House was my only appointment TV of the 2004/05 season. I haven't been this engaged by a series since the first few seasons of The West Wing. I haven't been this fascinated by a character since ... ever. Add witty dialogue, thought-provoking issues, and intelligent humour, and we've been given one of the most refreshing shows around, taking a familiar life-and-death premise and injecting new life into it.
Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is the head of diagnostics at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, a witty misanthrope who will do anything for his patients, except meet them, trust them, or remember their names. He walks with a cane and defiantly pops Vicodin like candy because of an injury to his thigh muscles, but his most compelling damage isn't visible, it's in the way he keeps everyone at cane's distance and flounders badly when his emotions are involved. He heads a team of doctors on diagnostic fellowships: immunologist Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), a young widow who develops an unfortunate crush on her emotionally crippled boss; neurologist Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), who often disapproves of and challenges House, much to House's amusement, frustration, and admiration; and intensivist Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer), who begins as eager puppy and evolves into backstabbing snitch. House in turn answers to hospital administrator Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), with whom he trades barbed banter that hides an underlying mutual respect.
I was lured to the show by my on-again, off-again love of medical dramas as well as the intriguing thought of seeing British actor Hugh Laurie, known for playing lovable twits, take on the role of a brilliant, tormented and tormenting American doctor. I knew I was hooked on House from the moment early in the pilot episode when House tells his colleague and only friend, oncologist Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), that his cousin has a brain tumour, which isn't interesting enough for House to deign to take the case (“She's gonna die. Boring.”). This is not a show that fears offending. It's brave enough to put at its centre a character that some will love because he's a gleefully unapologetic bastard, and some will hate because he's a gleefully unapologetic bastard.
Turns out, enticing House to take a case is part of the formula of the show, and Wilson's claims to cousinhood are suspect. It generally starts with a pre-credits snapshot of the patient of the week, almost invariably involving seizures and a CGI shot of something going haywire in their bodies. Usually Wilson, Cuddy, or one of House's minions tries to convince him to take the case, or he overhears something that intrigues him, and the game is on.