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Television's favorite victim, the horseplayer

Proponents of the good life that can be found at off-track or simulcast horse racing venues everywhere received another low blow in the Dec. 13 episode of "House," which is a good show in an otherwise horrible television season.

I make a point to watch three shows, "House," "Veronica Mars," and "CSI: Miami."

The first show is about a smart-mouth doctor out of the M.A.S.H. mold, with scalpels, stimulants and jokes passed around like crazy. This program used to be great, then people started watching, and it is now very good. When people start watching in large numbers, network bozos interject their ideas and shows suffer. Doctor House has a way with pills and sneaky illnesses, he's like the Sherlock Holmes of medicine and sees dead cells where others can't. Lately, House has seemed a little too smart-mouthed, as though he were immune to malpractice. And the women of the hospital staff look like the chorus line at Radio City Music Hall. But the writing is good here and on Veronica, where an actress in her upper 20's plays a high school senior who hasn't been held back a year.

I don't watch "CSI: Miami" because it's good.

I watch it because it is so bad, namely the thespian David Caruso who is out of the Mickey Rourke-Bill Hurt-Eric Roberts School of Acting where you pose once, twice, sometimes three times at a lady before professing something. I began hating these crime-scene shows with more than a passing eye the night one of the lab geniuses found a mosquito on the floor of a gigantic penthouse apartment and squeezed some telling blood evidence out of it. This wasn't even a big mosquito. And it was under a desk. My guess is the real cops would take one of these television crime scene dramatists out behind the woodshed and them upside-down and test for prints using the hair or rugs on the tops of their skulls.

I watch in hopes of finding the Caruso character named Horatio in great peril. They won't kill him off, he's the star, who would tell the homicidal manic at the half hour: "You'll be sorry." But sometimes they will put the crime scene characters in trouble at the end of an episode. One week, they had a boy lab brain buy pot. The marijuana was of course for a terminally ill loved one. But there for a week or two, one could enjoy the possibility of Lab Boy Wonder being tossed into a drunk tank overnight. When somebody dangles Horatio over the railing 30 stories above hungry gators, the trick is to quit watching that instant, never to return. What a wonderful last memory of old Horatio that will be!

The Dec. 13 episode of "House" began with a woman playing the ponies in an off-track wagering room.

Of course, seedy characters flanked her; of course, she reeked of alcohol; of course she was diagnosed to be mentally unstable -- somebody betting twenty to win on a televised horse race, to many, that is one definition of nutty.

People attending the live horses are treated as relatively normal in show business presentations. Lives races like the various Derbies are social events.

Wagering in an off-track or simulcast joint has looney written all over it; and that starts with "l;" and that rhymes with hell; and that's where you're apt to light if you don't drop that Form.

The woman gambler on "House" was played by the very good Cynthia Nixon, the one with an I.Q. from "Sex and the City."

In this episode of "House," where, if you bet off-track you had to be weird, Cynthia Nixon's character had Munchausen's Syndrome, which was named for a German cavalry officer who fought with the Russians against the Turks, way back. The first case of Munchausen's Syndrome was diagnosed in 1843. The disease involves acting ill for the attention.

The character in this show had a real disease beneath all those imagined, showing the creative edge that makes the "House" series a contender.

It was never revealed if the woman faking illnesses won or lost her off-track wager.

Once more, simulcast-joint horse players are left to make their own breaks.