|Great acting and sharp writing make a so-so premise greater than the sum of its parts.|
Contains minor spoilers, which are clearly labeled.
This show could very easily have been just as mundane as many of its contemporaries (coughGrey'sAnatomycough), but it has a lot of things working in its favor. Although I don't watch much TV, this is easily the best drama I've seen currently on television, including (and it pains me to say this) the current incarnation of ER, which is one of my all-time favorite shows. While the first season does have a number of freshman problems typical of many shows, it does have a lot of promise for the future, something fewer and fewer shows have as the U.S. seems to, for better or worse, be moving towards the British model of finite television series.
To call the show "CSI in a hospital" is more or less accurate, but not fair to the quality of it. It revolves around ingenious diagnostician Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) and his top-notch team of assistants (Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison, Jesse Spencer) as they try to diagnose patients the other doctors can't. Also figuring heavily are House's only friend, oncologist Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and hospital chief Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein).
I took a screenwriting class a few months back, and in that course House was used as the example of "a protagonist who's almost completely dislikable, yet is still endearing." That pretty much sums up the character; House is a drug-addicted, miserable man who takes out his frustrations on anyone and everyone who happens to be around. And yet he's still fun to watch.
I commented during one of the early episodes that I really wanted to see somebody punch him out. Yet when someone did punch him in a later episode, it wasn't satisfying at all.
Props to Hugh Laurie, as his incredible performance is what makes the character, and pretty much the show as well.
This is not to say that the other actors don't do a fine job as well, as all of them are top-notch. But it is Laurie's character's name on the show, and as such they primarily play second fiddle to House. My favorite part of most episodes is his time in the clinic. The hospital runs a walk-in clinic as a service to the community, and House is required to work a few hours a week at it. Because he has perhaps the worst bedside manner in the history of Western medicine (many weeks he never even meets the main patient in person, sending his assistants in to do tests instead), he loathes treating people for runny noses and sore throats, so what clinic duty amounts to is, as a friend of mine put it, "continuity-free asshole time." There's something oddly satisfying about watching House rip into people that I'm sure is unhealthy on some level.
The first season does have a few problems.
The thing that disappointed me most is that no one ever died as a result of House's arrogance. I know that sounds morbid, and it certainly wouldn't be entertaining if they lost the patient every week, but I think you'll see what I mean when you watch it. He's so smug about things that his complete perfection gets to be almost frustrating. I'd be really interested to see what they would do with his character after a single loss.
The show is also plagued by the standard television problem of tidiness. Situations tend to work out much more conveniently for the plot than they probably would in real life. I can't give any examples of this without major spoilers, but the episodes "Babies & Bathwater" and "The Honeymoon" I found to be particularly unrealistic.
Overall, this is a vastly entertaining show with a lot of potential for future seasons. Almost all of the episodes were great; my personal favorites were "DNR," in which House violates just such an order, "Role Model," in which a U.S. Senator falls gravely ill during a fundraiser, and the fan-favorite "Three Stories," in which House has to teach a class on differential diagnosis. It's worth tracking these down, because although it is possible to jump into the show midstream, the backstory is relevant.
Mr. Rhythm Says:
Laurie and company make what could easily have been forgettable into a great new show. Definitely worth picking up on DVD.
Written by Mr. Rhythm, 2006-03-23 15:34:00