I have confessed before to my obsessive, undying love for this show, and being an analytical person, I have given a lot of thought to why the show appeals to me so much.
First, it’s a really intelligent, funny drama on TV. I guess in some ways, it’s not all that different from a crime type show. There’s just as much lying and investigating. Somehow though, House engages my mind more than any CSI type show, partly because the human body, and the psychology, are so infinitely fascinating. And I’ve learned a lot about medical conditions from watching the show.
In fact, when I watch Jeopardy! which isn’t that often, I have noticed myself answering questions right based on knowledge I gleamed from watching House. I have a real interest in diseases, and no idea why, so there is some satisfaction there. I love learning about auto-immune conditions, drugs and how they work (or don’t), infections and cancers interacting, the really, really weird viruses and infections, testing and how in a lot of cases, they’re not looking for an actual disease, but its fingerprints.
(Note from present day: Knowledge gleamed from House also served me well on Anatomy and Physiology exams a few years later.)
In fact I have a friend who audits health insurance claims, and I just recently found out that she gets to see all the diagnoses of all the claims she works on, and I actually got kind of jealous of her job. I love that she gets to see diseases and diagnoses from a distance, without actually working with people, lol, kinda like House. For awhile I’ve wanted to read Love In the Time of Cholera because it has cholera in the title. No idea WHY this fascinates me so, just that it does. What does it say about me, that I’m slightly more grabbed by “cholera” than “love”? Hmmm. I have got to read it one day.
The other reason the show appeals to my intellect is that all the dialogue between the characters is clever, witty, and takes some mind power to sometimes keep up with all the reasonings and get the “ah ha!” moments. I like that, the hilarious sarcasm, the cleverness in the interactions, the way things are always turning around, the analysis of behavior, the studying of what people say and what that really means, all the observations and deductive reasoning. I love the instances where they have a limited amount of samples so they can only do a few tests and they have to really use that deductive reasoning to decide what to test for. I love House’s split-second realizations where he pieces everything together, where one thing sparks the revelation. Something about it is sooo mentally-engaging that even though it’s over my head, I feel invigorated. I love the differentials. I love the witty conversations that have nothing to do with the medicine. In essence, watching House is like studying genius, and I guess I’d like to think by immersing myself in it, I’ll get a little on me.
The show feeds my mind, and my mind is very hungry. In my current life, in a lot of ways, I’m intellectually frustrated. Sure, I can read books and all of that, but I guess I’m intellectually frustrated more in a way that relates to other people. I can read, but I don’t have people to share the ideas with other than myself really. Or at least, not in my present, in-person life, and I crave it so much. I crave discussion and analysis that isn’t just in my own mind. It’s one of the reasons I want to go back to school. Living on an island the way I do, I don’t get enough mental stimulation, enough input. There are some incredibly intelligent people here, but I am a bit insatiable and I would love a bigger pool. Sometimes I even avoid reading too-engaging books because I know I’ll have no one to discuss it with, and that just leads to more frustration.
Even with House, I wish I had people to discuss it with. I’d love to get into conversations about what makes certain episodes shine, or even just why I love certain episodes, with people who have also seen them and can share their own insights and opinions. I’d love to have laughfests talking about some of the best clinic scenes. I would love to discuss how the show sometimes plays against stereotypes. I’d love to talk to other avid fans about the gender roles on the show, how sometimes they are reversed (and how that sometimes can create its own trend on the show – like for example, it seems that the few teenage girl patients who’ve had sex at really young ages are always the initiators – and what the implications of that are). Or about how relationships are generally portrayed on the show, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a parent-child one.
Why is it so often that in the romantic relationship, the woman is the one lying about her past? Is it because it might be more typical to suspect the man of lying, cheating, having previous kids he hasn’t told the wife about, and they want to play against that, be more unexpected? Why is it that in almost every relationship involving a couple that a viewer might, at first, perceive as happy, there is some major darkness and lies underneath the surface? And the one couple that actually does seem to love each other turns out to be related? Do certain trends on the show reflect societal norms, or do they attempt to twist them? Are there political or social implications sometimes made in the show, subtle and perhaps unintentional or not? I’d even like to discuss certain inconsistencies, like why is Wilson’s wife named Julie in the first two seasons, and then in season 3, the only time we actually see her, she’s named Bonnie? Why does it seem, halfway through the show, that House went to Hopkins, while in earlier seasons it was Foreman who went there? And in “Humpty Dumpty,” Cameron asks Cuddy about she and House going to Michigan? Where did he really go? And how long was he working at the hospital anyway – some episodes make it seem like it was before his infarction, and others make it seem sooner, and I’d love to have a clear timeline, sit down with other obsessive viewers and work that timeline out, or figure out if it’s just plain inconsistencies.
I love wondering about how the writers come up with the ideas. I wonder what part in an episode came first, what sketch of an idea did they start with, and how did that develop from there, and how did they think up all the twists and turns, did they start with the solution and create it from there? How did they fit the perfect background, character interactions to coincide with the medical cases? Sometimes they come up with the best metaphors, and the best titles, that work on so many levels if you give it some thought. One that jumps to mind is “Cane and Able,” the second episode in Season 3. It has so many implications. On the Season 2 DVD, there are two episodes that you can watch with director commentary, and I love those, because they point out things I wouldn’t even notice, again stretching the mind even further. I was so glad they did that for the episode, “No Reason,” in which House gets shot and goes in and out of hallucination (I won’t say more in case anyone watches it, don’t want to give anything away). It’s one of the most complex episodes. Really though, I’d be thrilled to watch commentary on every episode, gain more insight into the process that creates these layered episodes, again wanting to get a little of that through osmosis.
Even without having other fanatic viewers to discuss these things with, the show really does satisfy some of my intellectual frustrations. The case is always solved at the end. And even if I’ve watched an episode a whole bunch of times, I feel I still learn more by watching it again, nuances of the medical stuff, a witticism, a superbly clever line I didn’t quite catch before, a visual thing I may not have seen because I had it on while doing dishes and listened more than watched. I love that a lot of it, I don’t understand, because that makes it more challenging to me. What I would LOVE to do is write my own episode for the show, I mean just for my own enjoyment. Writing one just for fun may never be possible without extensive medical training, but I’ll put it out there as a goal. Emerson offers classes on writing for TV, and my tour guide when I was there talked about taking a science class on infectious diseases, which I hope they’ll offer again next year. Yeah, it’s high time for me to go back to college.
So until then, I’ll keep watching House, for these and many other reasons to come.
“The Professor” – Damien Rice – probably my favorite song at the moment, oh his voice is so smooth and rich and passionate, and I love the lyrics. My favorite line of the song is, “Loving is fine if you’ve plenty of time/for walking on stilts at the edge of your mind.”