September 30, 2005

House Calls

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With all the other garbage associated with Fox, from The O.C. and its “overcooked crackers” to the Faux News Channel, I hate to begrudgingly confess that Rupert Murdoch and his cronies might actually have come up with a decent broadcast in the form of House M.D.

I was still skeptical at first. Seriously, what the hell were David Shore, creator of the living undead series Law & Order, and CG-happy X-Men (and now Superman Returns) director Brian Singer doing producing another medical soap opera with half-baked aspirations of resurrecting the success of E.R. I guess I could understand that Shore was tired of the whole crime drama and that accursed double-chime noise after spawning more spin-offs than Cornell has of unsightly red arches. What I couldn’t fathom, though, was the casting of Hugh Laurie, who most recently showcased his talents for American audiences through his portrayal of Stuart Little’s dad, as Fox’s answer to George Clooney.

Yet Laurie is nothing short of impressive as the title character, Gregory House, a deranged sort of anti-Clooney. Dr. House is dubbed the “Sherlock Holmes of Medicine,” a freakish master diagnostician who’s the head of a team of young specialists. But he looks more like a third-rate bum with his stubble and haggardly appearance than a first-rate doctor. Then of course, there’s the limp. One of House’s legs is no longer of use and so he requires a cane and experiences chronic excruciating pain, which ends up getting him hooked on Vicodin. However, his condition makes him a prodigious practitioner filled with understanding and compassion as a result of his personal struggles. House is a maverick anti-hero who is interested more in the physiological puzzle at hand than bedside manner or protocol and who routinely breaks all the rules, all the while doling out helpings of witty barbs. Forget Intro Bio, Orgo, or other so-called “weed out” classes. Dr. House is the kind of guy that evokes a sudden change of heart among prospective pre-meds. Simply put, House is the world’s biggest jackass.

What he lacks in people skills, however, House makes up for with his truly amazing analytical genius. Each episode does inevitably revolve around House tussling with the latest baffling medical mystery. There are, of course, the suspenseful, yet expected dramatic 180 degree turns spaced out over the course of the show’s one hour timeslot on Tuesday nights and in the end, House always manages to salvage a “favorable outcome” out of every case.

What truly separates the show from being just a medical incarnation of C.S.I., MacGyver or The A-Team is the novelty of each case. Along with his assistants; neurologist Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps), the inner-city kid turned doctor; the idealistic Dr. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison); and the rich man with an accent, Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer), House and his team begin by listing symptoms on a whiteboard. From there, House dreams up every imaginable hypothesis and deftly deduces his way through the case, usually to find some bizarre explanation and solution. Additionally, none of the show’s conclusions are haphazardly strewn together because there is always a logical flow to House’s thought process. What’s more, as fans of the show can attest, House and his team rarely get things on the first try. They usually end up trying out several different approaches before finding what proves to be the magic bullet.

What truly makes House a must-watch show, however, is not the succession of formulaic episodes involving rare and unheard of medical conditions. House is in a lot of ways a critique of commonly held views in regards to medical ethics. A recent episode dealt with the topic of death, contrasting the case of a treatable death row inmate whose crimes may have been biologically driven with a terminally ill and incurable woman.

House challenges the bland, sterilized world of medicine that we have come to expect. While it seems too many doctors these days are understandably more concerned with malpractice lawsuits and other legal or bureaucratic hoops to jump through, House has no qualms about using dishonesty, deceit or other underhanded means to achieve his aim of treating his patients. He’s got that gutsy, arrogant edge to him that you might say is missing in doctors today. So despite being anything but a nice guy (he even refuses to reciprocate a young cancer patient’s hug), Dr. Gregory House is in many ways just the kind of doctor we need.

Now in its second season and with its star fresh off an Emmy nomination, House M.D. is sporting a clean bill of health.

Archived article by Zaki Rahaman
Sun Contributor