Dr House’s (mysterious) appeal

“House M.D.” is one of the most popular TV shows, and probably one of the best shows in the past decade. It’s sure one of my favourites. The thing is, it’s not really good per se: it’s full of repetitive moments, pointless characters and mediocre acting. Just like most of the shows anyway.

But it’s still numerous times better than the other shows, all because of it’s captivating antihero. HE is what makes “House” good. Well, at least 85% of the time. The remaining 15% goes on clever idea to make an unique adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. And let’s abmit that’s what “House” basically is: a new reading of Holmes. But it would be all worth nothing without Dr Gregory House being the way he is. He’s incredible beyond words, for the reasons that are not always clear.

So, what makes Dr House one of the best TV characters of all time?

Hugh Laurie

No placebos for him. We’ll use real medicine.

He is played by Hugh Laurie, and Hugh Laurie kicks ass. No other way to put it.

Greg House againIt was shocking for me to learn many Americans never heard of him before the show started. Nobody watched “Blackadder”? (If nothing else).

It’s the guy who practically made his career playing stupid Brits in comedies… Until he started playing a genius American in a medical drama. The fact he’s convincing in both proves how amazing Hugh Laurie truly is.

But there must be other reasons.

The appeal

I’m not deflecting because I’m avoiding something deep. I’m deflecting because I’m avoiding something shallow.

Dr House is fascinating because he’s unique- and unique characters draw attention. He’s not a nice or a polite human being, but that just makes him look more honest. He value truth above anything else, and he doesn’t let unimportant things, such as social norms, get in the way of it.

He is miserable most of the time, but he still manages to be a bit of a hedonist: he does what he feels like in the moment, he gets high, he collects pornography, he plays piano, he solves medical puzzles.

People want to be like him

It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.

Well, people don’t really want to be like him. Only a little. But they want it because everybody wants to be the smartest guy in the room who doesn’t care about what others think. And while people usually believe they ARE the smartest person in the room or that they don’t care about what others think, deep down, they know it’s a lie.

So in a way, House is everybody’s fantasy. He goes too far, but he often makes steps that we all want to make but never do, because- unlike him- we do care about social norms and other people’s feelings. Or maybe we’re just not genius enough to be that arrogant.

That’s a catchy diagnosis, you could dance to that

Hugh Laurie

You know me. Hostility makes me shrink up like a- I can’t think of a non-sexual metaphor.

All in all, what people like about Dr House is that he acts the way we all want to act sometimes, in the most egoistic, unfair, superiority-complex kind of way.

We all know it’s wrong, and most of us don’t do it, but there’s something appealing about being completely confident and not caring about what others think. And that’s what makes Dr House such an irresistible character.

Or maybe it’s just the fact he’s played by Hugh Laurie? And as we all know, the guy is fucking awesome.

24 thoughts on “Dr House’s (mysterious) appeal

  1. Jasmin

    I never really got into House–my parents watch it occasionally, but I prefer(red) Monk to House. I am a huge SH fan though (mysteries are my favorite genre, and my favorite mystery books are the SH series), and I did have to read a book about how accurate the series is for my “Common Human Diseases” class freshman year.

  2. Mira

    Oh, yes, I did hear about House vs Monk thing. It seems that most of the people watch (like) only one of them, and are unable to like them both. Never watched Monk, but I did hear it was a great character.

    As a tv show, “House” is interesting (the idea behind it), but I believe the thing that made it to season 7 was the main character, and nothing but main character. People obviously enjoy watching that guy humiliating other people, his explosive sarcasm and overall egoism.

    Laurie’s performance is amazing, but there must be something else, something about the character himself, that people like so much. (So much that there’s season 7 approaching).

    I must admit, I really like this show- it’s one of my favourites. And I’m usually not that crazy about TV shows.

    So, what did they say? Was it accurate or not?

  3. Mariana

    Hugh Laurie career before House (for me) is resumed to Mr. Palmer, Stuart Little’s daddy and the dalmatians thief (along with the guy who plays Mr. Weasley) And while watching some scenes of the series I often catch myself thinking: “How can this guy play the dalmatians thief and simply do… this…” He’s brilliant.

    I agree with you when you say that the series isn’t that good per se. It’s repetitive, specially if you watch several seasons at once, like I did in my last holidays (I wanted to write something about House but I was uninspired and I thought it wouldn’t be that interesting…)

    House is a captivating character indeed, because he’s way too sincere. Watching House it’s like catharsis, he says/do what everybody wants say/do and don’t because of the social norms. Just like you said.

    Well… there’s another character in House that I love, and it’s not because he’s cute. I find Chase really funny sometimes. I like almost all character, apart from Cameron, she’s a real pain in the ass. LOL

  4. Mira

    Hugh Laurie career before House (for me) is resumed to Mr. Palmer, Stuart Little’s daddy and the dalmatians thief

    I first saw him in the “Blackadder” (one of my favourite shows). He completely stole the show as idiotic prince George. You just have to watch Blackadder.

    http://www.radiotimes.com/blogs/651-the-best-blackadder-series/content/01.jpg

    House is a completely different character, but even in that show, Hugh makes many funny faces and I immediately think of George and expect him to shout his catchphrases: Hurrah! Bravo! , with a stupid smile.

    http://images2.fanpop.com/image/photos/11500000/Blackadder-the-Third-hugh-laurie-11589570-305-244.gif

  5. Mira

    I agree with you when you say that the series isn’t that good per se. It’s repetitive, specially if you watch several seasons at once, like I did in my last holidays.

    I agree. It is repetitive. The pattern itself is not bad (medical mysteries and the ways House interacts (insults) people), but often that’s all there is, and it gets old after a while.

    On the other hand, the later seasons (5 and 6) switched the position to include more drama and other character’s background, which I didn’t like.

    I like House as a character but I liked the way they handled his backstory in the early seasons: we learned only bits about him and his past and that encouraged the audience to think, and figuring out House’s personal mystery.

    And yes, when you watch many episodes in a row, the repetitive pattern gets old fast.

    Still, what I dislike about the series is the non-House and non-Scherlock Holmes elements, mainly the rest of the cast.

    Still, House is one of the best characters in TV history and Laurie always finds something new about him so the character itself is as fresh, inspiring and amazing as it was the first day we met him. Without him, the show would be boring.

    (I wanted to write something about House but I was uninspired and I thought it wouldn’t be that interesting…)

    Oh please, do that! I like reading your reviews and House is one of my favourite shows.

    Well… there’s another character in House that I love, and it’s not because he’s cute. I find Chase really funny sometimes. I like almost all character, apart from Cameron, she’s a real pain in the ass. LOL

    I don’t really like Chase. True, he can be funny, but it’s difficult for me to believe he or Cameron are intelligent enough to graduate from medical school. He’s dumb but funny, and she’s dumb and annoying. Still, I am not their fan.

    But the worst character of all, in my opinion, is 13. She is annoying beyond words. Actually, they don’t seem to know how to make a decent female character. The best one was Amber. She was annoying, but that was the point, while 13, Cameron and even Cuddy were not meant to be annoying but they often are.

    Now when I think of it, the only characters I like (except for House) are Wilson and Foreman. I used to think I couldn’t stand Chase, but he’s ok comparing to some others. I just don’t buy “hottest guy in the universe” thing- he’s not that handsome (I don’t find him attractive at all).

  6. Natasha W

    I love House!

    Yes, it’s Dr. Gregory House himself that is the main draw.

    He is witty, sarcastic, incredibly intelligent, yet still has normal human failings. People like people like him because although they can be annoyed, you can’t help but be in awe of them.

    I remember watching Hugh Laurie on an old video of him on a daytime talk show; this was way before House was ever thought of, but I was watching it many years later. And he seemed similar in ways (albeit less antisocial). So this character might be easy for him to play because it draws on a part of him. (I was also amazed to find out he had such a thick British accent — his American accent on House is flawless.)

    P.S. I also like Monk. My favorite shows are Bones, House, Law and Order: SVU, and CSI. I don’t watch TV, but I watch certain television shows online. I tend to like mysteries and detective shows, and law and crime shows.

  7. Natasha W

    I also agree that the show can be repetitive, and I think it’s had so many seasons now that it’s very noticeable. That’s why I wouldn’t watch too many episodes in a raw.

    My favorite character other than House is Cuddy. I liked Amber too; she was delightfully evil. I didn’t like when they changed around the staff (from Chase, Cameron, and Foreman to… those other kids). The show went slightly downward from there. Although Kutner was my favortie of the new cast.

  8. Natasha W

    Oh, and I lvoe Criminal Minds too! I almost forgot! I haven’t watched it in a long time… I will need to do that soon. Dr. Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) reminds me of my SO — skinny, long-haired, brainy, and oh so loveable.

  9. Natasha W

    In post number 7 that should read “row” and “favorite.”

    My fingers are not working today, apparently.

  10. Mira

    Natasha,

    Don’t worry about the typos! ;)

    He is witty, sarcastic, incredibly intelligent, yet still has normal human failings. People like people like him because although they can be annoyed, you can’t help but be in awe of them.

    I think people like him because he acts the way they want to act, but are to afraid to try. He always speaks his mind, doesn’t have any patience for bullshit, and he doesn’t let stuff like social norms prevent him from telling the truth. On the other hand, he is not heartless or mean; he does some mean stuff, but it’s not evil- he simply acts as a child.

    He is such a complex character, but I think he’s so believable because of the way Hugh Laurie portrays him. It’s not an easy thing to do, but he’s simply amazing.

    I remember watching Hugh Laurie on an old video of him on a daytime talk show; this was way before House was ever thought of, but I was watching it many years later.

    I heart Hugh. I always liked him. The fact he’s practically my colleague (he’s an archaeologist and anthropologist) makes him even more special. :)

    (I was also amazed to find out he had such a thick British accent — his American accent on House is flawless.)

    That’s what I wanted to ask. His accent sure sounds great to me, but what do I know? I am glad to hear its flawless, although I must notice his own accent is doesn’t sound so British anymore (at least to my ear).

  11. Mira

    I also agree that the show can be repetitive, and I think it’s had so many seasons now that it’s very noticeable. That’s why I wouldn’t watch too many episodes in a raw.

    True, but sometimes I can’t help it. I recently got new seasons and I want to watch them, so I guess I must limit myself to 2-3 episodes a day.

    My favorite character other than House is Cuddy.

    Cuddy is ok, but she is not believable as a doctor. None of the females, except for Amber is believable as a doctor. Luckily, Cuddy is often portrayed as more of an administrator than a skillful doctor, so it’s ok.

    I like Foreman (but I hated his relationship with 13- what did he see in her?) and Wilson (it is interesting that such a nice guy character is also the biggest womanizer on the show!)

    I didn’t like when they changed around the staff

    True, it was distracting. I’m not crazy about Chase and Cameron, but I got used to them and some of the new ones (read: 13) were super-annoying. Kutner was great, though. Too bad they did what they did to him. I didn’t buy the suicide story. It just didn’t make any sense.

    PS-So, are you ready for season 7? It starts in September.

  12. Alex

    I love House. and hugh is simply amazing. (hes also good looking.) House is not evil, well he can be bastard but you just know deep down he’s not a bad guy.

    And he has such warm and beautiful blue eyes. i dont usually prefer blue eyed men, but his eyes are amazing.

    http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/4000000/hugh-laurie-house-md-4033917-1024-768.jpg

    Those eyes!!!!

    How can a character like house be that sexy?

    http://l.yimg.com/l/tv/us/img/site/47/29/0000054729_20090202171228.jpg

    oh, and he’s anthropologist? i didnt know that!

    I like the show and i have nothing against thirteen (or foreman). i think it’s nice to show their relationship. There’s nothing wrong with dating people of other races. why didn’t you like it?

  13. Mira

    Alex,

    I am not crazy about blue eyed men either. It’s not that there’s something wrong with blue eyes; I just don’t understand the hype.

    But I agree, Hugh has a beautiful eye colour.

    I like the show and i have nothing against thirteen (or foreman). i think it’s nice to show their relationship. There’s nothing wrong with dating people of other races. why didn’t you like it?

    It has nothing to do with interracial relationships (I support them). But the characters had no chemistry and it always seemed to me that Foreman was too good for 13.

  14. Natasha W

    Mira,

    “That’s what I wanted to ask. His accent sure sounds great to me, but what do I know? I am glad to hear its flawless, although I must notice his own accent is doesn’t sound so British anymore (at least to my ear).”

    I haven’t heard him speak recently, outside of House, so his accent may have faded a bit. But, yes, on House he sounds perfectly American.

    “Kutner was great, though. Too bad they did what they did to him. I didn’t buy the suicide story. It just didn’t make any sense.”

    It really didn’t make any sense at all. It was completely random and not well organized. I was just like “Well, there goes my favorite new character!” :/

    “PS-So, are you ready for season 7? It starts in September.”

    I still have some catching up to do on old episodes before watching season 7. I just hope some idiot doesn’t come along and spoil it by telling what happens in the latest episode. That happens a lot.

    Re: Thirteen and Foreman, is it just me or does it seem like any time there is an interracial black/white pairing it is always a black man and a white woman? I rarely see the reverse… actually I can’t remember ever seeing it. I saw one with a biracial girl (she had a black father and white mother) dating a white guy, but that’s it.

    But then you have people like abagond and a few of his commenters who say the media doesn’t like to show black men and white women together (basically on the strength of the rumor that Will Smith was cast with Eva Mendes in Hitch instead of a white woman because white people couldn’t handle the latter situation). However, I see these unions almost as often as I see them in real life. So I wonder if they are watching the same television I am.

  15. Mira

    Natasha,

    I don’t know what happened. I received an email notification about a blank comment, but there was no name or email on it. I don’t know if it was your comment. You are an approved commenter, and I don’t censor any words, so there’s no way your message to end up in moderation (which, btw, didn’t happen here- your original comment was lost, I’m afraid).

  16. Mira

    I haven’t heard him speak recently, outside of House, so his accent may have faded a bit. But, yes, on House he sounds perfectly American.

    Here’s a clip (no spoilers): he talks about his Emmy nomination.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cqsfGFP32I

    Re: Thirteen and Foreman, is it just me or does it seem like any time there is an interracial black/white pairing it is always a black man and a white woman? I rarely see the reverse… actually I can’t remember ever seeing it. I saw one with a biracial girl (she had a black father and white mother) dating a white guy, but that’s it.

    So true! I noticed this trend. There are some black woman/white man couples, but mostly in films/series about interracial dating or some other serious subject. Very rarely (or never?) it’s presented in a way of “boy meets girl… and by the way, boy happens to be white and girl happens to be black”.

    I’m not saying black man/white woman relationships are always portrayed in a great way, but for many of them race is not an issue (at least on screen). It’s given that black men and white women are attractive, and that they are often attracted to each other.

    Black women/white men pairings are not treated the same way. I can’t even think of an example. (You can’t count that one House episode when House was hitting on Michael Michele’s character… Who was portrayed as extremely sexy, but average-at-best doctor who makes plenty of mistakes).

    As for Abagong, I guess he is more focused on portrayal of black men in media. I understand he was pissed off with this Will Smith story, but it’s not like black man/white woman movie couples are unheard of. It’s still somewhat taboo, I guess, but there are definitely more black man/white woman movie couples than black woman/white man ones (not sure about the real world).

    Foreman and 13 are just an example of it. Now, I disliked the coupling: they had no chemistry and he was too good for her (what do everybody see in that character anyway? She’s annoying), and she’s also bisexual, so maybe black men hated the way Foreman’s relationship was presented. But at least it was there, and, as far as I remember, it was not seen as a “big deal” in a way of “OMG, she’s dating a black guy!!!!!” Foreman also briefly dated another white woman on the show.

    So while “House MD” is a decent race fail (Foreman being the token black person, for example), they do have a black man as one of their main characters, and said man is presented as intelligent and competent. But where are black women? According to the series, there are no black women doctors (except for rare stunning, but unintelligent examples).

  17. Jasmin

    Sorry I’m so late!

    Basically the book focused on House in the context of this old medical saying: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses.” The saying is supposed to remind medics that they should start with the most common solution (the horse) instead of a rare one (the zebra). The books main criticism of House was that the show was always about zebras, and of course he breaks a lot of rules regarding bedside matter and course of treatment. I think it’s called “The Science of House”.

  18. Mira

    Sigg3,

    He definitely kicks ass, though the show itself is often too repetitive. But I could watch his character all day, that’s for sure.

    Jasmin,

    True, that’s one of the weak spots of the show. On the other hand, I always assumed it was the point: there are many regular doctors in the hospital, and they are the ones who deal with “horses”.

    House gets only the cases that are strange for one way or another. The conditions that don’t match the obvious picture. That’s why most of the cases are “zebras”- if it was something usual, it wouldn’t even get to him for diagnose.

    On the other hand, there are House’s patients in the clinic, who always have usual diseases (which is boring to him).

  19. Natasha W

    Mira,

    “Here’s a clip (no spoilers): he talks about his Emmy nomination.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cqsfGFP32I

    Ahhh, I see. It does seem like his accent is fading. Her sounds like a British person who has spent a good amount of time in America, thus their accent is somewhat interspersed with American pronunciations.

  20. Mira Post author

    And what about “Australian Soap”?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV3tfauw3vQ

    And Blackadder is classic. One of the best shows in history (well, at least one of my favs, along with “Only Fools and Horses”).

    So no matter how great Hugh Laurie is as dr House, he’ll always be prince Geogre to me (well, at least a bit… especially when he makes those funny facial expressions).

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