Man of the House

Most TV shows only serve as passing entertainment, a brief escape from the reality of our own lives.  But every once in awhile a show comes along that resonates with us on a different level, and we become emotionally entangled with the cast of characters.  We race to the television when the show airs and only an act of God will get our ass up off the couch during that timeslot.  I can count on one hand the number of TV programs that have had this effect on me, two more profoundly than the others.

When I was young, the show that served as the backdrop to my childhood was Little House on the Prairie.  The Ingalls family, despite their poverty and lack of indoor plumbing, was everything I wished my own dysfunctional family could be – happily tucked underneath one roof.  I lived vicariously through Laura; all of her triumphs and tragedies became my own.  I admired her spunk, tenacity, and complete unwillingness to take any crap from Nellie Olsen.

Twenty years after Little House on the Prairie got blown off the map, another TV drama was created; one centered on a different kind of house.  Though far less warm and sunny than the house in Walnut Grove, Dr. Gregory House, M.D. would still manage to charm his way into my heart.

Back in 2004, I was on the phone with my best friend, Helen, and during our conversation she told me about a new TV show she was hooked on – House.  I had never heard of it before, but she promised that I would love the show’s main character, Dr. House.  I was still mourning the loss of Dr. Greene from the show ER from 2002, and wasn’t overly eager to invest myself in another medical drama.  But after some persistence on her part, I agreed to at least check it out.

I cried like someone killed my own mother when Dr. Greene died.

At first glance, Dr. House appeared to be a grumpy, unshaven, pain in the ass that doled out insults just as much as he did prescriptions.  It was clear by the way he treated his patients that he had skipped out on medical school the day they taught bedside manner.  He didn’t hold their hand or sugarcoat the truth during his quest for a diagnosis.  And he never relied on the patient to help him solve the medical mystery (in fact, he rarely spoke to them at all) because according to House rule #1, everybody lies.

But underneath his gruff exterior (which, I’ll grant you, was difficult to get passed at first), I discovered that he had a lot of qualities I admired:

He wasn’t interested in self-promotion or praise for a job well done, which if you think about it, saved his patients money on thank you cards and edible arrangements.

He pursued the truth like a demon, and steamrolled through the social mores and legal red tape that stood in his way of finding a diagnosis.  Personally, I’d rather have a doctor that cures me (by any means necessary) than one that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

He had no fear about speaking his mind, even if it meant putting his own well-being or job in jeopardy to do it.  Granted, that could be an earmark for a borderline personality disorder, but still, an admirable quality.

He lived his life in perpetual pain, but didn’t let that stop him from doing his job.  He just popped a few dozen Vicodin pills, and went about the business of saving lives.

He also didn’t let his physical limitations stop him from riding a motorcycle – which I really appreciated because I’ve always had a thing for guys who ride motorcycles…. and look smokin’ hot while doing it.

I loved all these qualities, but they weren’t what kept me coming back week after week.  What kept me glued to my TV screen every Monday night for the past eight years were the rare moments when a co-worker or patient would find their way behind his defenses and expose his humanity.  When that happened he got this look of pure vulnerability on his face that completely unraveled me.

Long before E.L. James’ character Christian Grey (in Fifty Shades of Grey) got his first emotional scar, Gregory House had cornered the market on being screwed up.  And like Christian, House managed to win the heart of his Anastasia Steele, in the form of Lisa Cuddy….

That was the moment House fans had waited six seasons to watch.  Sadly, unlike Anastasia Steele, Cuddy found it exhausting to fill the role of mother, girlfriend, psychiatrist, and parole officer, and she eventually crumpled beneath the burden of House’s emotional baggage.  Their relationship was over so quickly I felt like I had dreamt all of season seven.

But even though the show was the complete antithesis of happily ever after, it still managed to keep me laughing as the story unfolded.  So thanks for the ride, House.  I will miss your sarcastic sense of humor, your gift for intuitive observations, and your stunning blue eyes.

I guess it’s time to go find another TV obsession.  But in the meantime, I have NO idea what the hell I’m going to do with myself on Monday nights.  When I checked the TV listings for that night, all I came up with was The Bachelorette… I think I’d rather stick to House reruns.

Do any of you have a TV show obsession?

18 thoughts on “Man of the House

  1. I, too, was completely wrapped up in the Ingalls family! The show and the books hold a huge place in my collection of childhood memories. Loved it. House is the complete opposite of Little House, but also stellar, not to mention what a dream Hugh Laurie is. I heard him play at a music festival last fall in San Francisco–talk about a Renaissance man. Currently I’m pretty hooked on The Middle and Modern Family–both a little more sitcom-ish than your favorites, but smartly funny shows with great characters.

    • Amber – Thanks for responding… and so quickly too!

      You are really lucky to have seen Hugh Laurie in person! I’ve seen some videos of him playing/singing some of the songs from his “Let Them Talk” album. And while I’m not a big fan of jazz (in general), I loved watching him perform. He seemed to really be in his element – anytime you see someone doing something they are passionate about, it’s a thing of beauty.

      I’ve been wanting to get into Modern Family for awhile now. Perhaps a humorous change of pace is just what the doctor ordered :D

    • I’ve seen a couple episodes of Dexter and loved them. Now that House is over, I may have to rent the first few seasons and play catch-up. I was going to borrow the books from the library but got sidetracked. Did you read them?

  2. 30-Something was the first drama I got hooked on as an adult; then ER. (Every time I hear Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I think of Mark Greene and his family in Hawaii. Sniff.) I’ve been a Law-and-Order fan (all its various spinoffs) but not “hooked.” I watched a fair amount of House but I wasn’t a fan in the early years. I have friends hooked on Gray’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives, but I have yet to find another one that gets me hook, line and sinker.

    • Nice to know I’m not the only sap who gets misty-eyed whenever that version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” plays :) But lucky for me, House was very light on sentiment and heavy on sarcasm – just the thing I needed to get over losing Dr. Greene.

      With so many TV shows out there, I think it’s hard to sift through all the crap and find one that strikes a chord. There seem to be new shows cropping up every season! Who has that kind of time? I think I might delve into “New Girl” or “Modern Family” next – after all the heavy “House” drama lately, I need something that makes me laugh.

      • True – the more shows that are on, the less I find worth watching (and very little pulls me in these days.) I like the fluff of some of the legal dramas and I keep trying to warm up to “Parenthood.” “Burn Notice” is big in our family – but I think I like them (and liked ER) because it’s less serial and more episodic. If I miss one, I don’t feel like I have to watch it to catch up on the story line.

      • Hi!
        Please excuse the barge-in on your post, (I’m still learning bloggy etiquitte) and I know it’s kind of older, but I just wanted to say that I, too, sobbed uncontrollably when Dr. Greene died. Badly stuffed head all night long. Shoulder-shaking, snot-bubble blowing sobs for him.
        I even bought IZ’s album after that show, I guess so I could wallow in the drama for as long as possible? I don’t know, but that was great TV. Oh, and I love House and Modern Family, too ;)

        • Valerie – You’re not barging in. We’re all one big, happy blogging family around here :)

          I know exactly what you mean about Dr. Greene. I was a total wreck for the rest of the night after that episode. I still get choked up when I hear that version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Traumatized me FOR LIFE!

  3. Since I’ve lived without a TV fot the last 20 years, I’ve had to make do with DVDs, but that surely doesn’t stop one from becoming an addict…
    I started out with Sex and the City, then quickly upgraded to Mad Men. I don’t watch Mad Men, I INHALE it. It’s like a virus. You won’t believe how frustrating it is that next to nobody around these parts (well, it IS Germany, after all!!) knows that show. And a lot of the fascination goes out of it when you watch the german translation (of course, I only see the original version). Germans have different voices, for starters. They are …. I dunno, more antiseptical, clearer, less gritty, less sexy. Womens’ voices always sound downright dumb. I don’t blame anyone for not catching on fire this way. Good for me that I can enjoy the real thing…
    Love, Miriam

    • Miriam –

      I was into “Sex and the City” for awhile, but not as heavily as some of my girlfriends (just saw an episode every now and then). When I gave birth to my son eight years ago and named him Aidan, the nurses on the ward thought it was because I was really into that show – I had NO idea Sarah Jessica Parker dated a hot guy named Aidan. But apparently, that character inspired a lot of mothers to name their son Aidan because that named jumped into the top ten (on the popular baby names list) the year my son was born. Who knew? I thought I was being original…

      I know several people who are REALLY into “Mad Men” – I’d like to see what it’s all about, but I know that if I got hooked, I’d have to sit down and watch the last six years of episodes. Which would mean sitting on my ass for weeks doing nothing but watching “Mad Men” DVDs, and probably gaining twenty pounds. And with summer (read that as bathing suit season) right around the corner, I think that would be unwise.

      I can’t imagine watching anything (on a regular basis) with voice overs. It always bothers the hell out of me that the words you hear aren’t matching the actor’s lip movements. And to have the voice not match the face would bug me too. I occasionally do the subtitle thing with movies (you know, those artsy ones that you have to watch while wearing a beret and drinking a cappuccino), but I get tired of them quickly. If I wanted to read the story, I’d pick up a book :)

  4. I had trouble deciding on a new medical show after ER ended. It was my favorite of all! I have heard great things about House – I may have to catch up on it this summer! :)

    • I would recommend House to anyone who enjoys sarcasm (which tends to be the kind of sense of humor I gravitate towards). The cast of characters is great, and Hugh Laurie is FABULOUS as House. If you can watch the show long enough to get beyond the gruff manner that he deals with people, you will catch glimpses of him being painfully human. And because those moments are rare, it makes you appreciate them all the more when they happen.

      I guess I’m just a sucker for a head case :)

  5. Too many. House was one though I kind of got tired of it the last couple of seasons. Just about anything on USA Network I follow (namely White Collar, Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, Suits, Fairly Legal) as well as Fringe, The Finder (hate that it was cancelled), Person of Interest, Hawaii Five-O, among others. Like I said, too many. :-)

    • I’m playing catch-up with my blog’s responses, and this is the third time you have been the last person to comment on one of my entries. I’m not sure if that makes you the grand finale, or a voodoo curse that stops other bloggers from posting any feedback ;)

      • I’ve actually noticed that on a few other sites as well (though not all): I post a comment and then nothing afterward. I figure it’s because I made such a stellar comment that no one knows how to follow it (or more likely everyone is thinking, “How do I follow such a numbskull comment as that?” :-)

  6. I like ‘House’, especially for the choice of highlighting that character type that’s usually the eccentric background character and not the star. This is something that British TV has been doing for decades. As ever, it takes a while for the rest of us to catch up to them.

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