Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Medical Mimicry: Dude Looks Like A Lady

So you're FOX and you know you've got 80 hours of "American Idol" to program this week, but you've also got a new episode of "House" kicking around ready to air. What could be better than plugging it in on Monday night at 8 p.m. for some bonus ratings? Yes, that's how viewers ended up with a family hour medical mystery about drugs, childhood sexual molestation and [SPOILERS] TV's latest doctor show to mine the profitable "Girl Who Turns Out To Really Be a Boy" surprise diagnosis.

It was only a month ago that "Grey's Anatomy," in the episode titled "Begin the Begin" went to that well with George (T.R. Knight) testing an artistic middle school girl who turned out to have some variation of hermaphroditism (I'm really unclear on the specifics). The twist in that episode was that for George's patient, the diagnosis was something of a relief, it confirmed things that she'd always feared or suspected about herself (himself?) . It freed him/her.

Not-so-much with last night's "House." To begin with, I like Cameron Richardson just fine. She's definitely beautiful. But just as I didn't buy her as a high school student on the late and not-so-lamented "Point Pleasant," I sure didn't believe that the 26-year-old actress was 15. As my colleague Alan observes, casting her made it only barely less disturbing that large portions of the episode were dedicated to discussions of her breasts, her rump and her sexual history. Sigh. In any case, the writers were just a little bit too blatant with their clues this week. By the time the docs were making off-the-cuff and unmotivated conversations about the fact that she'd never had a period and that her ovaries were, if anything, undersized, I was sitting at home going, "Oye. She's a dude." She reacted with the flip side of what happened on "Grey's," with rage and confusion and a bit of exhibitionism that made sense for the character but was doubly disturbing.

Do I remember "E.R." doing a similar plot at some point? Sounds right.

Oh and "24" has reached that annual point where the writers lose all grasp on the plot and spend several episodes killing off potentially useful witnesses at inopportune times. Three weeks, three prematurely assassinated witnesses. That's bad writing. After such a promising start, TV's most erratic show is back on a downswing.

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