One knows one is bored when one thinks too much about the philosophy of television...
I love Monk, the show about an obsessive-compulsive man who assists the police by solving crimes with his unusually accurate eye for detail. Unfortunately, television stations like to annoy me by either taking the shows I love off-air or moving them to time-slots that only stay-at-home-mothers can watch when their kids are at school, or when the only people awake are drug addicts and insomniacs. This happened with Monk, which was first moved to a late-night time-slot and then to an afternoon slot.
Anyway, I recently found the time to watch Monk, only to discover that they were replaying a season that I had already seen. So after cursing the gods for that unbelievably poor timing, I settled in to watch the show.
As I was watching the hilarious antics of Monk (wonderfully portrayed by Tony Shalhoub), I realised how similar the character of Monk was to the character of House! Here's what I was thinking:
1) Both House and Monk are "disabled" in some way. House has a physical disability as well as some significant social deficits. Monk also has social deficits due to his extreme obsessive-compulsive disorder. So both characters have conditions that hold them back from "normal" human interaction.
2) Both characters obsessive about their work. House will stop at nothing to solve his case, as will Monk.
3) As a result of their intense obsessions with their jobs, both characters have limited social connections and the connections that they do have are job-related connections. House has his 'lackeys' (Cameron, Foreman and Chase), Cuddy and of course Wilson. Monk has Sharona (early seasons)/Natalie (later seasons), Disher and Stottlemeyer and his various therapists.
4) Both characters have also lost the loves of their lives! House lost Stacey (and then let her go again!). Monk's wife was murdered.
5) Both characters also went through major life changes that seriously affected their lives. House's infarction left him with a permanent limp and ongoing pain. The murder of Monk's wife triggered his obsessions and compulsions.
6) In terms of the shows themselves, both shows are reasonably formulaic, as both characters endeavour to solve their cases, while bouncing their ideas off of their supporting characters.
7) Both shows have also gained a large amount of critical acclaim, particularly for the performances of the title characters. Both Hugh Laurie and Tony Shalhoub have been showered with praise (and awards) for their portrayals of these complex and intriguing characters.
I think the popularity of these two shows is testiment to a viewers desire to watch a show that explores the lives of people who struggle with, as House puts it, "mind numbing social niceties". It is easier for the average person to identify with a flawed character than the seemingly flawless characters on other shows who always get their girl or marry their man. Its more inspirational to watch a character save a life or solve a crime then watching characters driving around in flash cars talking about their sex lives and how rich they are! I think that is why House and Monk have been so popular: audiences can relate to feeling like an outsider more than they can relate to elaborate love lives and fast cars. Well, in general anyway.
So that was the sum total of my day: considering the similarities between two great shows and contemplating why they are so successful.
I need to get a life! Ha ha!
If you have any thoughts at all, comment away.
Cast of House MD
Cast of Monk