“Pensees”

“Do you think in this business you have to have some glaring personality defect to be taken seriously as a genius?” Dr. Jonathan Singer (Mark Feuerstein) finds himself asking. That does seem to be the take home lesson of such hit shows like House, Bones, or Monk. It seems that we can’t get enough of medical shows, given the popularity of the aforementioned House as well as Grey’s Anatomy (even ER has found a renewed spark of life lately). Titled after the three pound lump of flesh we call our brain, 3 Lbs. is the latest entry.

Singer: “The brain is too mysterious.”
Hanson: “It’s wires in a box.”

Stanley Tucci plays the tortured and haunted Dr. Douglas Hanson, resident genius of Hanson Neuro. In full reptilian charm (“I am what I am” he says, quoting Popeye), it’s his first steady television work since the days of his short-lived runs on Bull and Murder One. Dr. Hanson sees the world as a logical place, an “all questions have answers” sort of worldview. However, he seems to be at the limits of this mindset.

Dr. Hanson is joined by his more metaphysical colleague, Dr. Jonathan Singer (Mark Feuerstein), the new fellow, “the sorcerer’s apprentice.” While navigating office politics, Dr. Singer is of the mindset that he has to know whose soul he’s bumping up against before he goes poking around in their brains.

“That’s the beauty of being human. There’s not another species for a billion miles that can make itself scared. We think too much.” Dr. Adrienne Holland (Indira Varma)

The uniqueness of man, to borrow from Pascal, is the great paradox of creation, capable of the highest grandeur and the worst misery. We have the ability to think and reflect, a rationality and the free will to make choices. In other words, we think too much. We contemplate ourselves, our existence, our origin, our destiny. We can evaluate the goodness or badness of a situation.

On the flip side, we can also contemplate a better life. Though we can conceive of a life without pain, problems, suffering, evil, and death; we’re powerless to escape it. We can’t accomplish it by ourselves.

“Do you know what Ego means? Self. It’s what opens our eyes in the morning. It’s the thing that allows us to have an affect on the world.” –Dr. Hanson

Too often, it is presented that one cannot be both a logical person and a person of faith. Yet, it’s important to have a passionate concern for the logical aspects of faith. No one has to leave logic behind in order to embrace faith. Science and religion are not at odds. Both are pursuits of truth and can find a common meeting place. Sometimes we can find God in the beauty of His most complicated creation, our minds. Or, as Dr. Cole puts it, “the thing about our Creator? Even when He ties the veins inside our head into an angry map, it’s beautiful.”

“If I die, you’re going to have a moment in time where everything important in life rises to the top. You’ve got to grab that moment. It’s the only chance you’ll get.” –Patient

3 Lbs walks a tricky tightrope with its main character. Like House, it’s Dr. Hanson’s very brokenness as a human being that draws us to him, yet it’s difficult to have him essentially not grow or change as a character and be believeable (not to mention the risk of him “growing” to the point of being uninteresting). Here we are presented with yet another a brilliant, deductive mind unable to grasp the simplest concepts of human interaction and relationships, being too smart for his own good. Unless that’s the point.

Well acted, well directed, well written, 3 lbs is a fine drama, but I can’t help but feel a weariness to these kind of shows. There is a sameness to the rhythm of the modern drama, down to the “meaningful” song over scenes summing up the show at the end and the journey inside the body special effects. What makes the show standout, however, is the central character of Dr. Hanson. Let’s see if the audiences rally around him like they do Dr. House. I’m not betting that they will.

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