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'House': Suicide is painful

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Housekalpenn_l

SPOILER ALERT: DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED ON HOUSE LAST NIGHT.

Housekalpenn_l

The suicide death last night of Kal Penn’s House character Kutner was a jolt in a series whose hero, Hugh Laurie’s House, tries desperately to avoid sentimentality. That’s what makes the outpouring of grief for this character, to read EW’s comments sections in Michael Ausiello’s remarkable reports on this “event” (doesn’t that word sound odd in this context?), all the more interesting.

Fox has set up a Kutner memorial page you can visit here. It includes a montage video of Kutner moments backed by music composed by Laurie. It’s very nice, if a bit antithetical to the artistic ideas behind House. What seemed most House-like about the episode last night was the fact that Kutner’s dead body was found in the first segment of the hour — a lesser show would have built up to the awful act, milking it for melodrama. I also liked a lot of the dialogue. When Cuddy told House, “I’m sorry for your loss,” you just knew House was not going to let that cliche of concern let pass.

“Thanks. It’s not my loss,” said House abruptly. But then Cuddy had to give us the TV-drama-approved additional cliche: “Then I’m sorry you don’t think it is.”

I think Dr. House had it right… about himself, at least. Suicides are not, as the theme song from M*A*S*H had it, painless, and certainly not to the people he or she leaves behind. But for a guy like Gregory House, the loss really isn’t his. In the original concept of this character — who has become more emotional, less assiduously rational and cynical, as the seasons have gone on — the death of a colleague would not be an occasion to idealize or deny the flaws in the departed person.

A “pointless death” — that’s the way Taub described it. And it was, in best sense for effective drama: Kutner’s death was a true TV “event” because the people behind the show had the guts not to take the easy way out and make Kal Penn’s exit from the series mawkish. The only other recent TV-character suicide I can think of that was handled as well was the Dualla character’s demise on Battlestar: Galactica: Can you think of others?

The previews for next week’s episode say that “a tragedy brings everyone closer together.” Ah, too bad: another TV-drama cliche that could be avoided. Sometimes suicides drive people apart, as a character such as House would know.

Still, not many TV series have ever presented a suicide in this realistic a manner. Rather than condolences, I wish House — the show, not the character — congratulations.

For more on House:

House’ exclusive: The shocking story behind last night’s big death

‘House’ spoiler alert: They did WHAT to WHO?!

Housekalpenn_lThe suicide death last night of Kal Penn’s House characterKutner was a jolt in a series whose hero, Hugh Laurie’s House, triesdesperately to avoid sentimentality. That’s what makes the outpouringof grief for this character, to read EW’s comments sections in MichaelAusiello’s remarkable reports on this “event” (doesn’t that word soundodd in this context?), all the more interesting.

Fox has set up a Kutner memorial page you can visit here.It includes a montage video of Kutner moments backed by music composedby Laurie. It’s very nice, if a bit antithetical to the artistic ideasbehind House. What seemed most House-like about theepisode last night was the fact that Kutner’s dead body was found inthe first segment of the hour — a lesser show would have built up tothe awful act, milking it for melodrama. I also liked a lot of thedialogue. When Cuddy told House, “I’m sorry for your loss,” you justknew House was not going to let that cliche of concern let pass.

“Thanks. It’s not my loss,” said House abruptly. But then Cuddy hadto give us the TV-drama-approved additional cliche: “Then I’m sorry youdon’t think it is.”

I think Dr. House had it right… about himself, at least. Suicides are not, as the theme song from M*A*S*H had it, painless, and certainly not to the people he or she leaves behind. But for a guy like Gregory House, the loss really isn’t his. In the original concept of this character — who has become more emotional, less assiduously rational and cynical, as the seasons have gone on — the death of a colleague would not be an occasion to idealize or deny the flaws in the departed person.

A “pointless death” — that’s the way Taub described it. And it was,in best sense for effective drama: Kutner’s death was a true TV “event”because the people behind the show had the guts not to take the easyway out and make Kal Penn’s exit from the series mawkish. The only other recent TV-character suicide I can think of that was handled as well was the Dualla character’s demise on Battlestar: Galactica: Can you think of others?

The previews for next week’s episode say that “a tragedy brings everyone closer together.” Ah, too bad: another TV-drama cliche that could be avoided. Sometimes suicides drive people apart, as a character such as House would know.

Still, not many TVseries have ever presented a suicide in this realistic a manner. Rather thancondolences, I wish House — the show, not the character –congratulations.

For more on House:

House’ exclusive: The shocking story behind last night’s big death

‘House’ spoiler alert: They did WHAT to WHO?!