In previous posts I’ve sung the praises of Amazon’s TV series, Bosch, based on the novels by Michael Connelly. Bosch tells stories that I can believe because the characters seem to step out of real life. Most television isn’t this way and rarely has been. The characters no more reflect reality than a funhouse mirror does, and for the same reason: It’s more entertaining (so the thinking goes) to see a distorted image than a true one.
Now, believability isn’t something I need in order to enjoy a television series. I loved House, even though any doctor who abused his patients the way Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House did wouldn’t have lasted a month at any hospital this side of Wonderland. I don’t believe in vampires or their slayers, but I adored Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched every episode of Saving Grace starring Holly Hunter with the scruffy Leon Rippy as her heavenly angel, Earl, without needing to believe in angels and despite the fact that, in order to keep the “talky scenes” moving, the directors would have the characters throwing any object they had at hand at one another or literally rolling around on the floor while reciting exposition.
So believability is optional. It’s also rare and I prize it for that rarity.
A few of television’s cliches are beginning to annoy me, though, like a tooth that twinges whenever it’s hit by something cold. In the beginning the pain is uncomfortable but easily overlooked; after a while, it becomes excruciating. So, too, with TV’s tropes. I’m going to go through a few of these TV-world habits in a series of blog posts, covering a select group that have worn out their appeal for me.
I’ll start with the most common:
The beautiful female doctor/scientist/cop.
Okay, I’ll confess, I’ve had some pretty darned attractive female doctors. My feeling is, if I’m going to have a prostate exam… oh, never mind, no need to go there. But criminy, look at the female doctors on House. Go ahead and look, I promise it won’t hurt:
The woman above is Lisa Edelstein as Dr. Lisa Cuddy, the Dean of Medicine and hospital administrator of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. In decades past her character might have been played by Wilford Brimley or Ed Asner, but on today’s television that hard-line old administrator will be portrayed by someone who could easily step into the role of The Graduate’s Mrs. Robinson. And yes, that’s how she dresses for work at the hospital every day.
Here are a few more of House’s female doctors:
That’s Jennifer Morrison as Dr. Allison Cameron, Odette Annable as Dr. Jessica Adams, Olivia Wilde as Dr. Remy Hadley (aka “Thirteen”), and the adorable Charlyne Yi as Dr. Chi Parke, the only one we’re not supposed to drool over (and of course, the one I have an excruciating crush on). At this point you’d think that Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital must be located on the planet Glamorax or at least in Beverly Hills, but no, it’s squarely set in New Jersey.
(By the way, if anyone stumbles across a video of any of these doctors snapping on a latex glove, please send it to me.)
Here are a couple more female doctors from a show I enjoyed. In this case they are Dana Delaney as Medical Examiner Megan Hunt and her hard-line old administrator, Kate Murphy, portrayed by Jeri Ryan, from Body of Proof.
What… your local Medical Examiner doesn’t wear pearls? What a slacker! As for Megan’s boss, yes, like Lisa Cuddy, she dresses for work that way–at the Medical Examiner’s office. With these two beauties to greet my corpse, it would almost be worth getting murdered.
For the record, here are the two main male doctors who work alongside Megan Hunt: Windell Middlebrooks as Dr. Curtis Brumfield and Geoffrey Arend as Dr. Ethan Gross.
Draw your own conclusions about sexism in the human resources department at the ME’s office.
Then there are the female cops. I’m going to ease into this one.
One of my favorite cop dramas is Blue Bloods starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg as father and son NYPD officers Frank (current Police Commissioner) and detective Danny Reagan; Len Carlou as the family patriarch, Henry Reagan; and Will Estes as younger brother and beat cop Jamie Reagan.
Not bad on the heart-throb-o-meter, whatever generation you’re in the mood for. Okay, Donnie Wahlberg isn’t conventionally handsome but he does have that New-Kids-on-the-Block thing working for him.
Now let’s look at the women of Blue Bloods.
Bridget Moynihan portrays Erin Reagan-Boyle, Assistant District Attorney. Amy Carlson portrays Danny’s wife (a nurse), Linda Reagan. All right–attractive women in an attractive family. I can buy in. It’s only when we look at the female cops that my credulity is stretched to the breaking point:
Abigail Hawk plays Detective Abigail Baker (butchly referred to as “Baker”), Assistant to the Police Commissioner; Marisa Ramirez plays Danny’s current partner, Maria Baez; and Vanessa Ray is beat cop Eddie (another attempt at butchification) Jenko, Jamie’s partner. I have to say that I have never… never, not once… not even in Los Angeles… encountered a policewoman as drop-dead gorgeous as any of the above. If I had, I might be a career criminal today.
I understand that it’s only television and that pretty faces draw in viewers. But that’s my point: Not one of the above shows needs a bevy of pretty faces to draw me in. They’re good shows, well written, capably acted, and they’re diminished by networks’ pandering to the lowest common denominator. The fact that every woman on the show appears to have stepped out of a Cosmopolitan spread takes me out of the show… not entirely, but a step or two… and I’m reminded that it’s “only” television.
Next time I’m going to pick on the guys.