I’ll give you two recent examples: Ashes To Ashes’ DCI Alex Drake and House’s Thirteen. The former first. To be fair to Alex Drake, I find her irritating rather than contemptible.
A great deal of my annoyance, I suspect, stems from actress Keeley Hawes. For some bizarre reason, she is distinctly average in this series. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but she simply hasn’t nailed the role yet. And there’s a third (and final) series still to come. I can see what the producers were trying to do; the last thing the politically incorrect DCI Gene Hunt (superbly played by Philip Glenister) would expect is to be paired with a woman. Especially strong, upright, sexy, intelligent, DCI Alex Drake (as she’s probably written).
It’s that old TV trope of opposites attracting again and it’s a scenario I’ve spent my entire TV life watching: from Sam and Diane in Cheers to Maddy and David in Moonlighting, Vince and Penny in Just Good Friends – the list goes on. While there’s no denying Keeley Hawes’ fab looks, a nice cleavage and great legs aren’t enough to stand toe-to-toe with Philip Glenister who eats every inch of the TV screen as Hunt. He needed a stronger female adversary but there’s little weight or nuance behind Keeley Hawes’ portrayal of Alex Drake. She’s so one-dimensional that, for me, it impacts on the series itself. And not in a good way. For this reason, I inwardly sigh whenever Drake is on screen; she has me enduring Ashes To Ashes rather than enjoying it.
When Did House M.D. become Thirteen M.D.? That’s what I want to know. Who is the Frankenstein behind the scenes obsessed with the monster they’ve created? The amount of screentime devoted to Thirteen is not only getting on my last nerve, it is killing one of my favourite TV shows. Forget Count Dracula, Nosferatu and Lestat et al because nothing can suck the life out of something as devastatingly as scene-after-scene of Thirteen’s travails.
The irony is, on paper, Thirteen should be ‘interesting’ (note the quotation marks). She’s young and pretty and dying of a degenerative disease (Huntington’s). She had a ‘tragic childhood’ (she watched her mother suffer with the same condition). She’s bisexual (an explicit – for a US network anyway – scene of her one night stand with another woman probably got the lads’ mags crowd going). She enters into a mixed-race relationship with Doctor Eric Foreman (Omar Epps). House, who has dubbed them ‘ForeTeen’ (a la Brangelina and TomKat), disapproves of said liaison… etc
I should be captivated. I should be engaged. I should be invested in her. I should be rooting for her. But the truth is I couldn’t give a rat’s a**e. And I’m not alone. Thirteen-hate is par for the course with House fans these days who have rightly branded ForeTeen ‘BoreTeen’. There’s more chemistry in mouldy bread than there is between those two. When they snogged last week, I literally felt the bile travel up from my stomach to my throat. Now I spend every week hoping Thirteen will die. Or at the very least, move to Tulsa. Or Utah.
Unfortunately for the powers that be behind Thirteen, there’s no magic formula to creating a character that captures the imagination, and heart, of the viewing public. If there was, everybody would be doing it. To my way of thinking, it’s a combination of writing, casting, acting and a certain je ne sais quoi.
In the case of Ms Hadley, every single one of those elements is missing in action. Instead of the textured writing that has made Gregory House one of this decade’s most compelling TV characters, a sledgehammer approach is employed for unlucky Thirteen. It’s reached a stage where I now require treatment from House for the Thirteen/BoreTeen knocks inflicted by the writers this season. Not that I’d complain about being treated by House, especially if he talks dirty to me…
In addition to the bad writing polluting the character, the biggest problem about Thirteen is Olivia Wilde herself – yer average shop dummy has more acting range. And emotion. And less blankness.
The writers are going to have to accept that they have failed miserably here. Irrespective of what they do, no matter how many Perils of Penelope Pitstop-type scenarios she’s put through or how ‘hot’ her sex scenes are perceived to be, I will continue to begrudge every second she takes away from Robert Sean Leonard’s Wilson or Lisa Edelstein’s Cuddy.
Heck, I’ll even hate her for depriving me of the promising partnership beween Kutner (Kal Penn) and Taub (Peter Jacobson). And where the hell are Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) these days? With apologies to Winston Churchill, but never in the field of human TV conflict was so much airtime resented by so many to so few deserving of it.
Here I am in full love-the-show-hate-the-character mode, and here I’ll stay because I know that the people behind House, in their desperation to make us like Thirteen, will continue to throw her in our face at every opportunity. Throw her somewhere else, I say. Preferably off the show.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – My love for The Wire, and anti-hero Omar Little, knows no bounds. Seriously, if the show was a man, I’d probably be served with a restraining order by now. I can’t keep away from it – it’s that good.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – A shame ER’s last season is rather hidden away in such a poor slot on Channel 4. Saturdays circa 7.30pm? Little wonder the ratings are so disappointing. Sad end to a once-great show.
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