Enter today's topic of discussion. The good people at Fox Television (no, I'm not talking about Bill O'Reilly here) sent me an advance DVD copy of the Pilot Episode of their new series House! Now before you catch me getting all high and mighty, they also sent this damned thing to every single Entertainment Weekly subscriber, so I still suck asp eggs.
Be that as it may, Bryan Singer-produced House doesn't suck asp eggs (even if Entertain Me Weakly certainly does)! Biased by a free DVD prior to the air date and lapping up every digital second of the digital picture and surround sound, or not biased by a free DVD prior to the air date and lapping up every digital second of the digital picture and surround sound (I'm trying to get Sony to send me a Check), House is a pretty damned good program, and worth seeing even though it is appearing on the Fox Network. Fox still must pay dearly for the axing of Wonder Falls (I am not trying to get Fox to send me a Check).
Hugh Laurie stars as Doctor Greg House, a curmudgeonly MD fascinated by every element of medicine except for those pesky patients who keep getting in the way like a fat guy in a Buffet Line. He's assembled himself a great staff through methods that are... unconventional at best, and has managed to gain quite a boat-load of animosity from his boss Lisa Edelstein. I mean, what exactly is one to do with a doctor who is as brilliant as Da Vinci, yet with the bedside manner of The Da Vinci Code? The answer is so simple it practically begs to be filmed by the director of X-Men: Make him visit patients all day.
Okay, so that's not much of a premise. Luckily it's just a side-bar in the overall coolness of House's Drama with enough Ironic Comedy to keep the whole thing feeling well-oiled and fresh. While House is, at its core, a show about medical investigations and experimentation in the name of saving patients' lives, it's no cookie-cutter dupe of what you've got on every Thursday on every station. Laurie brings a deep complexity to House, who is both cynically stoic and bitingly humorous in his sarcasm. That's not even counting his Flawless American Accent, as good as his "Mr. Little" from the Stuart Little movies, yet as different from Little's mannerisms as Godzilla's are from Bambi's!
Of course a good, nearly great, supporting cast doesn't hurt either. Aside from Edelstein's Lisa Cuddy, the cast is rounded out by House's staff, including Robert Sean Leonard as Dr. James Wilson, Jennifer Morrison as Dr. Allison Cameron, Omar Epps looking not a day older than he did ten years ago as Dr. Eric Foreman (a character named Eric Foreman on a Fox Series? WOW!) and Jesse Spencer as Dr. Robert Chase.
But even with such a cool cast, great directing and smooth dialogue in creator David Shore's script, there are some flaws here, much more a sign of the times than issues with the show itself. For example, in spite of the noteworthy differences in this show from every other show on the market, this still looks like the beginning of an episodic drama aimed at cynically sarcastic Gen-Xers to whom House himself will feel like a sympathetic mentor. This could be good, but it doesn't exactly separate the show a great deal from other Gen-X Panderings like Gilmore Girls or Charmed as far as the dialogue goes. Also, House is the victim of the trigger-happy T.V. Executive of today. While Dr. House is painted as a man of Mystery, there are no series of episodes leading to his gradual opening up to reveal the sweet little kitten inside the hard shell of the grumpy doctor. Instead, right there in the pilot, the second that his first patient asks why he walks with a Cane, he tells the whole story, and violins play in all our heads.
Still, this is a cut above the upcoming CSI Duluth and Law and Order: Giggle Factor because they are trying new things amid an enforced formula. For example, when the guest star du jour comes down with a little bug, there's no one easy cure here. Instead, House is Brilliant, yet Flawed in his diagnoses, and trial and error of the team at large leads to the right conclusion. This could be a brilliant show if enough people watch to keep the formulae out of the formula!
There once was a Medical School orientation in which the Dean asked the new students why they wanted to be doctors. Naturally their first answers were "To Help People!", of course. But the Dean responded in the negative. "No." he said. "You need to want to be doctors because you want to put your hands into the blood and guts and pull out the offending filth... because that's what doctors do!" And that's what Greg House does. Like him or hate him, people do get helped as a bi-product of what he does. Good for him. Four Stars out of Five for House. It's not Lost and it's not Desperate Housewives, but it's got its potential to break the mold a bit. That is unless it gives way too much away, way too fast. Until we see how they keep this momentum up, I'll see you in the next reel, or, perhaps, in the next episode on my big-ass Sony Trinitron. Where's that Check, boys?
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