Anatomy of a "House, M.D." Episode

Like a lot of other people, I really enjoy the series House.  At its core, it's a medical drama.  But the chararacterization is what really makes the show tick.  House is a brilliant asshole of a doctor.  Everyone else on the show is a foil for his antics.

By its fourth season, however, House is incredibly formulaic in the structure of its episodes.  To their credit, they did manage to shake things up a bit this season with the Apprentice-esque setup in the first half of the season.

Each episode typically opens with the person in question getting sick in some rather dramatic fashion.  If you're lucky and blessed with a special episode, there may be some misdirection involved where one person acts woozy, but then someone else gets REALLY sick.

The next 5 minutes of the episode involve someone trying to convince House why this case is interesting enough for him to spend time on.  The next ten minutes are spent testing various theories and cures, at which point something dramatic happens … either vital signs crash or some really weird symptom manifests itself.  Cut to commercial!

We come back and they've managed to do something to buy some more time.  At this point we come in for a mish mash of the following.

1. House insults patients.
2. House insults his proteges.
3. House makes inappropriate comments about Cuddy's cleavage.
4. House suggests a dangerous treatment.
5. Someone has to talk the patients into a potentially dangerous treatment.
6. Someone mentions lupus or couple of other goto diseases that are never actually the disease in question.
7. Proteges break into patient's home to get more info.
8. House catches the silly patient lying about something.
9. Small bits of character development that rotate between anyone that isn't House.
10. House notices something small about a regular and correctly deduces a major piece of new and hopefully saucy information.

I'm sure there's a drinking game for this show somewhere.

At around the 50 minute mark, it's time for the episode to wrap itself up.  Nobody has any idea what's going on and things are looking grim for our Jane Doe.  Luckily, House will be having an innocuous conversation with a colleague, (usually Wilson) during which something will be said that will trigger something in House's stream of consciousness.  It typically goes something like this.

Wilson: You're a bitter and small person, House.
House: Yes…yes…small…just like the parasitic amoebas of the Lower Nigerian Basin! (runs off to cure the patient)

There's about a 50/50 chance that the diagnosis will come in just before the patient is about to go in for some major life changing surgery that is based on a previous incorrect guess.  Thus, our patient is saved in an appropriately dramatic fashion.

Despite the above, I forgive the writers because House definitely isn't a show pretending to be something else.  They do a pretty good job of giving the audience what they want…which is an irascible guy who says what everyone is thinking in the most creatively mean way possible and still gets away with it.  It's sort of like watching Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in the form of a genius doctor.

Um, I think I just came up with a brilliant Conan skit. =)  Too bad the strike is over!

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