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April 7, 2009 8:52 AM   Subscribe

The universe is unfolding as it should: from White Castle to House to ...the White House. Actor Kal Penn dramatically left his medical show last night (spoilers everywhere) to take a job in the Obama administration. He credits his interest in politics to his grandparents, who marched with Gandhi.
posted by CunningLinguist (72 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pssh. Greeeat. One less South Asian on American television. Way to make a "difference," for the kids, KAL. (I keed.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:57 AM on April 7, 2009


Kumar going to the White House bodes well for marijuana legalization, don't you think?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:00 AM on April 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


The show was a bummer but the news is rather interesting.

And in case your reading, Mr. President, I'd be happy to work for you even though all my grandparents did was march themselves the hell out of Poland.
posted by tommasz at 9:00 AM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh damn, that really is a spoiler, isn't it? I have to stop clicking these things.
posted by Oxydude at 9:01 AM on April 7, 2009


To skip the episode spoilers, here's Kal Penn's new position, in his own words:
I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:05 AM on April 7, 2009


Okay, this is all great and all but Jesus tap-dancing Christ, the fake tribute page complete with fake condolence book for a fake TV character's fake shooting himself is really, really fucking tasteless.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:08 AM on April 7, 2009 [14 favorites]


That's good news for Kal Penn but more important is that Cuddy and House will hook up this season.
posted by RussHy at 9:08 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like that before I even read the title, my first thought was: "This is either a really smart move or by far the stupidest thing that we have ever tried."

Actually, I think this is a great thing. Every time I've seen him interviewed, he seems very intelligent and passionate about what he does.

I'm just sad that this means he probably won't be making films very often; I really enjoy his work.
posted by quin at 9:10 AM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah man, the whole text of the FPP is a spoiler.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:11 AM on April 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fox doing something tasteless? Shocked! Shocked am I!

And the actor going to work for Obama? No wonder Fox gave a memorial- he must be dead to them.
posted by happyroach at 9:11 AM on April 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


I saw him campaigning in 2007. He's very good at getting past the "oooo you're famous" thing and just being a real guy. He was a definite asset to Obama's Iowa campaign.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:12 AM on April 7, 2009


> Kumar going to the White House bodes well for marijuana legalization, don't you think?

Hadn't you heard the news? The 'Harold and Kumar' flicks weren't documentaries. Harold and Kumar were made-up characters played by some actors. Sorry to drop it on you cold like that, kind of harsh, I know.
posted by ardgedee at 9:17 AM on April 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Hadn't you heard the news? The 'Harold and Kumar' flicks weren't documentaries. Harold and Kumar were made-up characters played by some actors. Sorry to drop it on you cold like that, kind of harsh, I know.

But, but... Neil Patrick Harris was in them... as himself!
posted by Pantengliopoli at 9:19 AM on April 7, 2009


But, but... Neil Patrick Harris was in them... as himself!

Dude, The NPH stars in everything as himself, you're just not used to someone who has so many facets.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


My elderly VCR mistakenly believed this past weekend was the start of Daylight Saving Time so I got an hour of Two and a Half Men reruns instead of this House episode. Great.
posted by aught at 9:41 AM on April 7, 2009


ardgedee: "The 'Harold and Kumar' flicks weren't documentaries."

So Guantanamo Bay isn't like it was in the movie?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:43 AM on April 7, 2009


Hadn't you heard the news? The 'Harold and Kumar' flicks weren't documentaries. Harold and Kumar were made-up characters played by some actors. Sorry to drop it on you cold like that, kind of harsh, I know.

Oh, but come on. I saw those films. Those guys are method actors.
posted by Peter H at 10:02 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The 'Harold and Kumar' flicks weren't documentaries.

Kal Penn doesn't even smoke pot.

While it's not like I thought that he was gonna become a key policymaker (or even be even remotely involved) in the decriminalization/legalization of marijuana, it is still sort of a bummer to learn that Kumar doesn't get high. He even goes so far as to call Harold & Kumar "an anti-stoner movie."

I totally jumped on the copy-paste the 'Harold and Kumar flicks weren't documentaries' bandwagon to try and come up with some hilarious movie reference, only to end up googling for the saddest information I've heard all day. Damn.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure Kal will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the US Government pays a hell of a lot better than Universal.
posted by incessant at 10:17 AM on April 7, 2009


I'm sure Kal will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the US Government pays a hell of a lot better than Universal.

Only if you're a bailout banker, I think...
posted by hippybear at 10:19 AM on April 7, 2009


Dude, The NPH stars in everything as himself, you're just not used to someone who has so many facets.

It would warm the cockles of my heart if NPH became the liberal version of Chuck Norris.
posted by ben242 at 10:25 AM on April 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


For an hour or so - around the time the show aired - Kal Penn's wikipedia page stated that he had committed suicide. They gave the date of his demise as March 23rd. (Obviously, this wasn't true).
posted by Clay201 at 10:25 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had a weird moment of wondering if there was going to be a new version of The West Wing. Interesting news.
posted by theora55 at 10:44 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


now when i here the name kal penn i will be forever reminded of this. and for that, i am eternally grateful.
posted by matt755811 at 10:53 AM on April 7, 2009


Fuck I didn't see it last night fuck fuck fuck why didn't 13 die yet she's so boring albeit hot.

At least Taub is still on the show right? I love Taub.

Damn its not on Hulu for 8 days? FML.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:01 AM on April 7, 2009


Okay, this is all great and all but Jesus tap-dancing Christ, the fake tribute page complete with fake condolence book for a fake TV character's fake shooting himself is really, really fucking tasteless.

Tha's pretty much what I came in to say.
posted by amarynth at 11:03 AM on April 7, 2009


I dunno ... gives the show an edge in that they could pretty much dispose of anyone at the drop of a hat now. No feeling complacent that they won't do it again (they have too many major characters already and some -- like Chase -- are really expendable).

Sorta reminds me of "Hillstreet Blues"; just when you warmed up to a character, they walk into an empty elevator shaft. I always kept both eyes glued to the screen on that show.
posted by RavinDave at 11:10 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Clay201: "For an hour or so - around the time the show aired - Kal Penn's wikipedia page stated that he had committed suicide. They gave the date of his demise as March 23rd. (Obviously, this wasn't true)."

There was an obit thread on /b/ as well.
posted by mullingitover at 11:10 AM on April 7, 2009


Does anyone else sense an impending revival of the Obama=elite celebrity meme?
posted by IvoShandor at 11:13 AM on April 7, 2009


I really need to update my House script.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:17 AM on April 7, 2009


An actor in the White House? Let's get serious here, people.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:27 AM on April 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


I see this as a good step. If we can start a trend of Hugh Laurie's co-stars getting involved with the Obama administration, we'll eventually be able to get Stephen Fry into the White House.

Then, we will truly be unstoppable.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:42 AM on April 7, 2009 [20 favorites]


Y'know, if some asshat hadn't spoiled it for me over email this morning before I'd even had time for coffee, I'd be pissed.
posted by wierdo at 11:44 AM on April 7, 2009


Seconding what CunningLinguist said - all my friends who worked on the campaign and interacted with him were really impressed with his intelligence and groundedness. This is pretty cool, and only furthers the whole public-service-is-cool-again thing, which is awesome.
posted by lunasol at 11:48 AM on April 7, 2009


Thanks for the damn spoiler. The episode is sitting on my PVR at home waiting for my return, I had absolutely no idea about anything, and now you FPP it barely 24 hours after? Not even a cut, right there on the front page, no spoiler warning?

Thanks. Just great.
posted by splice at 11:57 AM on April 7, 2009


Thanks. Just great.

Yeah, and this was on Wonkette:
"Those of you that watch the television drama House noticed last night that famous actor Kal Penn’s character committed suicide. Oh yes, uh, SPOILER ALERT, a few words ago."

You're doing wrong!
posted by Tenuki at 12:05 PM on April 7, 2009


Wow, man.
I guess you're going to the White House after all, eh?

Fuck that, dude.
Like I care what my dad thinks.

I can't wait to see the look on his face when he finds out I didn't go to my interview tomorrow.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:29 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I couldn't find if this was an original or a stolen content, but here is Kal Penn's open letter on HuffPo, if folks want to see more of his politics outside of his acting career.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:36 PM on April 7, 2009


Wait a minute.. so according one of these links Kal Penn doesn't smoke pot. I'm not that shocked about that, But he's never smoked it???? That's weird ...........and unfortunate for him.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:47 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great, thanks for spoiling me. I was just about to watch it too.
posted by idle at 2:00 PM on April 7, 2009


CunningLinguist, if you're so concerned about "spoilers everywhere", perhaps you shouldn't have said straight off that he was leaving the show, or linked to some of the articles in question without putting up *some* kind of spoiler alert for them as well...

My wife studies Japanese three nights a week -- including Mondays -- so in order to spend some downtime together, we watch "House" and "Heroes" on Monday, religiously... I specifically wait for today to see it, not because I like to do so, but so that I can enjoy it with her, without either one of us knowing what's going to happen.

Grr. Jihad on you!
posted by markkraft at 2:14 PM on April 7, 2009


You know, time was, TV didn't even have re-runs. Our cultural soul, the fabric that kept us together as a culture was not yet tv, or at least not at all dependent on each of us following the twists and turns of its opiate narratives, and defining ourselves based on our bouquet of shows and our particular technological interface and the instantaneity with which it allows us to surf the crest of the zeitgeist. Nowadays, people seem to think the availability of variously recorded telecasts entitles everyone in the class to see "it" live, to them. Personal liveness. It's a capitalist singularity, and a lot more fun than experiencing simultaneous time, that's for sure.

Let the dream die. There are no secrets you need to know in the tv shows. The secret it there never was liveness in the wires, only in the veins, there never was cultural commonality in technology, only the REFLECTION OF OUR OWN PRECIOUS MORTALITY AND ISOLATION.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:15 PM on April 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Look, the spoilers were all over the internets this morning. Cable news is doing a segment on it as I type. I tried to at least mask how he was written off the show, but I don't really see how else I was going to post about an actor leaving a TV show to go into public service.

Sorry it caused such agita, but Jesus.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:36 PM on April 7, 2009


(So, basically, you're saying that your post was newsfilter, then?!)


MetaTalk.
posted by markkraft at 2:56 PM on April 7, 2009


Joe Beese Kumar going to the White House bodes well for marijuana legalization, don't you think?

The same way having a coke-head for president made coke legal, right?
posted by paisley henosis at 3:03 PM on April 7, 2009


Wow, you guys sure do like to whine about a spoiler for a prime-time soap opera. Jesus, calm down.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


My sister went to high school with the guy.
posted by WCityMike at 3:09 PM on April 7, 2009


He hung out in the bar I go to.
Twice.
posted by inigo2 at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2009


When was this episode filmed? Months ago, yes?

If he worked his departure out with the producers months ago (as he says in the linked interview), I'm a little surprised they didn't have him stick around for a couple episodes (or even the suicide episode) and create some sort of background for his character's suicide. The way they handled it makes it seem like he told them he quit last Friday and then they filmed this on Sunday.

I understand that the writers wanted it to be a surprise to the other characters. But the way they wrote and filmed the episode, it reminded me of the Sopranos episodes where they had to write Tony's mom out of the storyline and film it without her after the actress died during the show's hiatus.
posted by mullacc at 3:24 PM on April 7, 2009


What happened to the Aussie guy on House? It was nice to see an Australian actor permitted to retain their Australian accent on an American TV show.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:36 PM on April 7, 2009


No it wasn't, apparently.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:42 PM on April 7, 2009


Why suicide? Kinda harsh. Couldn't he have been hit by a moped or something?
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:54 PM on April 7, 2009


For me it was.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:57 PM on April 7, 2009


From RussHy's link: Adds Jacobs: "We have to be careful about making moves like this. We do not want to disappoint the fans and just do something out of left field."

So much for that.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:27 PM on April 7, 2009


mullacc, the whole point of this story arc was that it happened suddenly and completely unexpectedly with zero background or explanation, like many suicides.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:34 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


And turgid dahlia, the Robert Chase character is still a surgeon at Princeton-Planesboro but he is not on House's team. He usually has a token scene or two in each episode where he operates to fix a condition, but it's a lot less screen time than when he worked for House.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:38 PM on April 7, 2009


Liquidwolf, the reason it had to be a suicide and not hit by a moped is that being hit by a moped would not cause House to question himself and soul search trying to come up with an explanation for a puzzle that he just can't figure out.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2009


the Robert Chase character

You know, I watch this show every week, and I don't think I ever knew his first name. Thanks!
posted by inigo2 at 4:51 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


inigo2

I'm pretty sure that there's at least one episode where someone actually calls him "Bob." It's probably the one where his father shows up, but I'm not sure.
posted by Clay201 at 5:29 PM on April 7, 2009


That one, and also the one where Cameron tries to use the "Getting to Yes"/positional bargaining techniques to get people to take her more seriously and consequently begins each response by addressing the person by their first name.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:06 PM on April 7, 2009


Chase, that's the one. Thanks for the update Rhomboid. I only ever watched the first three seasons before becoming increasingly frustrated with a show that had become, essentially, a parody of itself, as neatly illustrated by robocop is bleeding.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:12 PM on April 7, 2009


mullacc, the whole point of this story arc was that it happened suddenly and completely unexpectedly with zero background or explanation, like many suicides.

C'mon. I KNOW that's the point of the story arc--I said that in my comment. That doesn't mean it needed to be a literal surprise to the audience. They could have filmed a scene where he wakes up one morning, looks in the mirror and suddenly decides he wants out. Or some sort of flashback scene after the suicide is revealed. Or something. Instead we got what we're told is his apartment and the bottom half of some body double.

My confusion is why the sudden rush job? If I didn't know any better, I'd have guessed that Kal Penn himself had actually died and was thus unavailable to film a proper episode.
posted by mullacc at 8:17 PM on April 7, 2009


I still think you're missing the point entirely though, which is to put the viewers in the same situation as the characters -- dealing with something sudden and totally unexpected. Any kind of flashback or explanatory scenes would just dilute that, as it would imply that there was in fact some reason or explanation to why he did it. Worse, it's bad storytelling to tell the viewers something that the characters never find out, so if there was a flashback it would eventually have to relate back to a character discovering some tidbit of information and that is exactly the opposite of what they are trying to achieve: nobody knows, and nobody will ever know. That is the nature of suicide, that is what the characters are left to deal with, and that is what viewers have to deal with.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:58 PM on April 7, 2009


Eh, that's not really convincing. There must have been some off-camera reason he didn't come back for another episode or two. The sudden and inexplicable nature of it could have been maintained while filming something that didn't look so amateurish.
posted by mullacc at 10:41 PM on April 7, 2009


I hope I'm wrong though. Your point was never lost on me. I just don't think they set out to do it that way and did the best with the situation handed to them. It's an interesting turn for the series though.
posted by mullacc at 10:47 PM on April 7, 2009


Thanks for ruining the House episode on my TiVo. Fucking jackass.
posted by w0mbat at 12:26 AM on April 8, 2009


Worse, it's bad storytelling to tell the viewers something that the characters never find out,

"Rosebud."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:16 AM on April 8, 2009


If you managed to be ALIVE this week and didn't catch that Kal Penn had left House, you were alive under a rock in a very dark cave.

I haven't seen the episode yet either (waiting until it's posted on hulu), but c'mon dudes. It's been spoiled EVERYWHERE by EVERYONE.

*glares ominously in the direction of FaceBook. Curse you, so called "friends!"*
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:55 PM on April 8, 2009


That is an example of one character knowing something that the other characters never find out, and eventually revealing that knowledge to the audience. It is not an example of telling the audience something that no character ever finds out, which is what I was referring to.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:14 PM on April 8, 2009


Ah, more like the swastika burning off the crate containing the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark, then.

(Mind you, I agree with you that in this particular instance any explanation would have weakened the story. I am disagreeing with the generality only.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:51 PM on April 8, 2009


I'm kind of annoyed with knowing about the character's suicide since I watch it on TiVo and I'm a couple of episodes behind. It's also confusing because the episode I just watched had Taub being all depressed (and he had possibly been suicidal in the past). I know that in real life sometimes seemingly-fine people kill themselves out of the blue and depressed people don't, but it's confusing storytelling.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:51 PM on April 8, 2009


".....the fake tribute page complete with fake condolence book for a fake TV character's fake shooting himself is really, really fucking tasteless."

Can I third that motion? (Not to mention that somewhere in Omaha are two elderly sisters who didn't get the word and have spent all day crying because they think he got killed in RL suddenly.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:01 PM on April 8, 2009


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