House, M.D. - Why Is This Good?

Jeff Perren's picture
Submitted by Jeff Perren on Wed, 2006-12-27 16:02

I finally caught a couple of episodes of House, M.D. and I have to confess to some puzzlement.

The show has been praised by some Objectivists, but not having seen the show at the time, I didn't pay much attention to the remarks.

Can someone explain to me why this show, and in particular the House character, is supposed to be praiseworthy?

Granted Hugh Laurie is a terrific actor. Granted the show is not the run-of-the-mill medical TV show in which the kindly, selfless doctor gives his all for his patients while eschewing both riches and praise. Granted the writing is very good.

But just what is it about any aspect of the show that warrants high marks from those fond of Romanticism?

I can't remember ever before seeing a show in which the creators have made such a successful effort to have not a single attractive character.

There's the now de rigeur demographically correct casting of course.

There's the required Dudley Do-Right looking young guy, who alternately snarls and whines through most of the show, and occasionally makes a half-hearted attempt at saying something positive. (Young, good looking rich guys deserve to be miserable after all, don't they?)

There's the required pretty, but not-too-pretty young female, who alternately snarls and whines through the show, and occasionally makes brilliant diagnoses that are contemptuously dismissed. (Isn't that just like male chauvinist pigs, after all?)

There's the required thuggish black guy, who alternately snarls and rolls his eyes at House's every unconventional move with half-hearted moral disapproval, and who makes incorrect diagnoses from time to time in order to give House someone to express contempt toward. (Whitey is always putting down the bruthuh after all, isn't he?)

And then there's House...

Crippled, perpetually unshaven (but always at the two-day level, miraculously), and full of self-loathing but by God not self-pity. He, of course, has snarling down to a fine art, but manages to eschew the whining. He substitutes berating and insulting for no apparent reason everyone in sight.

Is he just having a bad day? No, he's like that all the time. Is he just so brilliant, and surrounded by fools, that he has a perpetual chip on his shoulder from being the one-eyed king in the land of the blind? No, the other doctors are all pretty smart. Does his leg hurt so frequently that he can't help being in a bad mood all the time? No, the pain comes and goes -- even though his bad mood is persistent. (Of course, he couldn't possibly meet his pain with any dignity. Though, I can see why he might get irritable at all the uninvited solicitation from the dolts who keep reminding him of his infirmity.)

But, hey, he drives a motorcycle so he must be an individualist!

If there's some aspect of the show that isn't a perfect reflection of a tired cliche stood on it's head by substituting an unrelieved nihilism, I didn't spot it in the two episodes I watched.

(One episode was about a young boy who suffers from hallucinations, of a sort, and believes he is being threatened by aliens. The other was so unmemorable, I can't recall anything about it whatsoever. Maybe I was too focused on wondering why anyone would want to watch this show...)

Maybe part of the attraction is watching a character who does what the viewer secretly longs to do -- behave like a complete prick and get away with it, without fear of politically correct attitude adjustment classes or visits to the Human Resources department or nausea inducing talks from the manager?

House does have a sort of pseudo-independence, for sure. He certainly never backs down in the face of those who insist that he behave like a reasonable human being.

Can someone enlighten me here? Apparently the 'selflessness is noble' line has become so tiresome that any Nietzchean substitute looks good.

In the meantime, I think I'll stick with watching a DVD of The Interns. At least Stephanie Powers was definitely pretty and the curmudgeons had some reason to complain. But, I could be wrong about the latter. If I had to work with House, I'd be pretty crabby, too.


( categories: )

If you have the opportunity

Ted Keer's picture

If someone you knows owns the first two series on disc, I would try to watch them sequentially. If you aren't hooked by the third show, then give up. The Incest episode was more subplot that main character driven. I was not so deeply drawn in as usual, and found the end tragically sad for the rational male. They might actually get back together in a later episode. But I don't know who is doing the writing at this point. I would assume it was a stock filler episode that had been written before the series itself went into production. It was not integrated into the show's development arc.

Incest

Jeff Perren's picture

After writing the initial post I remembered that the other episode was about a young man and woman struck with a mysterious disease. It turns out they are (half)brother and sister.

It was so boring, and silly, that's about all I can remember.

More Deviltry

Ted Keer's picture

Which Lesbian was worse, the one who gave up a liver chunk to save a lover she knew would leave her, or the recipient, who took the chunk, knowing that the donor was manipulating her?

What about the perfectly loving couple where the husband who would have died to save his wife left her after he found she had cheated with the husbands best friend one time out of weakness and had ended it then and there?

And what do you think of my answer to your first challenge?

Ted

Jeff, Inquiry

Ted Keer's picture

Jeff the Kid with alien abductors episode was I believe the first 3rd season episode. Can you enlighten us further on the othe episode? was it apparently after the Abduction episode? The Abduction episode seemed atypical in that it was more flash and show as if to grab ratings.

Ted

Ted, just a

Grady's picture

Ted, just a lurker.

"Goodgobblygoop."

How versus That

Ted Keer's picture

The fact that his diagnosis was right was a fact. Whether or not he came about it in the wrong way would forever remain speculation. They could have advised house that they had the strongest reservations about the means in which he reached his conclusion. They could have monitored his future actions. Once they betrayed him, he would have indisuptably objective grounds upon which forever to doubt their motives, not just grounds to speculate...

Talk about "Devil's" advocate!

I wonder whether I am speaking to a former poster who wishes to remain anonymous? In any case, the argument has always imnterested me more than the personality...maybe why I like(d) house so much up till now...

Ted

"When Wilson & Cutty

Grady's picture

"When Wilson & Cutty conspired to prevent House from knowing that he had brilliantly cured a man in a decade-long vegetative state just to bring him down a peg, I almost threw my TV out the window. Is this the type of BS which is going on?"

Devil's advocate here...while Wilson did conspire to "knock him down a peg," there's an issue with the "brilliance" of how House came to his conclusion (standing in a water fountain.) House made a sort of free association between the water and the patient and made a guess; the diagnosis was nothing more than a hunch, which House admitted himself was not based on any objective reasoning. On that one, House got "lucky."

"Goodgobblygoop."

Sounds Like Six Feet Under

Ted Keer's picture

William, I suppose I shouldn't worry so much about the episodes I've not yet seen? When Wilson & Cutty conspired to prevent House from knowing that he had brilliantly cured a man in a decade-long vegetative state just to bring him down a peg, I almost threw my TV out the window. Is this the type of BS which is going on?

Is this an example of what happened to Six Feet Under in the third season when the main character returned from hiatus married to a cameo appearance and the show took of at a right angle in some 11th dimension beyond our comprehension?

uggh...

I've found House to be

I've found House to be interesting and entertaining until this season. I almost can't watch it now, the writers are doing nothing but tearing the characters apart.

Wm

Islam insofar as it is directed by governments, and as a measure enforced from above by any government, is to be done away with.

CI, Bones

Jeff Perren's picture

"You've kind of touched on some of the things I don't like about the show. There's a joke between Amy and myself that it seems the only thing the DA on the show does is say "I need more evidence" and leave." Landon

I agree, but man when they do give him something more to say he is terrific, as is what he says. So subtle, and yet invariably right on the money.

Melissa,

Hijack away. I haven't seen the show yet, so I can't comment. But I enjoy it when you do.

In Medias Res

Ted Keer's picture

If one watches the show from the beginning and in sequence, the development of House's character and his relations with his colleagues will make a bit more sense than they will if one jumps into the middle of the series. Unlike many shows, there actually is a progression and a development and an explanation of the characters and their motivations. One does not see in every episode the shriveled and necrotic state of House's thigh or his heroic efforts to deal with his pain and his dependence on pain-killers. House's interns are not mere stock-characters.

(I should qualify my comments with the caveat that I have not seen the third-season episodes of House after that in which Wilson lies to the jackbooted policeman about his forged signature on some of House's prescriptions.)

There is little point in rehashing the comments below, but I would ask this:

Is there one person on this list, who, having watched the show from the beginning, finds its value inscrutable?

I may be a bit more of a bleeding heart than most on this list, but I do not find it embarassing or inappropriate to admit that at least three of the episodes have brought me to tears. I pray that the worrisome plot devleopments of this latest season do not presage an Ally McBealian disintegration in progress.

Ted Keer

Bones!

Melissa Lepley's picture

Has NOBODY else seen this?

I like Bones even better than any of the CSI's or any of the other rather formulaic crime/forensic shows.

I am dismayed and saddened that nobody else has a comment on this!

Or maybe nobody wants to hijack the thread?

Oops, am I being rude?

Melissa

"Shiny. Let's be bad guys."

Jeff-CI

Landon Erp's picture

You've kind of touched on some of the things I don't like about the show. There's a joke between Amy and myself that it seems the only thing the DA on the show does is say "I need more evidence" and leave.

I tend to prefer SVU (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) because of the moral dilemmas it offers the characters. Vice often gets in the way of avenging the victims of crimes, no matter how difficult or complicated the situation seems there is always a genuine moral appraisial involved. That and it's also interesting to see what constant exposure to evil does to a set of human psyches.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

House is the only television show I watch.

Robert Nasir's picture

No time to offer any compelling arguments - but for those who're thinking, "am I nuts for love-love-loving this show???", let me chime in: House is the only television show I watch.  Period.

NEVER FORGET the lesson of Mary Ann Sures' copper pot.  (If you haven't heard the story ... seek out Facets of Ayn Rand: Memoirs by Mary Ann Sures and Charles Sures right away!)  Even if you cannot explicitly defend your values; so long as you know your appreciation is honest, with no evasion involved, don't EVER let them go.

Criminal Intent

Jeff Perren's picture

Tom,

I agree CI has some extremely good elements. Goren and Eames are a terrific pair, and Vincent D'Onofrio is extraordinary. Sometimes there's a bit too much grimness for my taste but the writing, point of view, and performances are excellent. I wish they would feature the ADA more -- he should have a show of his own.

I particularly like the episode about the painters. The one with Michale York was also terrific. And the one with the wannabe society dame from the Bronx and the fake U.N. economist had some good points. The pretentious horse-rich episode had some delightful moments. Many of the shows, like those, have lots of layers. You really have to pay attention, though. Sometimes important plot points go by at a whoosh.

Sometimes, like the episode with Goren's profiling mentor, are predictable but still very good.

I haven't watched Law and Order over the years, but a friend suggested this one and I got hooked.

Jeff

TRowland's picture

I couldn't agree more with your appraisal of House, particularly the turn it has taken this season.

Initially, Julie and I were attracted to the show because the writers seemed to be aware that House (as in, is there a Doctor in the House?) was a Doctor first and a good bed-side manner second. In that first season he was softly abrasive, and the abrasiveness was aimed at short-cuts, lying, wrongheaded diagnosis, and false concern masking incompetance. In other words it was value directed, much like Cameron in The Fountainhead. Now he is more like Jim Taggart's "Don't bother me, Don't bother me, Don't bother me." So, OK, I get the hint.

Law and Order: CI is much better and I can hardly wait to begin '24'

House...yawn...

Marcus's picture

I have just flown into NZ for New Years Eve.

On the way over on the plane I watched an episode of house to give it another try. I sat through to the end this time...but it was again boring and irritating.

A TV show like that is based chiefly on the character of House, either you like him or not. I don't like him - nor can I relate to him. Why the fuck does he have to limp? It gets on my nerves!!!

But even if you remove the character of House from the equation, the medical diagnoses are just not interesting or illuminating in my opinion. While watching the show I kept thinking...how is this relevant...yawn...what point are they making...yawn?

However, I watched one episode of CSI and CSI:NY for the first time. I thought even though there was little compelling characterisation apart from the suspects in each murder scene (and being a little too formulaic)...it was actually interesting and worth my while watching.

So, thumbs up for CSI Smiling

:)

Melissa Lepley's picture

I adore House, grumpiness and all...

However, I have found a show I enjoy even more! Laughing out loud

Bones!

A brilliant Forensic Anthropologist assists an FBI investigator in solving crimes. Sounds like most forensic shows, right? WRONG!

This one is so well written (and well acted) it is a complete pleasure to watch. The lead characters Dr. Brennan (Bones) and Agent Booth are so very fun to watch...the supporting characters are wonderful...there is nothing not to like.

Dr. Brennan is not only incredibly intelligent and rational...she's rational on purpose. She looks at the world, decides that it should make sense, decides that there's nothing her marvelous brain cannot solve...and goes out and solves it. She is constantly telling her partner that "gut feelings" and "instinct" don't matter...the facts do. AND, as if that all weren't awesome enough...she kicks ass!

In the first episode, she is in a house with a suspect who is threatening to set her on fire (as well as destroy evidence) and she shoots him in the leg! Doesn't even think twice. Doesn't warn him, doesn't bargain, just shoots the bad guy. She is an excellent shot, and knows several forms of self-defense...and isn't afraid to use them! She isn't a violent person, but she doesn't take shit from anyone.

At one point, she's trying to petition the FBI to let her carry a concealed weapon (they took away her gun after the first show) and Booth, who is filling out the form, asks her "Why do you want to carry a gun?" She answers: "To shoot people."

Anytime she doesn't understand a pop culture reference she says "I don't know what that means."

She's exactly the kind of person I'd want to work with (though Booth would drive me nuts if I had to do anything but look at him!)

I would highly recommend this series!

Melissa

"Shiny. Let's be bad guys."

Dear Lannol,You wrote: To be

Kendall J's picture

Dear Lannol,

You wrote: To be clear, Justin (for me at least), it isn't that a hero requires a flaw for me to enjoy him. However, my personal M.O. is to see brilliance before all else, and to hope such brilliance leads such a person to "see the light." Of course, this always gets me into trouble, so thank goodness he's fictional. Eye-wink

Not a problem, I was actually addressing Daniel's claim. I know why you and others like House. I like him for the same reasons. Do you think that maybe some of the folks who forgive his flaws are judging him as they would judge a real human being? If House existed in reality, I'd be an admirer, but that's because "baggage" is difficult to get rid of. I judge him as a fictional character. As fiction, getting rid of the baggage was a simple choice the writers could have made, and didn't. i.e. he didn't have to be that way. He was made that way, and is kept that way out of some beleif that it added to the story.

You also wrote: P.S. Your wife and son clearly have excellent taste in drama.

Careful, she also likes Nip/Tuck, which for me is definitely the moral equivalent of "nails on a chalkboard". ugh.

Respectfully,
Kendall J

I went off House ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... before any drug addiction or viciousness to Wilson. It was clear the writers were going in the direction of equating brilliance with being a self-indulgent prat/prick/prima donna. It got tiresome. There's much better stuff on TV.

Linz

Pete, I knew...

Ross Elliot's picture

...he was British before my sensors were activated Smiling

Thanks, Ron.

Jeff Perren's picture

Ron,

That's very helpful. I'll get the DVD and watch a few more.

Jeff

Jennifer

Ron Kelley's picture

I agree. The drug addiction story line is absolutely dreadful. One aspect of the show I found enjoyable was the friendship between House and Wilson. They clearly had deep admiration and respect for one another. This has been totally destroyed. Wilson is now a manipulative altruist and House has violated every ethical standard for friendships. He’s been positively vicious to Wilson. Actually, they’ve been vicious to each other. What a shame.

I do hope the producers and writers of the show turn it around soon. They have misread the reason why House is so popular. They think it’s due to his rudeness and other character flaws. It’s not. A recent poll of the show’s fans said they would want House as their doctor if they were sick. It’s not his flaws that make the show appealing; it’s his brilliance at curing people with deadly illnesses.

Ron

Prima Donna's picture

Ron, I think you've brought up some very salient points. One of my hopes is that this season will become a turning point of some sort for the character, because he does get worse with every episode. The drug addiction doesn't help, and I'm quite surprised they've let it become such a big part of the show. I'm annoyed with that.

To be clear, Justin (for me at least), it isn't that a hero requires a flaw for me to enjoy him. However, my personal M.O. is to see brilliance before all else, and to hope such brilliance leads such a person to "see the light." Of course, this always gets me into trouble, so thank goodness he's fictional. Eye

Jennifer

P.S. Your wife and son clearly have excellent taste in drama. Laughing out loud

-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Jeff,

Ron Kelley's picture

The episodes of House you’ve seen are from the show’s current (3rd) season. The show has taken a serious decline this year. It has gotten so bad that I don’t really care if I miss an episode. The writers have made House even more miserable, malevolent and rude than the first 2 seasons. Seasons 1 and 2 are much better.

I believe the appeal of the House character, at least for me and many others, is his absolute brilliance. Never before, I have a seen such a sharply drawn rational TV character. House has a laser like focus on finding the illness that will most likely kill his patient. He is in a race against time to cure his patient while trying to train his young diagnostic team. Many times he chastises his team for sloppy thinking or letting their emotions get in the way of rational thought. He is single-minded in his pursuit of a diagnosis and will not let anyone or anything stand in his way.

An episode last year addressed altruism and House is not a fan. He’s an atheist. Not that atheism in itself makes him virtuous, but he’s an atheist because he his passionate about reason. The “House vs God” episode in season 2 is very good.

Now yes, House is rude and miserable, but I’ve been somewhat willing to overlook those issues due to the fact that he is so sharply rational when it really matters – saving his patient’s life. In some episodes his extremely blunt and rude questions directed at his patient’s loved ones often lead to a diagnosis. Without his naked honesty, the patient would have died.

It is unfortunate the show has declined this season. Many of my friends have made the same statement “what have they done to my House?”. I believe you would have a much better opinion of the show had you seen the first 2 seasons.

It's Ironic

Richard Wiig's picture

that those who'd profess to value justice, judge his character on his flaws ahead of his virtues, when his virtures far surpass his flaws, and that one of his virtues is that he values justice to the zenith.

I disagree with the concept

Kendall J's picture

I disagree with the concept that you must have "a flaw in your hero" to keep it interesting. Sure you have to have compelling plot week after week, but why does that mean that the plot must come from a deep seeded psychological flaw. Certainly heroes can commit errors, and that makes for interesting plot, but they ultimately should resolve them, right. I think it's incredibly boring when one feels the need to turn an ongoing real flaw into every weeks device to contrive drama, as well as derive the essence of House's character from it. It's been how many seasons and he has yet to deal with any of his emotional issues, but they continue to be the centerpeice. Ugh.

One hero that I adored from the 70's was Quincy. Now there was someone who was a curmudgeon (personality, but not character flaw), but he was benevolent and fairly well adjusted.

There's plenty of example of popular long-running television shows that don't use this device. Perry Mason (9 yr running life), or a Quncy (7 yrs), or a Marcus Welby (8 yrs), Ironside (8 yrs) or even as I've mentioned Law & Order (16 yrs! longest running drama). If House's sniveling hasn't worn thin by 4 yrs, I'll be stunned. One of the easiest mechanisms to do this is to have flaws exist in the more minor characters, rather than have the minor characters be fairly normal, and the lead so damaged. And that is how much good literature works. Certainly not all.

By the way, my wife seems to adore the show, and now has my son hooked on it. So I'm certainly not the majority view in my own house, by any means. Eye

Respectfully,
Kendall Justiniano

Just to be sure your

Pete L's picture

Just to be sure your answering my question, Ross: have you seen Ian McShane in Deadwood, and if so, despite his playing a brothel/saloon owner in America's old West, do your Britt-detector sensors still go off?

"d'Onofrio rocks. All is

Prima Donna's picture

"d'Onofrio rocks. All is forgiven."

I love when that happens. Smiling

Jennifer

-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Heroes and Perfection

Daniel Walden's picture

Frankly, House's imperfection makes for a more interesting show, because reality is currently kicking him in the ass for it. All heroes need not be perfect. Of all Rand's heroes, only two were actually perfect: Roarke and Galt. The rest were good, noble people who happened to have flaws. Since House is a TV drama, House needs a comparatively looming flaw to balance out his towering intellect; otherwise the potential for continuing episodes is exhausted rather quickly. Masterful literature can have nigh-perfect heroes, but serial television is a different medium. When you conceive of your work as a whole, you know exactly what your hero will face and how he will overcome it. Serial writing, on the other hand, requires that you set up groundwork to give you plot material. A perfect hero in a novel can be quite interesting, but a perfect hero in a serial television show wears thin. If you know he will overcome every challenge and remain completely unchanged, there's nothing to see. However, starting with an imperfect hero and forcing him to confront his imperfections head-on (as House was forced to do with his ex-girlfriend Stacy and is now forced to do with his addiction) lets you write episodically while still showing something worth watching. This, I think, justifies House's character imperfections.

Also, House listens to Puccini. Nobody who listens to Puccini can hate his life Smiling

d'Onofrio rocks. All is

Kendall J's picture

d'Onofrio rocks. All is forgiven. Eye

Respectfully,
Kendall Justiniano

Ha!

Prima Donna's picture

Justin, stop beating around the bush. With such wishy-washiness how will anyone ever know your true opinion? Eye

I agree that he's an emotional cripple. I think what intrigues me is how well his character is written in that way. Granted, I would not enjoy being around such a person in the flesh, but I find him shockingly amusing.

I also realized I'm a liar, as Law & Order is another series I watch. I very much like CI, as Vincent d'Onofrio is brilliant in his role as Goren. And Chris Noth is just sexy.

Jennifer

-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Besides, I want a hero who...

Kendall J's picture

is ruthlessly committed to reason throughout his life, which means he's emotionally balanced AND gets the girl too! oh, and he eats good food and drinks good wine and knows how to enjoy himself too. Eye

Respectfully,
Kendall Justiniano

I find House TEDIOUS

Kendall J's picture

Well, Jennifer right off the bat, we disagree. Yes, House uses his mind wonderfully. Yes, as a forum to challenge conventional medical ethics, the show is interesting. But the man is an emotional cripple. He's far from a mere curmudgeon. He has serious psychological issues, which he evades with as strong a commitment as he is committed to reason in his work. Ugh.. Thanks no. I found him funny the first show. Passable the second, and now I can't bear to watch the man.

It's one thing to be committed to reason in your work, and quite another to be so committed to anti-reason in the rest of your life.

Give me CSI's Gil Grissom, Law & Order's Jack McCoy, CSI Miami's Horatio Cain, and a whole slew of other "mind users". Yes, they all have flaws, but House is the psychological equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, or the dissonance of two half-step notes.

Respectfully,
Kendall Justiniano

I stopped watching House long ago, but someone actually recommended him to Mary Ann Sures at OCON this year. I can't wait to see what she might have thought of it. The Objective Standard just did a piece on his rational / emotional dichotomy that nailed my previous feelings abou the show perfectly.

Yes, I knew he was British...

Ross Elliot's picture

...and very good. He's very familiar as the star of the Brit series Lovejoy.

And I'm amazed

Richard Wiig's picture

"I'm amazed that anyone could find that show boring"

that anyone could be afraid of working with him. He'd have to be one of the least boring workmates you could ever have.

Ian McShane on Deadwood

Pete L's picture

Ian McShane plays a Western villain in Deadwood, an HBO series. He is absolutely brilliant in the role. Have you seen this, Ross, and if so, does his demeanor give him away? I personally was unaware that he was Brittish until reading that the other day.

The Mind, the Mind, the Mind

Prima Donna's picture

House doesn't give a damn about anything but using his mind to solve a complicated medical problem, and that is thrilling to watch. His curmudgeonly nature makes him quite lovable in my opinion, and it's clearly a front for the emotions he is afraid to express to the public at large. He's a bit like the Grinch of medicine.

Aside from his complexity, he is one of my favorite characters of all time because he is utterly unafraid of being politically incorrect, and for doing whatever it takes to get to a solution. I'm amazed that anyone could find that show boring -- it's the only one I'm willing to watch (aside from American Idol. Tee hee.) Smiling

Jennifer

-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Renee Zellweger...

Ross Elliot's picture

...isn't a great example for the reverse. She's a massive worldwide star and anybody with a pulse knew she was an American.

Re Laurie, he's the only one doing an American accent that I can think of, but it was specifically him I was referring to re the accent & disposition. To someone--me--who grew up with British actors on TV, he just looks British despite his accent.

Joely Richardson from Nip/Tuck might be a good example. Is she British or American? She's certainly gorgeous Smiling

Sore thumbs

Mario's picture

"[B]ut put a Brit actor in with an otherwise American cast and he'll stick out like a sore thumb."

In all seriousness, do you have any other examples of Brit actors (using American accents of course) sticking out among an American cast? I just find it intriguing. How would you describe the "disposition," as you say?

And what about the opposite -- the Bridget Jones movies, for example?
--
http://blog.mariodiana.com

Daniel....

Ross Elliot's picture

...it's not his accent but his disposition that gives the game away.

If you live in a country where British TV has historically been the norm, as I do, you become immune to it, but put a Brit actor in with an otherwise American cast and he'll stick out like a sore thumb.

British actor

Daniel Walden's picture

Laurie's being British has pretty much no bearing on it, since his American accent is damn near flawless. His comedy background, though, results in some excellent timing in the delivery of House's one-liners.

If I could wax pissy...

Ross Elliot's picture

...for a moment, I might contend that if you throw almost any Brit actor with attitude at an American audience, they love it.

Smart move, I say.

I have a theory

Robert's picture

House is so popular because he behaves the way many an over-worked, frustrated and hen-pecked service industry worker would like to occassionally. Everybody I know has had to kow-tow to some obnoxious twat at work whether he be your boss, co-worker or member of the public.

Having been in a number of jobs where I've reluctantly tugged my remaining forelock twats of all three varieties I admit that watching House give them all the middle finger fills me with a perverse glee!

Intertwined with this is the relief that no matter how random my co-workers are, none of them act like House!

But then again, I would recommend House based on the writing and Laurie's performance alone! 

Close to home

Landon Erp's picture

It's been an occaisionally interesting show, but I get too distracted. The views of the Indianapolis skyline that appear outside a residential neighborhood are views that are only visible from I70 and just other technical points like that keep me from being objective.

Granted it is cool to see the Indy skyline on television.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Laurie

Jeff Perren's picture

Laurie is an outstanding actor. I first noticed him in Sense and Sensibility in which he plays the husband of a flibertigibbet. He is dour, even sarcastic -- and it works perfectly because his wife is such an idiot. But we also see the nobility of his character when he offers to help Lizzie.

"The rest of the time he just looks miserable."

Marcus's picture

That's it Jeff! You put your finger on why it was so boring.

The whole time House just looks like a miserable old fuck. That's why I switched off.

In the other two shows I mentioned, Laurie's characters were dim-witted, but overflowing with joy. Maybe Laurie feels he needs to play a role with the exact opposite personality now? Maybe that's another reason why House just doesn't work for me.

Where's the Thrill?

Jeff Perren's picture

"His thrill is, as Wilson once put it, 'solving the puzzle.'"

Daniel, I think you've not interpreted me right, which is probably my fault. I should have said use of his diagnostic skills. If you prefer the wording 'solving the puzzle', that's fine by me. My point is, where do you see any evidence of his being thrilled? (I grant you, I've only seen two episodes, and spun by a few more, so I may have missed it.)

I'm not suggesting that the only way to display joy is by running through a sunlit field strewn with flowers sporting an idiotic grin, by the way. But I don't see it in any form.

By contrast, the prosecutor on Close To Home displays an unmistakeable look of satisfaction when she nails the bad guy, while not smiling excessively to suggest there are no serious values involved.

Diagnostic insights

Daniel Walden's picture

That's the thing: House's thrill doesn't come from using his diagnostic insights. Implementing them is only a means of confirming that he was right. His thrill is, as Wilson once put it, "solving the puzzle." Longtime viewers have noted House's tendency to want to begin treatment before confirming a diagnosis if such confirmation is either impossible or dangerous. Once he's absolutely figured out what's wrong, he becomes quite intense and even shorter than usual with people who try to get in the way of his confirming the diagnosis. He does have respect for the patient's rights, however; he may rant and rave and call someone any number of insulting things, but he will not go against the wishes of an adult patient who expressly refuses treatment. House is an angry, irritable bastard who sends his doctors to break into patient's homes, but there are lines he won't cross.

Good Taste

Jeff Perren's picture

Thanks, Marcus. But I'm not sure you can tell I have good taste by what I reject. So, let me go a little farther and recommend a truly good show: Close To Home.

Though it's flawed by occasional, and mercifully brief, references to icky Christian stuff, the lead character is one of the best ones on TV in a long, long time.

Absolutely committed to absolute justice -- she even put her infant child and husband at risk to continue on a case (while at the same time not casually dismissing the risk). Smart, independent, and a great combination of rationality and passion.

Not half-bad to look at either. Her looks aren't quite right for the role, but she would defininitely be the best Dagny of any working actress I know. (Unlike Jolie who is wrong for the part in every conceivable way.)

The show this season has taken a step down with the introduction of the actor from JAG, who doesn't have the same believable aura as her previous boss. But, in compensation, they got rid of her boring and annoying nothing of a husband, and they don't feature her icky 'intimate moments' with her baby so often anymore.

The subsidiary casting and characters are also excellent. The detectives are believable and as committed as she, as is her female friend and colleague.

Not perfect, but one of the best shows on TV in a long time. (I rarely watch TV shows anymore as a result of the near absence of characters worth spending time with.)

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By the way, about House... I've only watched two shows, but...

Has there ever been a moment showing that House actually enjoys this alleged use of his great diagnostic insights? The closest I saw was when he was brow beating the kid's parents into brain surgery by saying it was 'really cool'. The rest of the time he just looks miserable.

House and painkillers

Daniel Walden's picture

It's true that he's got a physical addiction to painkillers, but many fans (myself included) think that it's out of necessity. After all, the pain in his leg did return full force, which forced him to go back on the painkillers. Recall that he went without them for two solid months when he thought that he had the use of his leg back. I don't think he's being dishonest with himself; he knows he's addicted but also knows that it's necessary in order to keep the pain away so that he can have what he really enjoys: the thrill of exercising his mind through solving medical puzzles that baffle everyone else. Like you said, Mario, that's a large part of the appeal (especially for Objectivists). It explicitly shows the power of a brilliant human mind to make nature do his bidding.

I tried to watch one episode...

Marcus's picture

...of House due to Hugh Laurie being in it (of Jeeves and Wooster and Blackadder) and found it to be utterly boring.

I didn't see the one episode to the end so I am not sure what other value (if any) the series has.

Jeff, it seems that you have impeccable taste Smiling

On dishonesty

Mario's picture

I think you got a large part of his appeal down. What's going on in the show now over his supposed addiction to painkillers is the question of whether he's being dishonest with himself, right?

But apart from that dramatic twist which makes for an interesting crisis for his character (or if he's not lying, then only for his friends), I do agree with you that it's the spectacle of seeing a human brain and will wrestling each week -- and triumphing -- in the face of a seemingly inscrutable reality. It's only because he refuses bend to blind nature or deceptive patients or pencil pushing hospital administrators that he's a hero.

Of course, in this perverse day and age all heroes must be presented as flawed. But even his main flaw -- his irascibility -- appeals to some, the same way that, of the Seven Dwarfs, Grumpy appeals to many children. In part, like Jeff said, he's the kind of chutzpah many people themselves wish they had in this nannyish, PC climate.
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http://blog.mariodiana.com

House's appeal

Daniel Walden's picture

House is a tragic figure because he was crippled as a result of the very fault that he despises most in people: dishonesty. He hates people because, in his experience, they all lie about things all across the board thinking that they can cheat reality. But he works in a field where lies are fatal and is continually frustrated by people's attempts to lie to him even when their lives are at stake. And he does value life, perhaps more explicitly than any television character I've ever seen. In the very first episode, he confronted a patient who wanted to die because she didn't want any more mistaken treatments.

Rebecca Adler: I just want to die with a little dignity.
Dr. House: There's no such thing! Our bodies break down, sometimes when we're 90, sometimes before we're even born, but it always happens and there's never any dignity in it. I don't care if you can walk, see, wipe your own ass. It's always ugly - always! We can live with dignity - we can't die with it.

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