I was a college freshman during the first season of House, so lucky for the show, it debuted during a time when I watched more TV than at any point in my life. Weekends were for drinking, days were for class, and weekday nights, from 4-11, were for television. It was a sad existence albeit a fantastic one, and I was far more nuanced to write this blog than today.
Of my freshman year shows — which included some real duds and some guilty pleasures like “The O.C.” — House quickly became one of my favorites. While diagnostics is different than the ER or the surgical stuff done in “Grey’s”, I don’t think the show deserves points for being unique. Instead, it took a time-tested format and added a voice, a clear structure, and consistency. By clear structure, I mean that the episodes are largely built the same, with House dominating, while two pairs of supporting characters — Cuddie/Wislon or his team — are playing in the background. It’s a structure that allows Hugh Laurie, whose brilliance in the show is understated even despite the awards he has received, to shine.
However, after my first year, I gave up on “House”. I started to watch the second season, and I grew tired of it. The patients seemed to be getting more and more outrageous — I mean, Wikipedia lists the patient’s disease in 2-08 (“The Mistake”) as: “Behcet’s Disease, then Hepatitis C and hepatocellular carcinoma from a Liver transplant.” C’mon. So I gave up on it, thinking that the world would follow. I do this with television shows often, trying to enjoy the “first on the bus, first off the bus” viewership.
Only problem was, with “House”, no one followed me off the bus. The show ranked 24th in its first season, and then jumped to tenth in Season 2. From there, it only went up, going from ten to 7, and from seven to four, where it finished the fourth season. It’s consistently above 15 million viewers, and outside of “American Idol” and maybe “24”, it’s FOX’s best bet. With friends swearing by it, my arrogance finally subsided, and recently, I decided to use Hulu to begin watching the fourth season.
Less than a week later, I had plowed through Season 4, and now I’m back on the bus with my head down. For me, the show was like rediscovering an old friend, as the voice becomes infectious so quickly, and House’s predictability is only more endearing the second time around. Plus, the season offered him in a different perspective: forced into picking a new team after being left behind by his old clan. The supporting cast grows as a result, and while it takes a juggling act that sometimes gets out of control, it’s managed well-enough. The diseases are still ridiculous, but for now, I don’t let it bother me. I don’t like House because he’s a great diagnostician, I like him because of the same reason I like Hank Moody in “Californication” — they are fantastically-written characters trenched in self-loathing.
When I saw Kal Penn and Olivia Wilde added to the Season 4 docket, I worried. But Penn is genuinely likable and Wilde is subdued enough where, still, no one threatens to ever steal the screen from House. So with the fifth season just a couple months away, let me say that I’m adding “House” into my TiVO list (for when I get a TiVO), and I recommend heading to Hulu and seeing it for yourself.