Sunday, July 30, 2006

Diana's Adventures in TV Land: House (S1)

I've never had much interest in medical dramas; shows like "E.R." or "Strong Medicine" would often throw out a lot of technical jargon without providing the layman's explanation. I mean, yes, "pulmonary embolism" sounds rather dreadful, but what does it mean? On top of that, your standard medical drama places a lot of weight on the patients, but they're one-shot types: overworked mother gets cancer, closeted gay man gets AIDS, pregnant woman must choose to save herself or her baby, et cetera. They either die or get cured, but once they're out the door, that's usually it. The focus of the series often falls on the doctors and nurses, who - more often than not - aren't very interesting to begin with.

"House" takes an unusual and unconventional approach to the formula. Rather than a straight-up drama, this series is more of a hybrid genre - "medical detective story" probably hits as close as possible. Basically, the disease takes center stage: patients come in with mysterious ailments, and our main characters use differential diagnoses to try and figure out what happened, and why it happened. As a result, most of the diseases and symptoms are actually defined (since the clues are relevant to the solution). It's a nice way to handle the problem.

Of course, it's really all about Dr. House, our gruff and screwed-up and bitingly-sarcastic head of Diagnostics. Hugh Laurie getting his bitch on is truly a glorious thing. Which is fortunate, because that's the main appeal of the series: the plots are tediously repetitive (a patient comes in, the doctors argue, they come to a wrong conclusion, House figures out that something said or done wasn't true, the right treatment is applied, end of episode), and the other characters are only marginally developed (though House's clashes with Cuddy are always entertaining).

Still, it's always fun to watch guest-stars like Scott Foley and Carmen Electra go into cardiac arrest, and then get roasted by the Mighty Snark of House. At the very least, it's an amusing way to spend forty minutes.