Thursday, February 09, 2006


I see that Tuesday night HOUSE got its highest rating ever. Following AMERICAN IDOL didn’t hurt but still, it’s developed enough of a following that I think I can devote a whole post to it.

For those who’ve never seen it, imagine BECKER meets CSI.

If you’re writing a spec episode of HOUSE, here’s the format: Vibrant attractive Fox-friendly hottie in her 30’s suddenly collapses for no reason. Opening credits. House says it’s nothing, send her home. She goes into convulsions. For the next forty minutes the earnest young doctors misdiagnosis her, send her into cardiac arrest, remove something that doesn’t need removing, break into her house for an illegal search, send House in to brow beat and traumatize her, and finally he figures it out. It’s something obscure like she licks stamps with cyanide or swims in a toxic waste dump. Five minutes later she’s cured and goes home. Last scene – ironic music plays over as House sits alone in his…well…house, pensive and tortured.

House must answer every question with a smart remark, the young doctors must roll their eyes at least ten times, House must break the Hippocratic Oath, show up Lisa Edelstein, discuss his love life with the bemused Sean Robert Leonard, and watch garbage TV (otherwise who would know he’s “quirky”?).

Four out of five weeks it’s revealed that the patient was lying all along, covering something up. So instead of just confiding in a doctor they allow themselves to get prodded, probed, cut open, and wrongfully medicated to the point of cardiac arrest and kidney failure.

So you took birth control pills, Julie Warner? You didn’t want to have another baby. Is that worth involuntary flailing, psychotic episodes, internal bleeding, and losing part of your liver? Y’know. your health plan has to pay for this.

The hospital itself is the only one on the planet with glassed in patient rooms. If I was sick in bed and had bedpan accidents I’d sure want people strolling by my room all day. And although they spared no expense on the modern design of the facility, apparently they forgot to include Recovery Rooms and ICU. No matter how major the operation the patient is right back in their private room two hours later entertaining visitors.

And still….it’s my favorite doctor show and I watch it every week religiously. And the episode where the mystery disease was IgA nephrophathy – I guessed it.


Joel Kelly said...

Great, now you've managed to spoil every single episode for me...

Anonymous said...

Ahh, House. The show is so formulaic that it's a wonder that it actually still manages to be interesting. (Of course, 24 is almost as formulaic; the template for individual episodes may differ more, but they only have a limited variety of "sudden twists" that they use -- each with its own tells that let you call it several minutes in advance.)

You glossed over the episodes that omit the "Five minutes later she’s cured and goes home" and instead have "Episode ends, because she is going to die soon and there's nothing anyone can do about it".

And then there are those few, precious episodes that actually do something different and make it all worthwhile -- House narrating three mini-episodes concurrently, and a story of a past screw-up told bit by bit in out-of-order flashbacks.

Of course, then there's episodes where you THINK they're going to vary the template, only to have House quite literally phone it in.

T said...

Ha! I like the comment about the health plan!

It's funny, sticking to a formula isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of my favourite shows, for instance, Law & Order has perhaps one of the most rigid formulas on television.

I think formulas are only problematic when they inhibit the storytelling or the overall believability of the story. House isn't really a show I like all that much, and not because I find it formulaic, but rather because I just find it difficult to swallow, for all of the reasons you've mentionned.

Heck, if you're going for believability, I'd pick Becker over both CSI and House!

Great blog! Keep on keepin' on! :)

Andres said...

it's a wonder a former patient hasn't returned to shoot house in the face...or just take away his cane.

Danny Stack said...

It's immensely watchable all right. It shouldn't work but it does. And I like the young hottie doctor 'cos she reminds me of a young Diane Lane. Aarrrrr... And I like Cuddy too 'cos she was Sam Seaborne's hooker in the West Wing. I've just realised I only watch House for the girls. Shame on me. Okay, I like the black doc because he was Gant in ER who tragically died cos he couldn't take Benton's bullying, and Carter was soooo incensed, and...

Stephen Gallagher said...

How can you not love a show which can casually throw away a line like, "That's the great thing about nuns. Whip out their IUD's and they bounce right back"?

Mark Terry said...

My wife loves it. I like it. We both have a medical background. Might as well be Star Trek in terms of believability. You're absolutely right about the glass walls and the illegal search and seizures. And the women are hot. Hell, I worked at a major Detroit hospital for 18 years before turning to writing fulltime and I can tell you there ARE plenty of beautiful women working there, but they don't dress so provocatively once they hit management.

Our biggest yucks are when the doctors do lab work or actually operate the MRI. Since we are (were) lab people, we usually shout at the TV--"Oh God, they're in the lab! Abandon all hope!"

Still, Hugh Laurie's a lot of fun.

Mark Terry

Anonymous said...

I just know that Omar Epps has gotten a raw deal as a medical show supporting player. And you thought Dr. Benton was hard on him!

Anonymous said...

SCRUBS has the glassed in patient rooms, but I'd hope no one would look to that show for medical accuracy.

By Ken Levine said...

We used Lisa Edelstein on ALMOST PERFECT. She played Chip Zien's Jewish Princess nightmare wife, Patty Karp. She was absolutely HILARIOUS. I can't say enough about Lisa.

Anonymous said...

So? Then tell us about Lisa! We wanna know! She's one of the best actresses around! I caught some of the reruns of Almost Perfect that the USA network was still running maybe four years ago. It was a very funny show.

Amazing blog, by the way.

Chris said...

I just wish that *once* he would lose a patient. What made St. Elsewhere the best medical drama ever was not the people they saved but how they dealt with the ones that died.

Joe said...

The Sela Ward back-and-forth got really tedious, but yes to Jennifer Morrison & esp. Lisa Edelstein. Hugh Laurie's brilliant, and yes, it's alwasy the smae plot, but pulled off really well, so I'm there every week. Shame it competes with THE AMAZING RACE, but that's what TiVo's for.

The Little (Knitting) Hedgehog said...

I really enjoyed Almost Perfect! What a fun show that was. I think Nancy Travis is really underused.

House? Yeah it's formulaic but it's fun to see Hugh Laurie be a such a gruff jerk after watching those Black Adder reruns all these years.

Anonymous said...

House's formula made it so nice to write a spec episode for, though. Ever beat was worked out, so once I knew the disease all I had to do was focus on character development.

The research has done irreperable damage to my sense of security, however. I constantly think I have any one of the diseases I researched. And every time I watch the show, I think it's going to be my disease, rendering my script useless. But it was fun to write.

Anonymous said...

At last, some others who think House is BORING. I've tried to watch it numerous times (uaually after it wins some other award) and rarely get past the first 15 minutes without nodding off or spending the next 45 minutes standing in front of the open fridge, waiting for something new to suddenly appear. Part of the problem is undoubtedly due to the fact that as an actual practicing physician, the many, glaring medical errors and mispronunciations, feel like someone dragging their fingenails across a blackboard. I can't wait for the show to win another award so I can check out my fridge again.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell me why House hasn't lost his medical license yet?

Phil said...

I worked with Lisa on a sketch comedy show pilot over ten years ago. she was hysterical. And Hugh Laurie is a brilliant comedian - so it makes sense they're in a drama, nay? You're formula breakdown is absolutely hilarious and amazingly accurate by the way. Makes me want to be sure to keep up the low fat diet and the miles on the bike. And for all the lunacy, it's gripping as hell and it won the writers guild award for best hour drama this year. The WGA once again saluting accuracy in drama.

Anonymous said...

I probably wouldn't watch HOUSE every week if not for my girlfriend.

Your reductionist summary was dead on! Brilliant.

And yet, for the most part, I still find the show watchable and enjoyable...with the except of just about every single supporting character except Lisa Edelstein.

What a waste! That annoying near-anorexic girl. That blonde guy with the accent - where is he from, exactly?

I long for the day when they make House schizophrenic so he can just lob his pointed barbs at himself instead of wasting all our screen time with his annoying peanut gallery. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Why in the world would anyone pattern

The fact that they did and it worked, must
be a reflection of the competition, House
is quality in comparison, fortunately, you
can watch a re run of Sanford and Son on
Classic TV, there is nothing less interesting
on TV than Becker and his clone, make that

there should be nothing less interesting
than Becker and his clone, but when talent
search shows rule, and Simon is the biggest
thing on television, it makes you wonder
if Hollywood will ever produce another
sitcom, hopefully last nights premier
of sons and daughters follows Emily's
reasons why not.