Chutzpah and candour

telly review

Television junkies have to acknowledge the fact that providing sustained entertainment is an onerous task.

 In an era where 40-odd-minute shows have become frequent and prosaic, it’s easy to overlook some of the quality ones and dismiss them as “yet another show.”

This sentiment is somewhat stronger when the genre is too specific, like medical drama. It is in this context that the success of House MD as a series comes as a mild surprise.Somewhere along the cynical and twisted episodes of House MD, I think viewers experience a ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ moment. Remember the film Lawrence of Arabia, where Lawrence, a loath soldier, is supposed to execute a guy in the Arab Army that he is leading? Lawrence shoots him, subsequently realising that he enjoys killing people. Similarly, watching House begins with reluctance and scepticism, progresses to ennui, finally turning into enjoyment.

I wouldn’t venture to call the character of Dr Gregory House (Hugh laurie) on the likes of Sherlock Holmes (like most of the world, including the creator has), for House is far more peculiar, stubborn, stoic, ruthless and even a little insane. If truth be told, the parallels drawn with Holmes appear rather puerile to the critic’s eye. And oncologist Dr James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) is far more etched out than Watson. Not so elementary now, is it?

A fictional hospital — Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey is known for its famous doctor who treats patients in a rather unconventional way, dilutely put. What happens often in most cases is that the fine line between pushiness and audacity keeps vanishing. The hubris of Dr House is a recurring theme in every single episode, with every moment involving him turning into a vortex of vanity, wry humour, bitter rhubarbs and hysteria. The man who is armed with a cane, bottles of Vicodin and a sardonic tongue takes huge risks to save his patients, sometimes even by doing those things most doctors will not.

The foolhardy (as most of his colleagues would term him) surgeon is engaged by a host of characters. Wilson, probably the only person who can be likened to a friend of House, is as patient as Job. Why and how he tolerates the seemingly overbearing git is inexplicable, but absorbing nonetheless. Why is this man so magnetic. Is it his utter disregard for society, his smartness that saves hundreds of lives, or the churlish charm that makes him numinous?

Lisa Edelstein is Dr Cuddy, an alluring surgeon who runs the hospital. House is evidently infatuated with her, but is unwilling to accept his affections for her. His subordinates, doctors Robert Chase, Allison Cameron and Eric Foreman, comprise a team that bears a chemistry that is fraught with competition, jealousy, betrayal and suffering.

Turning grave issues into games is routine for House. Why, there have been instances when he and his team have delved deep into the personal lives of patients to come up with diagnoses. Consequently, families have been shattered, lovers have been broken apart and children have lost their innocence. Remorse and guilt barely surface in their hearts. But then again, C’est la vie, isn’t it?

The personal lives of most of the characters themselves is saturnine. A loner, a scorned lover, a scarred widow, a servile sycophant, an adulterer, a rebel without a cause and a recluse. These are what form a team of surgeons at the hospital. Where then is a ray of hope or a whit of optimism?

But, the show must go on, and it does. The cleverly penned lines, the refined screenplay and the highbrow humour are the striking factors of the show. There have been occasions where the authenticity about the medical cases have been challenged.

Several twists, including Lawrence Kutner’s (Kal Penn) suicide and the death of Amber Volakis (Anne Dudek), were unanticipated and abrupt. Despite such setbacks, the series has managed to stand tall and maintain its reputation about delivering remarkable entertainment. A sincere attempt by David Shore that has been quite well received. And like everything else, it must be taken with a pinch of salt.House MD airs on Star World, weekdays at 10 pm.

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