Fox’s “House” continues to amaze me. The show began airing in 2004. It stars Hugh Laurie (a British actor, by the way) as Gregory House, a brilliant but drug-addicted and arrogant doctor. He and his team work against time to cure some of the most seriously ill people imaginable. They solve the cases that other doctors cannot.
This show has been on for quite a few years. By this point, most shows, of any genre, start to go stale. Sometimes they become boring because they continue to go over and over the same storyline. None of the characters grow in any way. Other shows constantly try to boost their ‘hype’ factor by trying bigger and more elaborate plots, dramas, or promotions.
“House” hasn’t really done any of these. It continues to follow the same formula. Every episode includes an extreme medical mystery. A case comes into Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital and is given to House’s team. Of course, sometimes House resists receiving it and on occasion he begs for it. Each case, though, holds a challenge for the medical genius of House.
Meanwhile, many episodes also contain House being forced to complete clinic hours. The clinic proves to be the comedic relief set against the drama of the major plotlines. A person can’t help but laugh at the conditions that bring people into the clinic. For example, one man messes up a self-circumcision with a box cutter. One wonders if these were all inspired by real patients and, if so, how truly sad but hilarious.
With these two sections of “House” in perfect balance, the show is fantastic. Although medical procedures are shown, as well as computer-produced images of what would be happening inside the patients’ body, the show doesn’t really give into the gore factor. The focus is on the mystery of the conditions. The team analyzes symptoms as if they are clues in a crime. They discuss what could be the underlying cause of them. And they always solve the case. It makes for an on-the-edge-of-your-seat drama that is tantalizingly challenging to the mind.
The key, of course, is Hugh Laurie as House. He is absolutely convincing as the arrogant jerk who tries to bully patients, employees, and acquaintances alike. At times his hubris is grating to the nerves. Yet it’s obvious that, in actuality, his heart is in the right place. He often puts his career on the line in order to get his patients the medical help they need. Viewers feel drawn to this internal struggle of House because it pushes the limits of ethics versus success. Everyone at some point has to face the same dilemma.
Even with all of these fantastic elements, though, not even “House” is always at the top of the game. One of the unfortunate developments in recent seasons is the emphasis on the characters’ personal lives. A little bit is appropriate; it keeps the show growing without being boring. But too much, and it tends to overshadow the medical mystery of the episode. Soap operas are for personal commotions. “House” should try to stick with what makes it great: the mental exercise of the challenging cases that come into the hospital. Otherwise it will lose its magic.
“House” airs on Fox Mondays at 8 pm ET.