Well, half of them anyway. The other half will be back before the week is up. And by “my people” I don’t mean “the students.” I mean the casts of Bones and House and CSI and Numb3rs. I just adore those folks: smart, assertive, poorly socialized. I admire their intelligence and empathize with their awkwardness.
Melissa is very patient with me and “my people.” She doesn’t follow any of these shows, but she knows I do and is quite thoughtful about not calling while they’re on-air. She also spends more time than she should have to listening to me summarize episodes and talk about my hopes for the characters: cases they can solve, personal breakthroughs they might make.
In the summer, I turn the TV on only for baseball (and the occasional science program on public television). During the fall/spring TV season, I treasure my Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays with “my people.” I’ll miss a show if I have to, but it takes something specialâ€”say, a performance by Red Priest or not-just-good-but-really-amazing free foodâ€”to get me to give up my shows. Last night, I got to meet up with the folks from Bones and House for the first time in months. I feel a bit embarrassed admitting how happy that reunion made me. OK, so things are a little tense right now between Seeley and Bones. They’re working it out. Jack continues to be good-natured in the face of Angela’s recently revealed prior marriage. Zack is back from Iraq, a bit shaken, but in one pieceâ€”he’s got everyone in the cast and all sorts of nut cases like me out there in TV-land rooting for him. House is still House. I don’t think I actually like him, but I can’t help coming back for more. His low-level autism/OCD/whatever-you-want-to-call-it feels oddly familiar, given all the years I’ve spent in academia. And with the glass wall of the screen between us, I don’t have to worry about his nastiness being directed my way.
I’ve been working on a list that explains why I find these particular groups of characters so compelling. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
1. Intelligence. On every one of these shows it’s intelligenceâ€”not beauty, not wealth, certainly not “cool”â€”that makes a person valuable.
2. Female leadership. Bones heads her unit at the Jeffersonian, and her supervisor is also a woman. Who does House report to? Cuddy. Grissom heads the CSI unit, but Catherine is a team leader. The core group on Numb3rs includes FBI agent Megan Reeves and math whiz Amita Ramajuan. In these worlds women are not bimbos. Yes, they all have that traditionally-beautiful-like-you-pretty-much-have-to-be-to-get-on-television thing going, but their looks aren’t why they’re there.
3. Problem solving. I love a good puzzle to fiddle with, and each of these shows offers an interesting puzzle at the heart of every episode.
4. Dedication to ideals. These ideals vary from show to show and character to character, but over and over again “my people” show me how deeply rewarding it is to engage in work because you genuinely believe that work has some hope of making this world a better, safer, fairer place.
5. Hope. Besides the gimmicks of interesting crimes or diseases what holds these shows together is the characters’ loyalty to and willingness to work with one another. Yes, they’re a motley and poorly socialized bunch. Bones is rational to a fault, House is downright maddening, Sara has who-knows-what kind of baggage lurking beneath the surface, on his worst days Charlie’s just a hair shy of being an idiot savant. But this lack of social skills never prevents them from standing beside one another in the face of challenges. (OK, so maybe that’s not completely true of House. The jury’s still out on him. However I have hopes his team will either be reunited or rebuilt in a way that leaves ample room for everyone.)
This is the week my people come back, and I am one happy camper. Some folks might say “get a life.” My response is, “I already have one. And these folks are part of it, thank you.”
P.S. The other good thing about hanging with “my people”? More time to knit!