price Dean's still paying for being the favourite son.
|Date:||February 5th, 2012 01:43 am (UTC)|| |
I think some shows just drag you in better than others. A good hook, like Walter, is key (though I am interested in the others, too). House worked for a while, but they kept dangling character development in our faces with House and then yanking it away because... well...
I got nothin'. Anyhow, I always felt like they tease you with Walter but not in a bad way, he could develop, you could learn more about him and it mattered. H's more than a personality trait on a stick, he has issues with which he contends and struggles and sometimes even has moments of success and you love him for it. House just dicks his dick into every dickhole he can find/make/dick and never really addresses the core problem(s) in a lasting way. Dick.
Well, shit. I'm kind of Walter too.
The hubby LOVES Fringe.. and I just can't get into it. He was watching an episode the other day, and all I could hear was the doctor monologuing on and on and on, and I kept thinking "this isn't how people TALK!" I don't know, maybe the plot just doesn't do anything for me.