Cancer TV Reviews

My tastes in audiovisual entertainment tend to run toward the escapist in good times, and in tough times even moreso. Luckily, even though we do watch the usual “high middlebrow” TV (HBO shows, Battlestar, Damages, etc) we can’t keep up with all of them, which has left a nice little backlog for my recovery period. However, my criteria for watchability have changed somewhat. For instance, I normally like medical dramas (I watched ER for years) but I never got into House. A friend loaned it to us and I thought it would be perfect. Except that it’s not perfect for my state of mind. Every episode there is a mystery illness that Dr. House and his team must figure out and cure, and in the process the patient gets better, gets worse, and gets better again. In my current state? Not fun to watch. Especially because there’s a certain medieval dimension to cancer treatments. I mean, they’re thoroughly up to date, but they are clearly a case where the body is brutalized in order to be cured. The Canadian show, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures showed more promise as a more straight up medical drama (aka “nighttime soap opera”), though the last episode I watched (a few weeks ago, granted) was kind of unwatchable so it’s on notice.

Based on my reaction to House, you would think I would find Breaking Bad also too difficult to watch. A high school chemistry teacher in New Mexico discovers he has inoperable lung cancer even though he never smoked. Worried about providing for his family after he’s gone, he turns to cooking crystal meth while telling his family he’s borrowing against his pension. Mayhem ensues. The show is very dark. This one should also hit too close to home. My uncle, who never smoked, died of lung cancer (though one wonders about asbestos in the Library of Congress, where he worked). I had that mystery spot in my lung, etc. etc. But I love it. Perhaps it’s the dark humor (not a comedy per se, it has its hilarious moments). Perhaps it’s the absurdity of the show and the prominent role that money and insurance play in the characters’ decision making (or in their denial). But somehow it perfectly fits my mood.

In recovery news, things are still moving slowly. I spoke (more like whispered) a little more to Carrie last night because I was sick of not speaking, but I’m still writing notes. I appear to have a new diurnal rhythm for the time being as well. It used to be that I would wake up fresh and do my best thinking in the morning. That is no longer the case. It seems afternoons are much better. Even late afternoons, which used to be my worst time. Weird. It’s not quite the hospital where every day I was discovering or learning something new. But there is still this process of basic discovery going on, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Also, my endo returned to town and swooped in to the rescue (I should also credit his assistant, who took pity on me when I called). So I will only be in hospital next week when I need to be, ie, while I’m radioactive enough to be a danger to other people. Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday. Somehow, that seems much easier to take. Monday and Tuesday I go in for shots, but that’s just a glorified errand.

3 replies on “Cancer TV Reviews”

  1. I never would have thought of Damages as high middlebrow, but I’m delighted that you watch it. During last week’s episode, I told Robin I didn’t have to worry about posting spoilers re: Damages, because no one else I knew watched it. Guess I’ll have to be more careful now …

  2. House is “our” show, meaning the only show that Christian and I watch together, because he can only have one show at a time (those are his exact words). But yeah, a terrible thing to watch when you’re sick. I would recommend In Treatment, but not the parts about the girl who has cancer, and of course True Blood. you have to watch it!!! I blogged something about the intro sequence, which is genius.

  3. Jon, just catching up with these entries and sending ever best wishes from the west coast where I see Fred Turner on a regular basis. I sent an email to say hello but know you are inundated with much else. Know that your work and your wonderful ways have had a very positive impact to some of us at Stanford, and that you are in our thoughts.

    Have you seen any of the old wonky episodes of “EMERGENCY”? has links to old episodes etc.

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