Addicted to House

by : Aldene Fredenburg

I resisted the series House for just about the entire season. The whole "we're so hip and edgy and sophisticated" hype about the series was a turn-off, as was the positive press it was getting. (I have become very suspicious about opinions expressed by the mainstream media.) Then I saw the actor Hugh Laurie, who plays the title character, on a talk show, and discovered he's actually a Brit who does a very creditable American accent. That impressed me; usually foreign actors overdo American accents, but this guy nailed it. Okay, I'll watch, I thought.

It took me a couple of episodes. At first I thought, "Yeah, I get it; you're an irascible but brilliant doctor with a lousy attitude and a secretly compassionate nature, yada yada, I've heard it all before….", a stereotype I've seen on every doctor show for the past four decades, with the possible exception of Marcus Welby, M.D. (The James Brolin character was a little surly on that one…) But then I realized, this guy's playing it for real; he's a seriously screwed up guy, a drug-addicted, s.o.b. of a man with enough existential angst for ten Russian novels.

The whole premise of the show is that some patient comes in with a mysterious life-threatening illness that resists diagnosis, and the team of doctors spend the hour (in TV-drama time) misdiagnosing the illness and making the patient worse, until House pulls a diagnostic rabbit out of the hat at the last moment, thus saving the patient-most of the time. (Sometimes the patient ends up having a fatal illness, and is essentially toast.) In the process, the viewer is exposed to CATscans and MRIs and needles in the spine-Yikes-and all kinds of sophisticated diagnostic equipment and techniques, plus a seriously motley crew of medical personnel, all with their own blind spots, all with their own demons.

A thoroughly gripping medical drama, House. The producers and directors are obviously going for gritty realism; the question is, have they succeeded? They've got the gritty down perfectly, but the realism? Considering the fact that we all need to take a trip to the doctor every so often-God, I hope not!