House is a medical drama with a difference, this time featuring one of our own fine actors in the form of Hugh Laurie – previously known for his comedy work with Stephen Fry and his part in classic show Blackadder. This has now become one of Laurie’s defining works, earning him and the show nominations and awards.
What Is House?
House is a medical drama set in the US at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey. It revolves around grumpy but brilliant Dr. House and his team as they try to figure out cases that more often than not involves racing against the clock to save a life. House will only take cases that interest him, which is known throughout his hospital and others which means that the strangest cases that no-one can figure out get sent to him to diagnose. House was created after one of the creators was inspired by a column written by a doctor in the New York Times and there are many references to Sherlock Holmes throughout the show as Dr. House’s treatment of those around him was based on Sherlock Holmes’ own strange coldness. They originally pitched the show as a CSI-style medical drama, which they most definitely succeeded with creating.
The main casting for this show is smaller than many popular US shows, though that’s partly because the main premise of the show is to get a new patient and save them so that they can send them home.
Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie): The cantankerous lead character Dr Gregory House is an odd one. He’s insanely smart with a deep love of music and driving people insane. House walks with a cane and takes a lot of Vicodin in order to carry out his day, the reason he walks with a cane is not fully explained until late in the season but we do see others around him berate him over his use of prescription painkillers like tic-tacs. Gregory is divorced, though he still loves his wife with all his heart (But due to something from the past also deeply resents her) and lives alone. His only friend is Wilson, and other than that he has no social life. Patients generally tend to love or hate him – they love him because he is infamous for being able to treat cases no other doctor can figure out, and hated because he has absolutely no bedside manner and will tell everyone and anyone of how stupid they are.
Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard): House’s only friend Wilson is a kind-hearted man who cares about his patients and is the hospital’s head of Oncology (Wilson’s specialty). His friendship with the grumpy doctor is a little different from the norm, most of the time it’s about arguing and playing head games. He’s married and loves to upset House on those few occasions he can manage to win, and is the first person the team will turn to when they can’t get House to listen to them.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein): As the woman in charge Cuddy spends a lot of her time chasing after House to force him to do his clinic hours or to take on cases. There is a lot of sexual tension between the two of them though neither would care to admit it. Cuddy is single and looking for love, she wants to settle down and have a baby but with a high-powered job and a liability like House on the staff it’s amazing she gets time to sleep let alone date. She’s straight-talking and stubborn, a lot like House but with a truck-load more tact.
Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison): The only woman on House’s team, she’s very compassionate due to her own past tragedies and also has some unresolved sexual tension with House. As the only woman in the room she has to fight back in order to be heard. House likes to joke about Cameron when it comes to dating and sexual matters, but she gives as good as she gets and impresses him with her confidence.
Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer): Chase is a lot like Wilson, which is probably why they get on so well and why House enjoys trying to mess with Chase too. He will work through the night if he needs to for a patient even if he’s supposed to be off and is a level headed voice of reason in the team.
Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps): The final member of the team, and the only African-American, he has to put up with a lot of crap from House who likes to send him on break-ins when trying to figure out what’s wrong with a patient. Everyone there and watching knows it isn’t really due to racism which is probably why he hasn’t tried to kill House yet. Foreman lives in a very black and white world of stereotypes, as show with his heartlessness towards a homeless woman early on in this first season. As far as he’s concerned there is good and there is bad and there’s nothing in-between. Though a cut-and-dry view of the world can be okay in other jobs it is not helpful in the moral and ethical confusion which is the hospital, and there are many times that Foreman clashes with House over his behaviour. If only he could see that all the things he hates in House aren’t that far removed from his own traits.
Pilot: Kindergarten teacher Rebecca Adler is having a bad day, whilst teaching her class she starts to talk in gibberish rather than words. The children laugh thinking she is being funny, but when she falls to the floor and begins convulsing it becomes a case for Dr. House and his team who must figure out what is causing her symptoms before she completely deteriorates.
Paternity: A high school lacrosse player who suffers from night terrors and double vision comes into the hospital seeking help. He baffles the team and with House now proposing a retinal biopsy that could permanently blind the boy the race is on for his team to figure out other ways to treat him.
Occam’s Razor: A college student goes into shock and collapses during a wild night of sex with his girlfriend (Probably not the reaction she was hoping for) and becomes a mystery at the hospital, his white cell count keeps dropping and there is no improvement with IV fluid. Meanwhile at the clinic House is truly infuriated by the walk-in cases, as usual.
Maternity: A virus spreads through the maternity ward infecting the new-born patients of the hospital. House has to do the unthinkable and test different babies for different diseases in order to try and save the majority. Will his risky treatment pay off or is there about to be a huge hospital scandal in the papers?
Damned If You Do: Clinic hours again for House, but his usually irritating duties are pushed aside when a nun comes in with red and swollen palms. Believing it to be an allergy she’s given a shot to calm the swelling but then goes into cardiac arrest which Dr Cuddy believes is down to House. To both prove his innocence and save the young nun he runs a battery of strange treatments and digs into the sister’s life both past and present.
The Socratic Method: Where a schizophrenic mother with DVT arrives with her overly protective son, suspecting that not only is the mother lying about her drinking but that the son is over-medicating her, House takes her off of all her meds and has the team break into their home and search for answers.
Fidelity: A patient with symptoms of a rare African sleeping sickness only transmitted sexually comes in, but when both she and her husband claim that they have never been unfaithful House and the team have to make up their own minds before the patient dies.
Poison: After toxins send a boy into convulsions and hallucinations during a high school exam the team begin testing for known toxins and treating him. However when the tests come back clear and the boy gets worse his mother steps in and stops them from proceeding with further treatment until the CDC speak to her.
DNR: House gets a welcome surprise in the hospital when famous jazz trumpet player John Henry Giles is admitted for breathing problems. However House goes too far and winds up in court for ignoring his DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order and refusing to accept his patient dying a slow painful death without looking into more experimental treatments.
Histories: A homeless woman collapses at a rave house and is admitted. Foreman decides that she is faking her seizures in order to get food and a bed for the night but after being bit by the patient and her vanishing House and the team have to track her down uncovering her tragic past and a deeper look at Foreman and Wilson.
Detox: A Porsche ends up in a bad way after the drivers boyfriend starts coughing up blood. As the bleeds continue House and the team attempt to discover the cause, but due to a challenge by Cuddy, House has accepted a bet that he can stop taking Vicodin (and if he does he doesn’t have to work in the clinic for a whole month) and as his cravings get more and more severe so do his theories and treatments.
Sports Medicine: A pitcher with a drug-addicted past and a bizarre case of brittle bones intrigues House after he breaks his arm in an unpleasant scene shooting a commercial. House thinks that as always, his patient is lying and still on drugs. House also has to deal with clinic patients having lost the bet and decides that if he must do clinic hours, he’ll treat people as fast as humanly possible.
Cursed: If an Ouija board predicted you were going to die you’d probably just laugh it off, if only House’s latest patient could do that. He’s admitted to the hospital with a fever and a strange rash and it is presumed to be a simple case of pneumonia, but all is not well and what looked like a simple case turns into a medical conundrum where the answer could be anthrax, allergies, an autoimmune disease…or worse.
Control: As the new head of the hospital board tries to make themselves known throughout the episode House meets a seemingly confident female executive who is hiding a fragile heart – that is actually broken. The problem is she can’t get the transplant that will save her because of her history of self-harm and eating disorders.
Mob Rules: House covers the case of a Mafia man who has collapsed before taking the stand, when he figures out the cause of his problem House has to question something about the mobster that could get the pair of them in deep trouble if found out. Back in the clinic a guy looking after his younger brother comes in when there is a blockage in his nose, with surprising results.
Heavy: An obese ten year old girl suffers a heart attack, and the girl’s mother begs the team to look past her weight to figure out the true cause, leading House to believe that the little girl’s weight is a symptom rather than the cause. Meanwhile new head of the board throws his weight around, trying to force House to fire one of his team. Finally in the clinic we see that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder when a woman with a huge tumour on her ovaries refuses to have surgery to remove it for fear that she will be unattractive without it, leading House to really put his foot in it repeatedly.
Role Model: House has to think about politics and scandal when an African-American senator who is running for president collapses during a fundraiser. House has to give the man life-altering news which would destroy his campaign but the patient is determined not to believe it. Head of the Board Vogler is still determined to make his presence felt and tries to force House to give a speech in favour of a drug made by Volger’s company – an unwise choice.
Babies & Bathwater: Babies are the hot topic when one patient refuses to have treatment for cancer fearing the harm it will do to her unborn baby, whilst another couple at the hospital are arrested after it is found out that they have had their baby on a raw vegan diet. Elsewhere after all of House’s insubordination Vogler wants him fired – will Cuddy finally be free of the stress that is Dr Gregory House?
Kids: There’s a meningitis outbreak in the hospital and while all the doctors are working to help the patients House finds himself drawn to one patient whose symptoms don’t quite match, House is determined to figure out the cause and treatment that will save the young race drivers life.
Love Hurts: A 21-year-old who visits holistic doctors suffers a stroke. This would be a cut and dry case if it wasn’t for one question – was the stroke caused by the holistic medicine or by his dominatrix girlfriend? Also up for discussion is House’s date with team member Cameron, will it be a complete disaster or the start of a beautiful romance?
Three Stories: House covers a class of medical students and decides to discuss three case studies about leg pain, the students learn that they will have to work hard to be better doctors and House’s team learn about House’s past and a little of why he is the way he is. Unfortunately for House this isn’t his only activity of the day; his ex-wife comes into the hospital with her new husband for treatment.
The Honeymoon: The tests on Mark (House’s ex-wife’s new husband) have come back clear, there is apparently nothing wrong with him and he happily checks out of the hospital. But Stacy refuses to believe there is nothing wrong and implores House to help. With a little wine he manages to get him back into the hospital but is House taking out his anger at his ex on Mark?
Fun Facts About House
For those who enjoy this sort of thing here are a few lesser known facts about House:
When Hugh Laurie made his audition tape he had to do it in a hotel bathroom whilst he was shooting for film “Flight Of The Phoenix” – it would later be likened to a Bin Laden video due to the low light and odd surroundings.
Bryan Singer thought that Hugh Laurie was American until told otherwise.
Other people going for the part of Gregory House were Denis Leary and Patrick Dempsey.
House’s apartment number 221B is a sneaky reference to Sherlock Holmes.
Dr. Robert Chase was not originally written for anyone other than an American; Jesse’s agent persuaded them to rewrite the character as Australian for his client.
The image of a Vicodin bottle was supposed to be in the opening title sequence but Fox were not happy with this featuring.
Why Should You Watch This?
If you enjoy mysteries, puzzles and piecing together clues you will enjoy House. This could be likened to CSI in the way that a case is presented, clues are searched for and a conclusion is made. The difference here is the cases involve live people and the killers aren’t people but diseases.
There are plenty of characters to love and care about with pasts that unfold throughout this and the later seasons. The relationships between the characters are all rather different and go through strains as they would in real life, though in real life I’m sure someone would have had House fired by now!
This show could have been boring if the only focus was on the patient, what was wrong with them and treating them. But in this show you see the history of the patient, both good and bad, and more importantly the characters in the series are given well-written pasts that the viewer is privy to as the seasons go on. In many medical shows there isn’t much focus on the doctors themselves and their personal lives or flaws, but here they are allowed to be as important as the cases.
The main reason you should watch House is for the title character Dr. Gregory House. He’s arrogant, self-serving, drug-addicted and mean, but also witty, smart and determined to save his patients. For all his flaws, and he has some huge ones, he is an immensely lovable character. Though just reading a review about it won’t show it, you really have to see him in action to see why he is so appealing.
When this show began I was ready to watch in curiosity – partly to see if Hugh Laurie could play a straight role with an American accent well as I had known him for his comedic roles. It was also appealing that it was different to the biggest medical drama at the time (ER). Upon watching this I was surprised and overjoyed to see that Hugh Laurie can play more than just the funny man, which most recently was evidenced in the superb The Night Manager. His American accent is very believable, as was his insanely flawed character that is so rude but wonderful.
Almost instantly I was hooked on the show and wanted to see what would happen, not just with the cases but with the doctors too. It was clear that there was more beneath the surface of these characters and I was happy to wait to find out the mad, bad and sad things that had happened in their pasts. And I sat (and still do sit) glued to the screen waiting for the moment when House turns his head to the side or his eyes glint and you just know he’s figured out the case. It’s always something tiny and seemingly insignificant that gets his attention and its fun to try and figure out what it will be that gives away the diagnosis – more often than not I’ve been wrong but I’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.
This show isn’t too clinical, and though they use a lot of medical jargon it’s made understandable to the viewer. They even ensured accuracy by running scripts by several people in the medical profession before filming. This is an emotional show that makes you feel for all its characters, and has had me reaching for tissues to dry my eyes when I’ve gotten a little weepy – Histories is a fabulous example of this. There aren’t many shows that can make me shed a tear but this one has managed to a few times every season, I think that is a sign of great writing and fantastically emotional dialogue and performances by the actors.
DVD Information & Extras
The first season of House is 22 episodes long and is spread over 6 disks. There is 926 minutes of viewing including the small array of extras on the final disk. The season is rated at a 15 though if it’s shown to younger viewers I don’t think it will do much harm unless they are a little squeamish or not mature enough to understand some of the moral dilemmas that crop up – if that’s the case they are going to find this show boring because it won’t make too much sense, though they’ll enjoy watching House insult people. This has very little violence and nudity, bad language is used but I’ve heard much worse.
The DVD extras are rather short on this first box set, but they are well worth watching.
Dr House: In depth look at the title character House with interview footage and classic clips.
Medical Cases: A look back at the medical cases featured in the season with commentary and interview from the shows medical consultant/writer. For anyone who wonders about how close to reality these medical shows can be if done right, this is a feature to watch.
The Concept: A short interview with the makers of House talking about how they came up with the idea for the show.
Set Tour: Look behind the scenes of the hospital with a guided tour which shows how much really has to go on backstage for filming to take place.
HOUSE-isms: A piece featuring clips from the season of House-isms, those lines that are so quintessentially House. It’s interspersed with commentary from the entire main cast. This is a fun short piece to watch that will make you laugh.
Casting Session With Hugh Laurie: A 7 minute piece about casting with Hugh Laurie, it’s nice to see him talk in his British accent and speak candidly about getting the part.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
A medical show with cutting humour, sweetness and mystery. A must-watch for any Sherlock fans.