When a decent television series pops up on Netflix, I pounce on them like a famished tiger in fear of it being removed before I finish the show. This past month, a series I’ve always enjoyed but have seen too few episodes appeared on the Recently Added section and I leapt at the opportunity. House M.D. is both lovable and frustrating and supplements America’s need for a tragic hero in the narrative with Dr. Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie.
Based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes, House sifts through medical clues and anomalies to make a differential diagnosis on patients assigned to him and his medical team. He’s known for his cynicism, distrust of everyone, and attention to detail in order to piece the diagnosis together. I love the show, but sometimes I can get a little annoyed by the structure of, typically, three mistakes before finding the proper diagnosis. However, I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a show if he solved the problems in a twenty minute time span and never failed… In fact, House’s flawed characteristics—such as his pill addiction and uncouth methods to find answers—likely contributes to the success of the show. Either, audiences are appalled or amused by his behaviour, which inevitably prompts viewership on both side of the coin.
House derives from a long line of television series focusing on doctors and nurses. The first instance of medical malpractice I can remember was an episode of The Twilight Zone in which Donna Douglas (most know her as Ellie Mae Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies) undergoes plastic surgery to improve her appearance only to be greeted by the horror of a surgery gone terribly wrong. I was forever scarred by the horror her character felt and I know it’s because our culture is in and out of hospitals like they’re the grocery store. This terrifying, yet intriguing narrative spawned a handful of series in the late 1960s, such as Dr. Kildare or Marcus Welby, M.D., and it’s safe to say the success and themes of these shows contributed heavily to the series beloved in contemporary television. I’ve never jumped on the E.R. bandwagon or sobbed over Grey’s Anatomy, but I find our fascination with medical dramas interesting and similar to a car accident… it’s impossible to look away.
If you want to learn more about the Doctors and Nurses of television over the past four decades, be sure to tune into Pioneers of Television, Tuesday night on Panhandle PBS! As always, check back for a Double Take! Until then…