House is such a — I try to keep this blog PG-rated — jerk! A huge jerk! But gosh, Hugh Laurie sure plays him to perfection! I can see why this show was so popular.
The medical drama started in 2004 and ran for eight seasons, ending in 2012, but 10 years later, I’m just now watching it for free, thanks to the glorious power of the Roku channel. All of these streaming services I subscribe to and I’m currently binging a show I get for free because of the kind of television I have, isn’t that grand?
House is so named because of its main character, Dr. Gregory House (played by Laurie), who is considered a medical genius, and leads a team of diagnosticians at a hospital in New Jersey to solve rare health issues in patients.
But House is such a jerk, did I mention that? He’s abrasive, rude, overbearing, an anarchist (as one person described him), a miserable misanthrope, somewhat misogynic at times (he creepily talked about a 15-year-old female patient at one point, too), and one could argue he prides solving the medial puzzle more than he does the ethics of how to do things or hospital rules.
Still, he’s captivating! That character being the lead character in a television series seems like something unwatchable, right? But it’s compelling and captivating because gosh darnit, I want to solve the medical puzzle, too! Or at least watch as he does. That’s why within two weeks, I’m already nearly done with the second season.
As with any network show, House also follows a familiar pattern show-to-show:
First, there’s the opening, where someone experiences a medical episode of some sort necessitating them being committed to the hospital House works at. That moment always ends up pulling me in because I’ll think, Okay, I just want to see the opening to see what happens to the person and then I’ll stop for now. But inevitably, I get sucked into the puzzle and three episodes later …
Initially, House always flippantly rejects the new case, thinking the patient is suffering from some common ailment and doesn’t necessitate a diagnosis of something far rarer. Until the person submitting the case to him hints at something that piques his interest because he knows it signals something rare. Then we’re off to the medical races.
Something of a mantra for House is that patients lie, so don’t believe the patients; instead, follow what the science and medical diagnostic tests tell you. So, at some point in the show, it will be revealed that the patient (or their significant other) has lied about something that’s hindering House’s ability to properly diagnose what’s going on with the patient. Sometimes, these lies reveal the ugliest nature of human beings, like a woman who didn’t want to actually get pregnant with her new husband, so was taking pills to counteract her ability to be fertile, but didn’t want to tell him. Or the woman who donated part of her liver to her lover, knowing that the lover was planning on leaving her and the woman thinking, now she won’t. Yikes. That’s sociopathic!
Which, I find the lying hilarious. These people are literally afflicted with something that could and will kill them unless House is able to properly diagnose and therefore, treat it. Yet, they’re holding back things! That blows my brain. Save yourself and stop lying! Your life is more important than upsetting your significant other over a stupid lie you told.
It’s also funny that House has this whole mantra about how patients lie when he is a liar himself. He will lie (or at least, lie by omission) to patients all of the time, or colleagues, to achieve his ends, aka the ends (solving the puzzle) justify the means (unethical, rule-breaking lying means). Or, that time he cajoled and pursued his ex-wife into having an affair with him. Man, he was a real jerk in that episode.
But in the course of uncovering the lie and/or solving the diagnostic puzzle, it also amuses me in a macabre way that House often will think it’s one thing — and again, he’ll get flippant about it being that one thing — and they’re ready to release the patient from the hospital, believe it or not, until they have yet another medical episode indicating it must be something else. Let’s throw a bunch of medical crap at the wall, and in this case, the wall is the patient, and see what works. Whoops, that didn’t work and actually almost killed you more than the prior thing, but we’ll keep trying!
Finally there’s the epiphany moment of some sort. Speaking of walls, House will hit a wall when he can’t figure out what the diagnosis is, but he’ll be talking to someone or thinking or looking at something and suddenly, there’s an epiphany of what the diagnosis actually is and boom, he solves the case and saves the patient.
The reason we, as viewers, love House is not just because we, too, want to see the puzzle solved, but because we know that despite his gruff and rough exterior, House truly does care about saving the life of the patient. Again, the means may be abrasive and awful, but the end result (saving a life versus not) maybe does justify it? Maybe.
Joining House on the diagnostics team are Eric Foreman (played by Omar Epps), who specializes in neurology and is my favorite of the non-House characters because of how much he pushes back against House (but he also has his moments of being a jerk!); Robert Chase (played by Jesse Spencer), who specializes in surgery and cardiology and incidentally, is my least favorite of the main characters because he’s also a jerk without having too many redeeming qualities (in one episode, he’s so dang demeaning of an overweight girl); and Allison Cameron (played by Jennifer Morrison), who specializes in immunology and I do like her because she offers the human side of medicine.
Much to the chagrin of House, she empathizes with the patients and seems far more to care about the patients’ feelings. That said, one of my few criticisms of the show is that of course they make the one female character in the trio under House fall in love with House, even though he’s 20 years older than her. Then she has a one night stand with Chase. Lame. That’s just lame writing.
And of course the other prominent female character in the show, Lisa Cuddy (played by Lisa Edelstein), who specializes in endocrinology and is the dean of medicine, aka House’s boss, at the hospital, is often talked about in a lewd sexual way by House and it’s insinuated that they’ve probably slept together.
Or that of course House’s ex-wife would have an affair with him.
I don’t like that stuff. It seems like poor, obvious and very early 2000s writing of female characters in a television show.
That criticism aside, as I said, I’m definitely pulled in by this show and love it. I think it really does come to the medical mystery and the dynamic, compelling character of House, despite his jerkishness.
Have any of you watched House?