On House

Is Gregory House the Hawkeye Pierce of the Twenty-First Century?

By Lois Winston

They sure don’t make TV doctors like they used to.

Gone are the days of the benevolent doctors James Kildare, Ben Casey, and Marcus Welby. Those patriarchs of bygone medical dramas, those god-like miracle workers with their compassionate bedside manners, must be turning over in their prime-time graves at the likes of Gregory House. But just as the baby boomers, the first generation to grow up on television, have matured over the decades, so has the drama we’ve watched. When Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a-changin’,” he had no idea just how much they would change over the next four decades. And once we lost those rose-colored glasses we purchased in Haight-Ashbury or at Woodstock, we were confronted with medical dramas that were more realistic. Edgier. More cynical. And nowhere is this more evident than in the character of Gregory House.

But we didn’t leap out of Alex Stone’s home office from The Donna Reed Show to land in Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. The transition, at first, was gradual. Then came 1972 and a groundbreaking comedy with serious overtones. In the television version of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, we were introduced to Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, a very different doctor from what we were used to seeing on television. M*A*S*H dealt with the highly incendiary issues of the day and managed to stay beneath the censor’s radar by masking its cynicism and political indictment of the Vietnam War in a police action from thirty years earlier. In creating the  …

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