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TV Retrospective: House MD

I finished a rewatch of House earlier this week; it's only my second time through the series. First time was during my stay in London, when I did a Netflix UK trial. I don't think I ever caught it when it was running on TV, but it's quickly become one of my favorite procedural shows. I thought I'd write a quick retrospective on the show. (Writing about stuff helps me remember details!)

Seasons 1-3

The first few seasons set up the premise for the series: Gregory House, genius diagnostician, misanthrope, painkiller addict, and all-around asshole, able to solve and diagnose the medical cases no one else can. He works with a team of 3 other doctors who have to do his bidding: Chase, Cameron and Foreman. He has one true friend, oncologist James Wilson, who he constantly pranks and demeans. His shenanigans constantly confound the hospital's dean of medicine and chief administrator Lisa Cuddy.

One of the most unrealistic things that jumps out at you immediately from the first episode is how each patient has a team of 4-5 doctors dedicated to only his case. And each patient is almost always subjected to a battery of tests and at least one or two false diagnoses before House has a genius epiphany and figures things out. Like in the very first episode the patient has two doctors conducting an MRI for him and there's an emergency and they have to save the patient right then and there; if this were a PH hospital, all you'd have is a med-tech doing the MRI and you'd be dead before any doctors can get to you.

Also, given the US healthcare system, how insane must each of his patient's medical bills be? Maybe the costs aren't passed on to the patient? One of the season one plot points is how House's department is a big money sink for the hospital, so presumably they are paying all those doctors on his team even when House doesn't have a case? And given how much of a liability House proves to be over the course of the series I think that realistically no hospital would tolerate him for long, he's just lucky Cuddy (the administrator) respects his genius. I guess we should just suspend disbelief in this regard.

During the first few seasons, House is seemingly invincible; he does all kinds of shenanigans and never has to face the consequences. He faces off against recurring villains such as a hospital investor, his ex-wife, and even a police officer who is fanatically out to get him., and is able to wiggle out of all his problems without issue.

Seasons 4 and 5

At the end of season 3, House's original team quits, and in season 4 he conducts a "reality TV" style competition with a larger number of doctors, where he fires one or more of them for in each episode. This lets the show introduce a bunch of new characters at once, including the eventual "survivors" Thirteen, Taub and Kutner, who are joined by returning member Foreman to form House's new team. One of the last eliminated doctors is Amber (aka "Cutthroat Bitch") who sticks around as Wilson's girlfriend. Chase and Cameron stick around the hospital in other positions, no longer members of House's team.

I find the new set of doctors much more interesting than the original set; Thirteen is mysterious and prefers to keep to herself (which means House likes to tear into her private life), while Taub is a philandering husband (so House is always interfering with his marriage). Kutner is the most "generic" doctor of the bunch.

House starts to face consequences around the end of season four, when Amber dies in a bus accident after having to pick up House who was drunk in a bar. His addiction starts to get the better of him in season five when he starts seeing hallucinations of Amber and his relationships with Wilson and Cuddy are strained. Things come to a head after Kutner abruptly kills himself near the end of season five (The actor Kal Penn was written off since he took a job at the Obama White House). House eventually realizes he has also hallucinated a hookup with Cuddy and at the end of the season voluntarily checks himself into rehab.

A lot of fans argue that this would have been a good ending for the series, with House finally acknowledging his addiction and Chase and Cameron getting a happy ending and presumably Foreman now heading diagnostics. Perhaps the show did peak here, though there's still some interesting stuff that happens in the remaining seasons.

Seasons 6 and 7

The season start out with House undergoing rehab and therapy at a psychiatric hospital. (Andre Braugher plays House's therapist, which I'm surprised I didn't remember since I'm sure I was already watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine in 2015!) House eventually finds his way back to his old job at PPTH; the department is initially still headed by Foreman until House's medical license is reinstated. Chase purposely lets a patient die because the patient is an evil fascist; the guilt eventually ends his marriage with Cameron. (Cameron gets written out partway through season 6, I think the writers just didn't have anything more for her character.)

House spends most of these two seasons freed of his Vicodin addiction and genuinely tries to be a better person (though he's still an asshole to his patients). At the end of season six, he and Cuddy finally get together for real this time, but Cuddy eventually breaks it off halfway into season seven because House goes back on Vicodin. This leads him down a self-destructive spiral that ends with him driving a car through Cuddy's house and becoming a fugitive from justice.

This was another point where the series could have just ended, but they decided to do one more season afterwards!

Season 8

The season starts out with House in prison, serving time after 3 months on the run. He eventually gets out when Foreman, now head of PPTH (since Cuddy's actor chose not to come back to the show), arranges for him to be paroled under Foreman's supervision. At first he has to wear an ankle monitor, which leads to some creative workarounds to try to get around it, but he eventually manages to have it removed.

House builds a new diagnostic team with two new doctors: Korean-Filipino Dr. Chi Park and Dr. Jessica Adams, a doctor that he met while in prison. Adams is the more boring addition to the team, bringing nothing much more than a rich kid background, it's like she's only there to fill the "pretty girl" slot in House's team. Chi Park is the more interesting character, since she's not a conventionally beautiful woman (which creates some interesting interactions later on with Chase) and she has a lot of the Asian tropes such as her overbearing parents. Chase rounds up the new diagnostic team.

The final season's big overarching plot is House's one true friend Wilson being diagnosed with terminal cancer; the last few episodes deal with both House and Wilson trying to come to terms with and deal with Wilson's eventual death. I found those episodes quite heavy and an interesting study of how people deal with impending death.

House wants to spend the last few months of Wilson's life with him but one of his pranks backfires and gets his parole revoked and has to return to prison, with his remaining stint longer than Wilson's projected remaining time. Foreman manages to delay his return to prison for a while, giving House time to fake his own death in a building fire. Kutner and Amber and Cameron make appearances as hallucinations while House is high on heroin in the building fire. The series ends with House and Wilson on motorcycles riding off into the sunset, nothing left of their lives but each other.

The copy of the series that I binged this time was on Prime Video, and they had this extra season 8 episode that was Hugh Laurie narrating a retrospective over the series now that it was done. I don't think I've seen it before, it was nice.

Aside from the technical aspects, which I'm sure are often unrealistic or exaggerated, I think my favorite thing about the show is how House is addicted to puzzles, to the detriment of almost anything else. He only ever takes on cases if they prove to be interesting, something I can relate to. I mean, if I can find a job where all I do is try to figure out the most difficult technical / programming puzzles, I'd snap that up in a heartbeat. Also, like House I dislike having to deal with people, though I'm trying to be better at that.

I guess I should note that House is of course not a person to idolize. After all, he's a self-destructive addict who destroyed every meaningful relationship he had. He is however a genius that was very fun to watch. I'll probably be rewatching the series again somewhere down the line.

In the meantime, check out the other entries tagged House for some other thoughts and quotes from the series.

Sept. 15, 2021, 9 a.m. / / blog / #tv #house / Syndicated: mastodon twitter / 1538 words

Last modified at: Dec. 13, 2021, 7:59 p.m. Source file

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