If you were to take a look at my previous Marathon to Start articles, you would probably notice a trend showing I am more drawn to serialized dramas than procedurals. This is not to say that I don't see the value in them. Sometimes, there is nothing better than turning on the television and being able to sit down to find one of the many episodes of Law and Order or CSI that are running at a pretty constant basis on some network. You don't have to invest week to week, you don't have to watch them in order and you can tune in and out on a whim. Despite my being well aware of this not one of them have really caught my attention…except for one…and that is…House, M.D. In my mind, the true brilliance of the show is that it is able to mix all the elements of a procedural drama, yet still maintain running story lines. The integral ingredient in the formula is the centerpiece of one of the most dynamic and complex characters to ever hit the television airwaves. This is why the next marathon you should start is the one and only House, M.D.
I must begin by saying, I'm not sure that the show is actually available on Netflix Instant or any of the streaming services. However, there are only a few television dramas that I would recommend and say are worth paying a few extra dollars a month for DVDs, and this is one of them. (The Wire is the other and that Marathon to Start will be coming as soon as I do a quick refresher course on the best television drama ever made -in my humble opinion...). On the other hand, because of the procedural nature and huge success of House, it is another that is usually playing somewhere on cable in syndication at any given moment. Although it would be better to watch in its entirety, even catching an episode here and there would give you a true glimpse in to what a fantastic show it is.
House, M.D is a procedural medical show that follows the brilliant doctor and medical genius Dr. Gregory House. He heads up a diagnostics team that is usually made up of 3 to 4 other doctors at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey. House is the doctor that can diagnose an obscure and baffling medical problem that, with every known probability, no one else can figure out as a result of his crazy genius, three day stubble, and socially disabled demeanor (to put it kindly…). While this sounds like the makings of a traditional medical show, it is anything but that. The main aspect that makes the concept of this show genuinely original, is the fact that the main character – House – is a major and known jerk of the highest proportion. Not only that, he is a doctor that is knowingly addicted to Vicodin. I'm not kidding, he pops about 20 pills per episode. He also treats his patients as if they are annoyances, and that's if he actually takes the time to see them. To say he has a bad bedside manner would be an understatement. However, because of this fact that he is one of the most interesting characters to have hit the airwaves, you forgive him for all of that and love him anyways. You watch House struggle with his disability, addiction, relationships and overall personality disorder. As a result, the show becomes fantastic and incredible character study about the mind of a misanthropic medical genius.
Because the main character is so incredibly complex, one of the things that stands out and truly made House an incredible show, is the performance of Hugh Laurie. The originally British actor was little known in the United States when he won the role of the American Dr. Gregory House. Ironically, many people questioned the choice, saying "The dad from Stuart Little?", as that had been his biggest role in the U.S. On the other hand, he was an incredibly well known actor in the U.K., and was part of the wildly successful comedy team Fry and Laurie. The role of Dr. House was incredibly hard to cast, because it had to be someone that the audience could hate, but love all at the same time. Luckily, because of the perseverance of some incredible casting people and producers (Laurie originally auditioned for the role by sending in a tape from the bathroom of the set of the film Flight of the Phoenix in Africa) they brought one of the best actors to American television. Laurie's American accent was flawless and continues to shock people the first time they hear him speak when out of character. House is not a very "nice" character, but Laurie found a balance in which he played him in such a tough, angry, yet vulnerable way that you can't help but love the guy, and sometimes agree with him that the human race really sucks and that "everybody lies". While Laurie never won an Emmy Award for his performance, he was nominated 6 years in a row, and won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series Drama, two years in a row. The show was also nominated, four years in a row, but never won.
Laurie is also surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast that includes Omar Epps, Olivia Wilde, Robert Sean Leonard, Lisa Edelstein, Jennifer Morrison, and a rotating cast of others.
Another major name attached to the series, and especially the pilot is Bryan Singer. During an era where many film directors "looked down" upon television, Singer saw an opportunity to work on an amazing creative project, which helped to change the television landscape. Now, film directors taking time out of their busy schedule to direct a pilot is a common occurrence, and much of that can be attributed to the success that Singer had from working on House, M.D. He stayed on as Exective Producer for the entire series, and when looking at how often the show runs in syndication, that has to have resulted in a pretty penny for the director.
I truly do think it is one of the most incredible medical shows to have ever been made, but there are a few things that detractors might point out. While one of the greatest parts of the show is the fact that it is formulaic, some people are very put off by it. It's a pretty standard formula, however, it is not the fact that the formula exists that makes the show such a success, but rather how the writers handle it. The diseases and stories are kept fresh and interesting and, while you usually know what is coming, it is the ride that takes you on to get there that is fun. Also, although this is followed in the majority of the episodes, there are many times that they flip the formula on its head and the case does not end up well. It can be quite harrowing, to say the least. Because the audience is used to the patient surviving when House actually loses a patient, it takes us by surprise and is truly heartbreaking. Furthermore, some of the episodes that break this formula are the best of the series. One episode that features Locked-In Syndrome and a patient that can only communicate by blinking is stunning. Another memorable episode is the season six premiere that finds House in a mental institution that could easily stand alone as a feature film.
The writers on the show effectively inter-weave stories about the lives of House, his team and the many other interesting characters in the hospital, which make it even more interesting. In fact, while some people might say their favorite couple on the show is the Huddy (House and Cuddy) combination, the bromance that evolves between Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and House is my favorite relationship of the series. They are best friends that love each other, hate each other and sometimes just like to annoy and bother each other. However, when it comes down to it, Wilson is the only person that really understands House and will put up with the majority of his antics. They are true friends and the relationship they have is fun to watch.
I also must note that while I wholly and completely love the show, I really can only endorse it for about the first six seasons. While, the stories up until this point are fantastic, by season 7, in some ways it just "changed". Some aspects of House's personality are different, and while it was necessary for character development, it just didn't feel like the same show anymore. I don't want to spoil too much, but hope that you will trust me that it is worth every minute up until that point. By its final season 8, much of the cast changed and, Olivia Wilde and Lisa Edelstein (Cuddy) both left the show. While it creatively survived a "changing of the team" in season 4, this time it didn't fare as well. The characters (and acting) felt forced and I just found that Charlyne Yi and Odette Annable, couldn't stand up to the presence of Hugh Laurie. It just didn't work.
However, while House, M.D. might have suffered in later seasons, House M.D., I don't want that to take away from my complete and utter endorsement of this show. It was, and still is, one of the best procedural medical shows ever created. The acting is fantastic. Hugh Laurie is a dream and it puts an interesting and wholly original spin on a medical show that has not been done since. I hope that even if you don't watch the entire series, you will take some time to visit a show and character that, while featuring a nightmarish person, is simply marvelous and entertaining to watch because of that.
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