How House Thinks
Medical dramas have long been a staple of television programming. From Marcus Welby, M.D. to ER to Grey’s Anatomy, television doctors grapple weekly with obscure and heart-wrenching diseases. And it’s easy to understand why medical shows are so popular. Medical dramas, similar to crime dramas, follow a basic mystery format: a puzzle needs to be solved under significant time pressure, clues keep emerging, and dead ends (no pun) need to be re-thought. Instead of the “who-done-it” of crime dramas, medical dramas focus on the “what-is-it?” And, like other good mysteries, the answer is never the obvious one–or, at least, not the obvious one in the obvious way.
A new member of the medical doctor pantheon is Gregory House, M.D., the main character in the series House. But House’s personality sets him apart from the intensely sincere, kind, and sometimes cloyingly sweet doctors who populate most medical dramas. House is gruff, sarcastic, contentious, and disdainful of hospital policy. His personality is played off those of the other doctors in the series–the idealistic Dr. Cameron, the self-serving Dr. Chase, and the ambitious Dr. Foreman–and together, the group diagnoses and treats rare and complicated diseases each week.
Clearly this is not a snapshot of the typical doctor’s typical week. Realistic medical shows would not make riveting television; television medical series that showed sore throats that turned out to be strep or nausea that was really morning sickness would be no more successful than a crime series in which the butler (or spouse) always …