The House Formula

Hugh Laurie Gregory House MD in Fox networks show HouseI kind of like Gregory House, MD. And who doesn’t? House is one of the most popular TV shows that has catapulted Fox network to lead the popularity ratings (along with 24 and other shows). The quirky, obnoxious and ill mannered medical genius has become everybody’s dream doctor.  We the New Jersey viewers specially feel his absence in real life since Gregory House works in this fictitious “Princeton-Plainsboro” hospital and to whom people come crossing the rough seas risking their lives (no pun intended) to get treated.  How lucky we would have been to have such a doctor in real life. And a hospital like “Princeton-Plainsboro” where doctors do everything – they serve not only as doctors and surgeons, but they draw blood, they set up IV lines, they give the patients their pills, they feed them, they operate the MRI, CT Scan and other diagnostic machines.  There are hardly any nurses or technicians. In real life hospitals, I have seen the doctors come in to visit their patient only with one objective – how soon they can leave. They spend more time in front of the computer screens looking at the charts and filling up their billing codes than with the patient.  But in Princeton-Plainsboro, Dr. House’s team is like Scotland Yard, deeply engaged in finding the culprit – in this case the cause of the disease.

For those of you who have not seen any of the House episodes, here is a typical structure of an one hour episode.

0 – 5 mins: Symptoms appear in a patient and he/she is brought to Princeton-Plainsboro hospital.

5-30 mins: House and his team starts their detective work. House lists symptoms on a white board and they brain storm. With the patient, they draw blood, setup IV lines, do CT scans, EEG, EKG, lumber puncture, biopsy and others. They keep thowing medications at the patient at random with the hyposthesis that if the patient responds well to a medication, then whatever that drug is supposed to cure must be the cause of the symptoms.

30-35mins: Around this time, House first sees his patient. Also around this time the patient is likely to have a cardiac arrest (revived by defibrillator shocks), may stop breathing and require artificial ventillation, and in some cases dialysis.

35-50mins: More of the above. Some relationship issues between the doctors also needs to be taken care of.  Also somewhere along the line the team members break into the patient’s house to find possible clues for his ailment.

50-55 mins: House suddenly has his stroke of genius, bulb lights up above his head from a piece of conversation or a painting on the wall. He finds the root cause which is always a simple and curable. He stops a surgery or chemo or some other life threatening procedure about to be performed on the patient and delivers his treatment along with some insults and misbehaviours.

55-60 mins: The patient recovers and goes home, while House gulps couple of Vicodin tablets.

I don’t know whether you can call this a formula for a successful TV show, but it still keeps the audience glued to their TV sets every Monday from 8.00pm to 9.00pm. The predictability of the show is possibly the main ingredient of this success – we know how each episode is going to unravel, we just want to find out the details of the relationship sub-stories and watch Hugh Laurie with awe. The show, apparently inspired by Sherlock Holmes detective stories, is indeed a medical whodunit show crafted by intertwining a medical thriller with human relationship stories in the right mix.

Couple of weeks ago, one of the doctor in House’s team, Cutner (acted by Kal Penn) committed suicide for no apparant reason (the real reason being, Kal Penn had to leave the show to join the Obama adminstration). House fans will now wonder how this vacuum gets filled up withing the frame work of the above formula.

One thought on “The House Formula

  1. House is definitely my all-time favorite show. I find that recently the show has been getting really spicy and interesting, because it actually veered from that typical setup to become something more intriguing, more dramatic, without losing its medical flare. Great article!

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