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.
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?