Final Thoughts on “House M.D.”

I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up “House M.D.”.  I had seen a couple of episodes from it but since I was visiting my parents at the time I didn’t really watch it all that closely (we, of course, would obviously end up talking during it more than I would normally).  So it could have ended up as anything from really good to something with maybe a decent episode or two that I ended up hating (like “Remington Steele”).  Adding to this is the fact that for quite a long time I hadn’t been watching a lot of general drama, especially in TV shows, and I had missed out completely on the surge of medical (and police and fire) dramas that’s been happening over the past few years.  So the only reason I would have picked up this medical drama at all was because I had seen some episodes of it, because medical dramas are not really my thing.  Sure, I watched some of them when I was younger — shows like “St. Elsewhere” and “Trapper John, M.D,.” — but, come on, that was when we got something like four channels and had to find something that the entire family could watch.  That’s not the case here, and I never found myself at all interested in the other shows that came out.  So taking on a medical drama was a risk in and of itself.

As people who have been following my season-by-season summaries of the show will know, I actually did like the show.  So does that mean that I’m now going to be more willing to seek out or follow the other medical dramas?  I pondered that myself when seeing commercials for “The Good Doctor”, which reminded me of “House M.D.” (for good reason, as from what I discovered later I think it’s done by the same guy).  But like “Pretty Little Liars”, “House M.D.” has some unique features that make it more palatable than a regular medical drama.  The first is that House himself is, well, a cynical jerk who spends the entire episode snarking at everyone and everything around him.  He has no bedside manner to speak of because of this.  As noted in my comments on each season, it’s pretty hard to make a character like that and keep the character interesting and someone that we want to follow, and the show did it by giving him severe problems that could explain why he acts the way he does, and showing that, underneath it all, he really cared for his patients and would do anything and break any rule to save them.  It was never just about solving the puzzle to him, and with the one case that he got a second chance to solve it was clear that what bothered him was less that he couldn’t figure it out and more that he couldn’t figure it out and because of that the patient died.  The character is written well and Hugh Laurie does a good job portraying it, so we don’t lose that feeling of sympathy for the character, with a few stumbles when they tried to make House’s life better.

It also helps that the show uses the medical setting in a bit different way than most of them have been.  While all medical dramas quite often drive the drama from a race to save people’s lives, House drives it more based on a mystery rather than on a challenge to the skill of the doctors.  For the most part, in House it was rarely if ever the case that the tension was raised due to wondering if the doctors could pull off the difficult procedure that was needed to save the patient’s life, as the team was pretty much able to pull off without any difficulty the procedures that are needed (even if they should be procedures that the doctors should have a difficult time pulling off).  Even when the procedures are risky the argument is always over whether it’s the right diagnosis rather than over the odds of success being bad, as they argue that the risk of complications is too great if it’s not the right procedure.  This does make the show more of a medical mystery show than a standard medical drama, even if the show, rightly, moves the mysteries to the background in later seasons as it became more difficult to write new mysteries.

So the structure of “House” is different than most medical dramas, and so it’s a medical drama that I can appreciate for those differences while not feeling any real push to watch other medical dramas, just like “Pretty Little Liars” didn’t make me want to watch teen drama or drama in general.  Then again, I am currently watching “Party of Five” and don’t mind it, so I guess the big test will be “Ghost Whisperer”.

The other new thing is that I went through this show season-by-season instead of just talking about it at the end or a couple of times during my watch of the show.  This was interesting for me.  It was nice that it let me generate more content, but the content was time sensitive because I wanted to write about the previous season before I watched the next season, especially since for the most part this show often ended in dramatic “cliffhangers” and I wanted to comment on that before I knew how it worked out.  But this obviously wouldn’t work for most shows because they simply wouldn’t have enough things happening in a season to talk about.  There were enough character arcs and plot arcs to make each season worth talking about, whether I complimented it or, more frequently, complained about it.  Then again, I do plan on talking about the first season of “Party of Five”, so this might become more common.

Speaking of those arcs, it is interesting that the show did have more continuity than most other shows I’ve watched, as they did bring up a number of things that happened in previous episodes a few episodes later.  The show’s biggest flaw, however, is that even for those things it remembers it doesn’t remember them in all the episodes where it should be relevant, which means that a lot of the character arcs show some continuity in that they follow on from things that happened earlier but discontinuity in that they should have been brought up in other episodes as well.  This does hurt the arcs as they don’t really get the development that they need because the gap between reminders is too long and we can’t help but wonder if this was such a big deal why it didn’t come up in these episodes where it would have mattered.  This is one of the most maddening flaws as well since every show had lots of room for people to comment on things like this and as noted House’s team was nosy so they certainly would have felt comfortable raising them, and all they really needed was a couple of lines showing that the person was still dealing with those issues to move the arc along to the episode where it rears it’s ugly head again.  So simple, and yet not done.

That being said, I still did enjoy the show.  House is a flawed but still sympathetic character, but my favourite characters were Wilson and Masters, who always worked in some sense as contrasts to him, which is one way the show made the jerk main character work by having other characters call him out on that.  So other than for Season 7, the show works really well, and unlike “The Nanny” that season is not so bad that it can’t be watched as part of a complete run.  So I will watch it again at some point, so it goes into my closet of shows to watch again.

2 Responses to “Final Thoughts on “House M.D.””

  1. Mythicism: Carrier on McLatchie on Carrier | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] criticize him the strongest, and that’s not what I’d need in an introduction.  Add in Gregory House’s admonition that “Everybody lies” and the issue I have is that I’d need as […]

  2. Final Thoughts on “Ghost Whisperer” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] of empathetic character, in much the same way as Hugh Laurie was a great choice for the cynical House.  You don’t need to typecast them, but they have to be able to pull off that roll.  Laurie […]

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