House TV Series


A Mordant Medical Drama

Year(s): 2004 – 2012
Network: Fox
Creator: Paul Attanasio
Main Original Cast: Hugh Laurie, Lisa Edelstein, Robert Sean Leonard, Omar Epps

Summary: A brilliant physician is charged with training three young doctors, but is embittered by a broken love life, a crippling injury and barely cloaked anger.

With a massive lead-in audience from American Idol, Fox’s doctor drama House took the nation by storm with a cast of familiar television faces and an acerbic physician with a Vicodin habit and a brilliant diagnostic mind.

Brought to the screen by Paul Attanasio, who also created Homicide: Life on the Street, House is a mix of ER-style ensemble medicine and disease-of-the-week mysteries. By the end of the show’s second season in 2006, some critics were already deriding the show’s formulaic approach of introducing a new character with a strange disease or condition, having the physician team misdiagnose and sometimes exacerbate that condition, and finally using any means (unethical, illegal or just plain selfish) to save the day. House, whom the show’s creators envisioned as a medical Sherlock Holmes, suffered muscle death in a leg and hobbles around the hospital dodging clinic duty and seeking the most glamorous puzzles to solve.

Hugh Laurie anchors the cast and is television’s most lovable curmudgeon since All in the Family‘s Archie Bunker. Like Archie, Greg House has no difficulty displaying his biases, prejudices and bubbling-under-the-surface anger. This is the character Alan Alda sometimes tried to play in M*A*S*H, but Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce relied mostly on quick zingers and chase-the-nurse jokes. House, on the other hand, shows no qualms at manipulating the people and situations around him while the clock ticks for his patient.

House, the show, has tried unique features, including flashback shows, two-parters, sexual tension and a cast out of Diversity Central. Veterans like Omar Epps (ER) and Lisa Edelstein (Ally McBeal, Felicity) provide strong counterbalances to House’s bitterness, unorthodox methods and overwhelming personality. Also playing especially well against Laurie is Robert Sean Leonard, who may be known to most audiences as the preppie who commits suicide in Robin Williams’ Dead Poets Society. On House, Leonard plays an oncologist who remains House’s steadfast friend despite his pain and sometimes loathing for the way House chooses to behave and live. Other co-stars, especially Australian Jesse Spencer and Jennifer Morrison, who grew from a child star into a beautiful young woman, get steamrollered by the stronger characters. A long recurring role by Sela Ward as House’s ex-lover showed great promise, but fizzled out.

X-Men and X-2 director Bryan Singer took House from development to directing the pilot and now serves as executive producer. The show’s second season may have suffered from Singer’s distraction as he directed Superman Returns for the big screen. And unlike the first season’s unresolved issues, the one question now facing House is whether the show can maintain credible conflicts and stay fresh enough to hold those tens of millions of American Idol viewers.

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