Saturday, February 20, 2010

House - 5 to 9, or Three "Bitch" Limit, Please

Man, it's tough out there for a successful, independent lady hospital administrator. That's the message this week, as we follow A Day in the Life of Cuddy. See, it's 5 to 9, which is just like 9 to 5, only harder, because it's so hard out there! Get it? GET IT?!

Anyway, we see Cuddy doing yoga, taking care of her sick baby, dealing with a horny Luke, you know, the regulars, and that's all before 8:00 AM! She gets the office, where all hell breaks loose. There's a scheming, stealing, sociopathic pharmacy employee, tough negotiations with an insurance conglomerate, and, of course, House. What this episode accomplishes best is showing us what a true pain in the ass House is to everyone around him, and how completely absurd he and his team are in this otherwise normal hospital environment. You don't really see that when you follow his story day to day, but man, is it apparent when you're walking in Cuddy's high heels.

First off, there's the pharmacy worker who's been stealing medications, and who swears it's just so she can lose those few last pounds so her husband won't divorce her. She cries, but Cuddy still has to fire her anyway. She's tough like that. Then, it turns out the employee had been stealing crates and crates of drugs and funneling them to a meth lab! Oh, no!

Then, Cuddy has to negotiate a contract renewal with a New Jersey insurance megacompany, and issues an ultimatum. If they don't increase doctor reimbursement by 12%, they're cutting the contract. Pretty big words, considering that, if she does, about 80% of their patients will have to pay cash, effectively closing the hospital. But Cuddy doesn't back down - it's about the little guy versus the big guy, good versus bad.

Finally, Cuddy deals with an impending lawsuit, as a patient asked for only half of his thumb to be reconnected to his hand after a terrible carpentry accident. He only wanted some of the thumb reconnected because his insurance would only pay for 60%, or some crazy number. But, Chase decided to pull the old "do something different after the patient's under anesthesia" and reattach the whole thumb. Now, the dude is facing medical bankruptcy and is suing the hospital.

So, we get a pretty clear sense from our friends the House writers that insurance companies really suck, and we should all have government sponsored health care. Where were you before the Conference Committee negotiations on health care reform spectacularly crashed and burned, House? Could have used some support there!

Oh, well. Cuddy, in her ultra efficient way, manages to solve all the problems of the day, by getting the guy to drop the case, getting the insurance agency to agree to a 12% reimbursement bump, and secretly taping (with a fake flower!) the sociopath employee while she confesses to all her crimes. She doesn't give in to House's ridiculous request to treat a cancer patient by inducing malaria, and she's still home by 9:00!

Well, now I know how hard it is to be a successful, independent lady hospital administrator. Also, it's worth mentioning that Cuddy is called a bitch at least FOUR times in this episode, once by House, once by the negotiator for the insurance company, once by a patient, and once by her boyfriend! Okay, so her boyfriend says it as a joke, but still! Cuddy never once reacts to the epithet, and I'm not sure I like the message this is sending. "Sure, girls, be strong and resilient. Solve all the problems of the day. But because you do all these things in an efficient and non-emotional way, you'll be a bitch, and you'll be okay with it." I don't think I am okay with it, actually, House. They weren't necessarily going for feminism with the episode, but there's a line. And I think that line is at three "bitches".

House - Moving the Chains, or Family Schmamily

It's all about family ties this week on House, with two patients and a Foreman dealing with familial relationships. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain awkward. Let's take a look.

First off, Foreman's brother (Orlando Jones - delightful) just got out of jail, and instead of going to drive him home, Foreman decides to put in a day's work at old Plainsboro. This, for some reason, really irks House, who decides that they should be closer. So, he takes the completely reasonable step of hiring Foreman's brother as his personal assistant, annoying Foreman to no end, which was the point in the first place. In between getting his dry cleaning and fetching him frappucinos, Foreman's brother also reveals embarrassing secrets about Foreman's youth, which House deploys to the amusement of the rest of the team. Ha, ha, ha!

Meanwhile, the patient this week is a college football player with unexplained and unremembered rage issues. At first, the team is convinced it's steroids, but the player protests that he's never taken them. The tests show he's not lying, so the team goes round and round on several diagnoses that, of course, are all proven wrong.

The secondary patient is a clinic walk-in who insists on meeting with House. Turns out he's about to be stop-lossed to the Middle East, but desperately doesn't want to go, since he has a heavily pregnant wife to take care of. House has no sympathy for him, and is offended when the soldier assumes that House's limp is from Vietnam. He suggests the soldier move to Canada or shoot his foot.

While these shenanigans are going on at the hospital, almost equally crazy things are happening at the new Casa de Wilson and House. Someone left a possum in their bathtub, loosening the grip bar by House's tub, and turned on the sprinklers in the middle of the night! Who could be behind such foul behavior? House assumes it's Foreman, getting him back for hiring his brother. In response, House rachets up Foreman's humiliation.

Once again, House's words come back to bite him in the ass, as the soldier returns, having shot his foot. House gets ready to amputate a toe, which, unfortunately, will not preclude his military duty, since he will still be able to run. The military man decides to let the infection spread to his entire foot, necessitating amputation, rather than be deployed.

Seeing the importance of family unity, House decides to completely sabotage Foreman and his brother's relationship, by revealing that the brother told House about Foreman's mother's death, something that happened only three months ago, but that he didn't share with anyone at the hospital. Foreman is pissed, and the brother is super pissed that House told, so Foreman walks out, and the brother quits. House is unfazed.

Back to the football dude. His symptoms have improved, and he's desperate to play in the big game, where all the pro scouts will be watching. Why does he feel the need to possibly die, just for a shot at the pros? Turns out he's doing it all for his mom, who gave up everything so he could play. He wants to pay her back by being able to take care of her for the rest of her life. They finally let him go, after he promises to return for treatment after the game. Foreman goes with him to make sure he's okay during the match. But, just as he's about to walk on the field, he's struck temporarily blind, and agrees to go back to the hospital and miss the game, and his shot at the big time.

Turns out that Foreman slipped him a drug in his Gatorade that caused temporary blindness, just so he'd go back with them. Oh, that Foreman! After dropping off Mr. Football at the hospital, Foreman then goes to his brother's halfway house, makes amends, and offers to let the brother move in with him. Awww, relationship mended!

They find the cause of the football player's maladies - melanoma, which no one originally diagnosed because the player is African American - and Wilson realizes that House caused the rift between the Foreman brothers only to create a common enemy (him) and ultimately bring them closer together. Awwww, House loves family! But what about the pranks at their new house? They continue, and know now that it isn't Foreman. Turns out it's Luke, Cuddy's new boyfriend, paying them back for stealing the house of her dreams. Well, they deserved it.

Yet again, House has learned an Important Lesson this episode. I'm not sure I know where this is going - if he learns how to interact with humans, where will the fun be? WHERE?

The Office - The Manager and the Salesman, or Reset Button

It's a race to the bottom at Dunder Mifflin/Sabre today! Making a special trip in from sunny Florida, Kathy Bates (I can't remember her character name, just deal with it) realizes that there are two people doing one job, and that just won't do. Either Michael or Jim have to go back to sales. At first, Michael of course wants to keep his managerial position, while Jim argues that he deserves it. Pretty typical. Then, that thinker Pam realizes that there's no cap on commissions in the world of Sabre, so Jim would actually be making more in sales. So, Jim goes to Kathy Bates and gracefully resigns from the co-manager position.

But wait! Michael's also realized that salesmen can make a lot more, thanks to an offhand comment from our friend Oscar, and bursts in the room just as Jim is resigning. Now, he's trying to resign too! Kathy Bates has understandably had just about enough of this nonsense, so defers to Michael to make the decision, since he has the most experience. Jim is now the one and only manager of the Scranton branch.

So, Jim moves into the office (turns out Michael has been marking his height on a piece of wood next to the window) and Michael transitions to Jim's old desk in sales, making sure all his toys will fit. But, the grass isn't always greener on the sales side. After having to deal with the hassles of shared desk life, namely Phyllis's unfortunately odor, Michael is begging for his desk and old position back. Jim, of course, is only happy to oblige, and everything is as it once was.

Meanwhile, Andy distributed Valentine's Day cards to all his co-workers ("and my bro-workers") because he is both a nice guy and still trying to woo Erin. Unfortunately, he doesn't read the contents of any of these cards too closely, and ends up sending an extremely romantic love poem to Kelly, who then immediately falls head over heels in crush with Andy. Then, Erin gets upset, Andy doesn't know why...oh, it's such a romantic comedy! Andy finally realizes about the card for Kelly, and sends out an email to everyone clarifying that he just because he sent everyone a Valentine's Day card does not, in fact, mean he has romantic feelings for them. He does not, however, reveal his feelings for Erin, although everyone pretty much knows anyway.

So, that's what happened in Scranton - not a lot, and everything pretty much restored to its original settings. Sounds like just another day at the office.

Monday, February 15, 2010

30 Rock - Anna Howard Shaw Day, or The Best Valentine's Day Ever!

And who says you don't learn anything from TV? I had no idea that February 14th was suffragist Anna Howard Shaw's birthday! What a good lesson for the kids.

It's Valentine's Day around the TGS offices, and Liz is determined to do away with lonely longing by scheduling her route canal for the 14th, spending the first half of the day in twilight sleep and the second half in front of the TV. Sounds like a good plan, until the dastardly dentist's office reveals that she has to have someone come pick her up after the procedure. She scrambles, looking for someone to come get her, but comes up short.

Jack, meanwhile, has an overabundance of Valentine's Day plans. On top of scheduling dates with three different women, he becomes enchanted with a sexy news anchor for a faux FOX News show called "The Hot Box", deftly played by Elizabeth Banks. Oh, Jack.

At a VIP after party for TGS, orchestrated by Liz solely to impress Jack's new news anchor lady friend, Liz meets Jon Bon Jovi (NBC Artist in Residence), who convinces her not to sign the release allowing her to drive herself home and be labeled a crazy, spinster, cat lady. Instead, she'll pretend that her boyfriend (Astronaut Mike Dexter, of course, who is rapidly becoming this season's Dr. Spaceman in terms of references per episode) will be picking her up.

Of course, things don't work out as planned. After her surgery, Liz is so wonky from the anesthesia that she hallucinates Dennis, her deadbeat ex-boyfriend, Floyd, the man she almost followed to Cleveland, and Dr. Drew, the devastatingly handsome but equally stupid Jon Hamm. It was wonderful to see these fine actors make a too-brief return to Liz Lemon's life, and especially as a vehicle for her to shout that she does want love in her life! Now, the fact that she makes this declaration to the annoyed nurses at her dentist's office makes it a little sadder, but no less hilarious.

The nurses decide to call people in Liz's phone until someone answers, and they reach Jack, just in the middle of a breakup with Elizabeth Banks. She wants a family, you see, a husband, and while Jack was fun for one weekend, he's not in it for the long run. Jack protests, and receives the call. He begs Elizabeth (ok, her character's name is Avery Jessup, but she's always Elizabeth Banks to me) to come with him to see that he's not lying. She does, and they take Liz home. Before falling dead asleep, Liz tells Elizabeth that Jack is a wonderful man, and she doesn't know what she'd do without him. Awwwwhhhh. I think this spells a character arc for Ms. Banks!

Although the episode was hilarious, I'm a little uncertain of the message we're left with. I was really excited that Liz was taking a stand against Valentine's Day and all that it represents. She's an independent woman, and she can do things on her own! Except she can't, and that's when she needs Jack's help. Not exactly a feminist victory. Oh well. Tina Fey and company make no claims about championing women's rights - it's just a TV show. And oh, what a TV show it is. I'll let it slide this once, 30 Rock, but only because you gave me a glimpse of Jon Hamm.


30 Rock - Verna, or Jenna's Origin Story

I'd never wondered where Jenna came from, but after this episode, I'm so glad I know. Verna, Jenna's mom, makes a surprise visit to the TGS studios, in what should be a joyous family reunion. Instead, Jenna dreads her arrival, since their past is plagued with continual disappointments and overdoses. For strategies on dealing with impossible mothers, Jenna goes to Jack, who clearly has some experience. He has a Power Point presentation (of course) to help Jenna deal with her mom, but, strangely, she doesn't end up needing it. Verna's turned over a new leaf, and wants to pay Jenna back for all the help through the years. The celebrations culminate in a surprise birthday party where Verna and Jenna perform a rousing duet of "Do That To Me One More Time".

Meanwhile, Frank's apartment has burned down under mysterious, Star Wars related circumstances, so Liz lets him move into her extraneous apartment. She is shocked and appalled to find that Frank is a smoker! She lectures him, but he lectures her right back on her copious consumption of junk food. So, they decide to make a pact that they'll both quit their vices. Frank succeeds wonderfully, much to Liz's chagrin, as she's dealing with classic withdrawal symptoms. Liz can't believe that he can quit junk food so easily, so she crafts a plan to find him in the act of sneaking cigarettes.

Back in Verna land, it turns out her motives aren't quite as pure as Jenna had hoped, just as Jack always suspected. She's really trying to pitch a reality TV show to Jack about Verna and Jenna, complete with screaming, fighting, and drama. Jack says no, but has a counter-offer. He'll pay her to be a good mom to Jenna, visiting her 4 times a year, and not asking her for money. She agrees, and Jenna is none the wiser. But, now she has a supportive mom, so hooray!

Back at Liz's apartment, it turns out that Frank isn't sneaking cigarettes, but what he's doing is almost as bad. Using a nanny-cam one night, Liz catches Frank consorting with a heavy-set prostitute, but that's not all the camera catches! Turns out that Liz has been sleep eating, downing cheesy puffs, pizza, and even eating cigarettes, all without knowing. The lesson here is: everyone needs stress relief, and to take that away is a dangerous thing. Lesson learned.

Overall, a meh episode. I'm not crazy about Jenna, although the origin story really makes sense (a white trash Floridian with a crazy mom). It was also nice to see Jack do something purely out of the goodness of his heart.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Office - Sabre, or The Evil Overlords Have Arrived, and They Are...Christian Slater?

So, the new company has come to take over what was once Dunder Mifflin, and their face is a tall, lanky, dark haired boy who looks to be about the age of 17. Turns out his name is Gabe and he's there to oversee the transition, which mostly entails handing out metal water bottles and showing an informational "So, you've been taken over by the corporate conglomerate, Sabre" video, starring none other than Christian Slater, doing his best Troy McClure impression. We don't actually learn anything about Sabre from this video, but Christian Slater really convinces us that it's an awesome place to work. At the end, we see Kathy Bates giving another enthusiastic endorsement of the company, and I thought, "Oh, cool, Kathy Bates is their celebrity spokesperson too!" Turns out she's playing the president of Sabre (pronounced Saber, by the way).

But, not everyone seems to agree. Michael freaks out at all the changes in protocol (mostly having to do with increased efficiency) and decides to have a little chat with Kathy Bates about the way they do things in Scranton. She gets Darwinian on his ass and tells him to adapt or die. In response, Michael flees to David Wallace's house for advice.

When Michael arrives, he finds that David has descended into unemployment fantasy land, thinking up elaborate and unappealing children's toys. Michael realizes that Darwin was right, and he really should adapt. So, he goes back and gives an awkward toast (with orange juice) about how much he's going to love his new evil overlords.

Let's see how long this lasts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

House - Remorse, or you GUYS, it's about feeling bad about stuff!

This week, we see a young, successful businesswoman overcome with splitting headaches that progresses into heart failure, liver failure, esophagus failure...pretty much all the failure you can have. The twist? She's also a sociopath! She has no feelings, people!

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that this woman is pretty much terrible. She uses all her friends and acquaintances for her own benefit and has no remorse. She even tries to coerce the medical board into taking away Thirteen's license by fabricating a sexual harassment claim!

So, of course, the whole point is to draw a parallel between this woman and House. There's even a scene where he asks her how it is to be a sociopath, and she's all like, "Meh, it's cool. Why you askin'?" And then House gets quiet and leaves.

But he's not a sociopath, you guys! He's just a misanthrope. The subplot this week is House contacting an old med school buddy. If by buddy, you mean, plagiarized on their final paper in a class House didn't like. Ruh-roh! So, they have an awkward lunch, and the dude (his name is Weatherby - how great is that?) reveals that, because he failed that test, he never got his medical license and is now a bag boy at the local grocery store. As if that weren't bad enough, Mr. Weatherby is also about to lose his house because he got an adjustable rate mortgage. Sucks to be you!

So, House gets all sad-like and gives Weatherby a ton of money for his mortgage. It's only then that Weatherby reveals he was just fibbing about all that stuff, and he actually got an A+ on the paper. Oh, and he was a successful orthopedic surgeon until he developed a gambling problem and lost both his license and his house. He just told House all that other stuff to guilt him. But now, House has this check for all this money, and is still trying to foist it on Weatherby. That must mean he has feelings, right? Because he can forgive this dude for lying and still want to bestow great riches upon him? Maybe?

Let's just say the message in all this was not exactly subtle. I'll give you a hint: it has to do with remorse.

But back to Mrs. Sociopath! They finally diagnose her with Wilson's Disease, which can cause sociopathic tendencies, and treat her for it. In addition to her liver/heart/etc. rapidly improving, she also gets her emotions back! Hooray! But now she's been a bitch to everyone in her life for the past 20 years, so most of those emotions are sad ones. Womp, womp.

Will the self-realization that he is not a sociopath make House a better guy? Methinks not, but I'm not concerned. As long as we have more exciting and less predictable patients in the future, Dr. House, I'm along for the ride no matter how badly you treat your friends and coworkers.