The House Formula

Lately, I’ve kind of been sucked into watching “House”. It used to come on after “Bones”, so I used to watch the occasional episode. That was before the days of the DVR; now I very rarely watch a television show when it actually airs. For all I know, “House” might still follow “Bones”. Mainly I’ve been watching reruns. Sometimes I catch them coming on, and other times I set them ahead to record.

“House” is a pretty formulaic show, though. Here is the set-up of every episode:

In the opening scene, some unsuspecting person has an emergency situation and is taken to the hospital. Dr. House’s boss, Dr. Cuddy, or one of his flunkies brings him the patient’s file which he completely dismisses as a commonplace illness until he is told about one completely unrelated symptom. He then accepts that the patient’s problem may be exotic enough to warrant his genius. Dr. House then assembles his flunkies to brainstorm about the cause in front of a dry-erase board. He proceeds to insult them and then send them off to run various tests on the patient. The patient gets worse. Dr. House insults his flunkies more, insults the patient, insults the patient’s family, insults his boss, and harasses his best friend Dr. Wilson. After several unorthodox hit-and-miss treatments, they figure out what’s wrong with the patient and start the real treatment. But something goes wrong and the patient crashes, starts bleeding out of some orifice, or suddenly is unable to breath. House and team realize they had the wrong diagnoses. At the last month House discovers some missing clue and deduces without help from anyone what the real problem is. The patient is saved. There is usually some secondary plot line that is tied to the medical emergency by a sappy closing scene.

You have just seen every episode of “House”. Thanks to the power of the DVR, I’ve noticed another nuance to the formula. For instance, the big crash/bleeding/can’t breath catastrophe always occurs between 38 and 40 minute mark of the show. I wonder if I sat down long enough if I could tie in every sentence of my summary to a time stamp. Probably.

Of course, the real question is why in the world do I keep watching this show when I know pretty much what is going to happen in every episode? I mean Hugh Laurie is a superb actor; in his role as Dr. House you would never know he was British if no one told you. I don’t think that it is it, though. I do like the dramatic sub-plots and comedic quips. I’m especially intrigued by the season where he is trying to replace his flunky team and slowly eliminates possible contenders from a big group of candidates, even though I’ve only seen a few episodes from that season and I know who wins the competition.

I know to some extent all shows are formulaic. For some reason, though, “House” really stands out as the most obvious formula to me. And I don’t know if “House” will ever hold the same level of obsession for me as say the enigmatic “Lost” has or the more subtle pullings of some of my other shows. It’s very possible that I am just filling my downtime with something new, and then once I’ve seen all of the episodes I will just move on to a different syndicated show. For now I’ll just sit back and enjoy the verbal abuse.

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