Be thinking about what to post here. Been thinking about it too long instead of just writing. Just writer, stupid. So I fall back on what I like to talk about: TV.
A random blog comment stirred my thoughts about House, M.D., which is a show I massively fell in love with (Seasons 1 and 2), almost gave up (Season 3), and won my loyalty again (Seasons 4). (It’s in it’s fifth season for those paying attention.)
House, M.D. is a medical show about the cranky, but brilliant diagnostician Dr. Gregory House. House is an unapologetic bastard. He’s also a cripple and walks with a cane. When he’s not tripping people with it, that is. House is by far my favorite character, perhaps because I am a little envious of his ability to put everyone on edge.
He has underlings — doctors by their own right — but who want the experience of working under
an asshole a genius. In Season 1-3, it was the ducklings: Cameron, Foreman, and Chase. But ducklings grown into ducks that still hang around the pond with Foreman as lead. In Season 4-5, House hires Taub, Kutner, and Thirteen. Then there’s House’s best friend and fellow doctor, James Wilson, a rather needing man who prides himself on being there for his cancer patients. And Lisa Cuddy, the competent and hot doctor who’s also the hospital administrator.
As a show, House, M.D. is incredibly formulaic. There’s a patient –> a diagnoses and treatment –> fails –> new diagnoses and treatment –> looks like they’re getting better –> fail again –> House has a brilliant moment where he diagnoses the patient correctly and most of the the time, no one dies. The End. The medical factuality of the show varies.
Of course, the patient, the diagnoses, and the routine is not the point of the show. It is merely the window dressing. Granted, a good patient story is always more entertaining than one that that you don’t care a lick about the patient or even remember what was going on.
House, M.D. is a story of character studies, specially a study of House himself. The patients can related in ways. (Certainly not in the same manner as Grey’s Anatomy where every single patient is a direct link to the pain and joy and psychology of the characters.) Mostly, patients serve as the backdrop. The backdrop so Wilson can hold House’s guitar hostage and delete his TiVo. Or so Cuddy can yell at House while having hot sexual tension with him. And so Cameron can hold the hand of the dying and heal from her dead husband.
This is not a show where the A Plots really matter. This is a show built around B Plots. B Plots are what most House fans watch for. They don’t care how many time it’s not Lupus. They want to know Taub’s wife still loves him or if House is really addicted to Vicodin. (House and his Vicodin are one hotly debated issue that any and every fan will gladly go on a rant about.)
The world loves the asshole anti-heroes like House (see Iron Man and Anthony Bourdain), but building a narrative based on B Plots is why House, M.D. has endured as a show. And why it’s a little different than just a typical procedural. And if you have a thing for character studies, you might really enjoy the show.