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TV Review: 'House': Love Him or Hate Him

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Sep 23, 2008 | 10:23am EDT

There are two camps with regards to Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie). His supporters love his biting wit and admire his “any means necessary” approach to getting things done. To others, his abrasive personality rubs them the wrong way, even in the comfort of their own living room, and they find his rule-bending unethical.

Fact is, House just doesn’t take any crap. If someone wants to whine about how they’re not sure what they did to contract some symptom, he’s going to tear them apart and get at what really happened. Sorry folks, no coddling in medicine.

When House puts people in their place, he’s never just blunt. He is profoundly witty, even forcing people to reveal themselves just to get the joke. Forget about the life or death circumstances. Just hearing House riff against different characters is more poetic than Shakespeare.

His best friend Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) totally gets him, so they have a shorthand. His boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) tries to control him, so they do a dance. His medical team tries to measure up to him, so he pushes them the most. The patients are just the puzzles to be revealed by the good doctor’s riddles.

House will break any rules to get what he needs. Besides the obvious, that a doctor can’t practice on heavy medication, he has manipulated lab tests to get around regulations. He has intentionally contaminated operating rooms to stop a harmful procedure. Good thing he’s always right, so the end always justifies the means.

The premise of the show is that House is a genuinely unhappy person. He’s pushed away any close relationship he could have had and just puts up this abrasive front to keep people out. I refuse to believe that. Even when House himself says, “I am unhappy” in episodes, that seems too obvious. It’s far more interesting if he loves being smarter than everybody and knowing everything. He’s such an expert of human behavior, House must enjoy guiding people to cut their own B.S. and improve their own lives. And his masterful use of language, thanks to the show’s writers, must be a constant thrill to employ.

Recent plotlines have sought to emphasize the unhappiness explanation. At the end of season 4, House’s final medical case was his best friend’s girl, who was in a bus accident going to pick up a drunk House from a bar. She was one of the rare cases House could not save. Perhaps her plot function superceded his medical skills. Now, Dr. Wilson is leaving the hospital.

Each week is a standalone medical mystery, a combination of symptoms that only make sense with a rare diagnosis. It’s a pretty solid formula in which the first thing they think it is, never turns out to be what it is. Basically, don’t expect a cure before 8:50. The research it must take to figure out all the medical circumstances needed to make each story sound is unfathomable.

The medicine is hardly the point, though. It’s accurate and it gives everyone something to do, but the point of House is House. He is an awesome character and fascinating to watch whether you love him or hate him.

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