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The Daily Rhino
Thursday, October 06, 2005

Grey's Anatomy is no House Party

"Dermatologists. If it's wet, keep it dry. If it's dry, keep it wet. If it's not supposed to be there, cut it off. Yeah I never could remember all that." - Dr Gregory House

I CONFESS. I’ve sold out. Years of fighting the good fight have amounted to nought, as I lay down my anti-Bush sentiments and shout U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! There is one overriding factor as to why I have been unable to cast America aside like the overgrown bastard son it is; television. No matter how much of a die-hard Blackadder and Red Dwarf fan I am, there is no doubt that in recent years American TV has pissed on the rest of the world from a great height. Kind of like everything else in life. However, amidst all the Yankee imports, there is one universal truth – the world loves doctors.

No doubt many of you have been glued to J.J. Abram’s latest offering, Lost. Who’s the main character? That’s right! It’s a doctor! Who da man? Hippocrates da man! Jack personifies a character who has cropped up in many a US show, the hunky doctor. I like to think I’m one of these in training. It’s something of a shame nobody else does. So seeing as we’ve established medicos are a special breed, we deserve our own programmes. With this is mind, The Daily Rhino performs unnecessary laparoscopic investigations on Uncle Sam’s latest medical offerings.

House (occasionally referred to as House, M.D. to shoo-away those strange people who like home makeover shows) and Grey’s Anatomy occupy opposite ends of televisual medicine. House markets itself as a “detective story, just set in a hospital. He solves medical conundrums in much the way a detective solves a crime.” ‘He’ refers to the fantastic character that Hugh Laurie has brought to life, the obnoxious, anti-social, irascible and brilliant Gregory House. In short, everything I want to be. Another detective story, which is “just set in a hospital” is of course the medical student favourite, Diagnosis Murder. So from the get-go, House seems to be headed in the right direction.

Grey’s Anatomy, on the other hand, is a different strain altogether. It is a sudsy, soppy, girlie soap of a drama (tagline: Operations. Relations. Complications.) The patients and stethoscopes are incidental props in between chats about dreamy surgeons and “oh-migod, being an intern is like, SO hard, you know?” But because I love you people, my reader(s), I put my Y-chromosome away, wondered which top I should wear to catch my consultant’s eye and watched it with some Haagen Dazs.

House really is a one-man show. That is not to belittle Hugh Laurie’s supporting cast (Dr House does enough of that himself), they’re easy on the eye but bland. Neighbours stalwarts (i.e. all British students) will recognise Jesse Spencer (Billy Kennedy) who insists he is Australian despite House telling him “you put the Queen on your money. You’re British.” He makes up the team with Omar Epps and Jennifer Morrison. But House is the star. He’s a git and you love him for it, because for every foot he steps on, he saves a patient’s life. The fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital seems to attract the most weird and wonderful medical conundrums, which can only be solved by the man who played Bertie Wooster. Naphthalene poisoning, acute intermittent porphyria, EBV-phenytoin-epilepsy or tic-tac induced stroke (only 2 calories). Now I don’t know about you, but these things come into my hospital all the time. The team toss up the possibilities, write some stuff on a see-through markerboard, run some tests and House eventually gets it right. What makes it so eminently watchable are House’s glib one-liners. A bright orange patient comes in, but only complains of back pain.

“Unfortunately, you have a deeper problem. Your wife is having an affair.” “What?” replies the patient. “You're orange, you moron. It's one thing for you not to notice, but if your wife hasn't picked up on the fact that her husband has changed colours, she's just not paying attention.”

A pretty medical student is trying to present a history to House, who seems less than interested. “You’re reading a comic book.” House: “And you’re drawing attention to your bosom by wearing a low-cut top…oh I’m sorry, I thought we were having a state-the-obvious contest. I’m competitive by nature.”

House’s first season stayed fresh by introducing new cast members and not falling into the trend of diagnosis-of-the-month, but thankfully the total absence of House’s personal life has meant the relationship-tripe that mars many a British show is avoided, similar to the way Grissom’s geek has made CSI so fascinating.

Grey’s Anatomy has, like House, been doing extremely well across the Pond, consistently getting higher ratings than Lost. Much of its success can be attributed to savvy producers who recognised a gap in the market, women. Grey’s Anatomy revolves around Meredith Grey, a first year surgical intern played by Ellen Pompeo. In the opening episode, Meredith shags some sexy dude and like, he totally turns out to be her boss. I like horny hospitals and ridiculous romances but it is the dialogue that makes Grey’s Anatomy unbearable. The plotlines are mindless fun, interns are humiliated by tyrannical attendings, syphilis epidemics are caused by surgical interns, doctors do nurses, surgeons shag physicians and interns enjoy residents. Hell Meredith even snogs a patient. All this makes Grey’s Anatomy sound like the grown-up O.C., but try sitting through dialogue like this:

“8 of you will switch to an easier specialty. 5 of you will crack. 2 of you will be asked to leave. This is your arena. How well you play - that's up to you.”

“Your first shift starts now and lasts 48 hours. You're interns, grunts, nobodies, bottom of the surgical food chain. Run labs, write orders, work every second of your life until you drop and don't complain.”

“If I hadn't taken the Hippocratic Oath I'd Kevorkian her with my bare hands” (talking about a patient)

“I can’t think of any one reason why I want to be a surgeon. But I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit. There are lives in our hands. I could quit. But here’s the thing. I love the playing field.” (so you just thought of one reason then, you silly moo)

“Did you let me scrub in for this operation because I slept with you?” (well all right, I did say the same thing to my consultant the other day)

“This is a good day to save lives.”

“We're women! We have vaginas! Get used to it!”

“You try eating after performing 17 rectal exams”

“The bad news is that we gave your penis to the cops.” (okay, that one’s funny)

But what medics really want to know is the answer to the ultimate question – can they be justified as studying? Strangely enough, I just sat written finals after having watched a helluva lotta medical TV and can honestly say one show has helped me more than any other. I ought to add that I’m probably not the best person to ask as in my head I justified watching the entire Ashes series before finals by the fact that they talked about Simon Jones’ injury. For about a minute.

Both shows have their howlers. A common theme in medical dramas is that one doctor does EVERYTHING. House’s team even visit dying patient’s houses to look for clues. Grey’s Anatomy spends so much time throwing clichés and romance around, there is little medicine to speak of. But House has some interesting, if very rare, medicine. One sometimes wonders how non-medics can fully enjoy the show, as it has long exchanges about therapy, investigations and diagnoses, with little explanation. The science is generally sound, but occasionally they stray from the bizarre to the inane, like tattoos erupting in MRI machines due to metal in the ink.

Both shows seem set to return for at least a few more seasons and whatever one’s thoughts about them, they are good stuff for one important reason – programmes about doctors make doctors look cool. We all want to look cool, right?

So what was that show I mentioned that helped me through finals more than any other? It’s not ER and not House. To dismiss it is as simply a comedy is to sell it short. As long as the writers don’t get too saccharine, it is an inspiring, thought-provoking, funny and thoroughly realistically-observed series. It is one of the best American TV shows to invade our fair shores and one you all know about already, the sublime Scrubs.

This was published as my column the October issue of the greatest medical newspaper in the world, Medical Student.


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Can I be the first one to tell the Rhine to NOT shut up?

The BB hath stolen Daksha's heart ( especially after that short movie clip. Awesome!)
err that should have read RhinO
Why thank you for the kind words Daksha. I assume you found the fillum through SM but I may be wrong. Either way, thanks for stopping by! Pip pip.
Sorry, speed-read your post the first time. Stolen your heart eh? Well now you must DEFINITELY check back regularly and stay in touch!
And to think I booked a ticket for the dip in the Ganga after I heard you had a gf.
Tauba tauba.

so, if I may ask without trying to be nosy, why weren't you breaking the floor at the UK Bboy thing. Whatever happened to the breaker in the bong?
I'm at a disadvantage here. You know all about me, who the hell are you?!

The breaker in the Bong has broken. He's out of practice and overworked. Plus I'm nowhere near good enough to compete at big events like today.
Ive been a Sepia mutiny regular for a few months now. So of course that is where I got this from. Not stalking you!
Atleast not until I'm in your Queen's land.
I'm kidding !- you can stop cowering under the covers.
Hey, I never claimed you were stalking me...guilty conscience? ;) I've had a stalker before. Been there, done that, got the restraining order.

Have you always gone under the name daksha on SM? PS - your 55 word story was very dark. Liked it.
love scrubs..am a physician and this is the most real of the shows...

house is good too.. :)
cheers from across the pond..

chick pea
Hey CP, nice to see you. Yeah I didn't want to get too soppy in the article, but when revising for finals, late night, having lost all motivation and will power, I watched an early episode of Scrubs and it really spurred me on. It was so well made; funny, touching, realistic and inspirational. I can't say that about many sitcoms.

But I will say it's hit and miss. Some episodes are lame. Often I find the humour unfunny. But when it's right, it's perfect.
whoa. been stalked eh?
nah I haven't posted much on SM in general. The 55 thing just made me want to jump in so there I was.

And thanks!
p.s. maybe one of these days you'll find me joining the blog bandwagon too.
I really enjoyed your blog. This is a cool Website Check it out now by Clicking Here . I know that you will find this WebSite Very Interesting Every one wants a Free LapTop Computer!

Your article is spot-on. I've noticed similar feelings amongst my friends too...those of us with uteri really love Grey's Anatomy while our uterus-deprived counterparts think it's stupid. I agree that it's not very empowering to show the female surgeons eating ice cream and sleeping with and obsessing over their attendings but there's some stupid part of my brain that's like, "The chicks are bad-ass cutters, yo!! Girl power!!"

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my braindead analysis of Grey's Anatomy. (I'm usually not so, um, vocal about the male leads taking their clothes off and whatnot.)
In my view everybody must go through it.
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