Ask any Canadian, any American, and we’d agree that our national characters are different. How? Well, that’s where we shrug and resort to stereotypes. Sure, I might apologize to the lamppost when I run into it, but that’s just habit. My American friends might talk a little loud and break stemware in restaurants, but I’m sure that was just the wine.
One irrefutable difference between our nations is that while House is successful in the United States, it kicks the competition's ass in Canada. In these early days of the new fall season, House has been on top of the Canadian TV ratings heap by a significant margin.
It may have been created by a Canadian, but trust me, that’s not an explanation. We’re conditioned to assume Canadian content is inferior. Besides, David Shore was not a household name here before he went south and channeled his apparently not-so-inner bitter sarcasm into his most famous creation.
My theory: Canadians are repressed Dr. Houses. Even more than the usual vicarious thrill the audience as a whole gets from someone saying exactly the thing we wish we'd had the guts and brains to say, we see ourselves in the stubbly guise of Hugh Laurie, with the distanced-from-humanity biting wit and keen intellect. Stop laughing. We are so like that.
Dr. House would seem to be the opposite of the stereotypical Canadian. He's brash, rude, loud, and definitely not a peace keeper. Due South, the Paul Haggis series where Shore toiled pre-House, had fun with the stereotype in the impossibly polite Mountie Benton Fraser (Paul Gross), and Canadians lapped it up. But not nearly as much as House.
That’s the thing about stereotypes: Who wants to be one? Plus, it’s tiring living up to the image of being so damn nice all the time. Canadians are sometimes accused of being more passive-aggressive than nice anyway, while Dr. House is more aggressive-aggressive than nice.
Like him, Canadians tend to be observers. We have to be, spread out as we are in an enormous but sparsely populated country whose culture is overshadowed by our powerful neighbours. Our national sports are hockey, lacrosse, and feeling superior to Americans. So as with Dr. House, the physical and emotional cripple, we find ourselves watching from the sidelines, thinking, evaluating, making sardonic comments, drinking beer with a high alcohol content.
Of course, as a House fan with no patience for US ratings winners like CSI or Grey’s Anatomy or Dancing With the Stars, my other explanation for the proportionally higher Canadian ratings is even simpler: us Great White Northerners have great taste.
Now, how do I explain Celine Dion?