House is the new Law & Order

D and I have recently become addicted to House, the Fox show about the grumpy gimpy doc who solves medical mysteries. I was first intrigued by the frequent references to it on TV writer Jane Espenson’s blog, and when she kept pointing out the title character’s similarities to Sherlock Holmes— well, that was an easy sell.

Structurally, the show is very similar to Law & Order Classic: a cold open featuring the victim succumbing to his or her ailment, followed by four acts of misdiagnoses and treatments– which slowly reveal more about the nature of the illness– and often a B-plot featuring supporting characters, before the resolution in the fifth act.

Formulaic, yes, but that’s part of what makes it so satisfying. I love watching intelligent, competent people solve difficult problems. And unlike L&O, the personalities and personal histories of the individual characters actually figure into the stories. You might think this means I also like the L&O spinoffs, especially Criminal Intent, but you’d be wrong. TV shows must strike a delicate balance between plot, character, and tone, and many contemporary cop dramas just don’t do it for me. (BBC’s Life on Mars is a different story. Literally.)

House is on a brief hiatus right now, but we’re burning our way through the first season on DVD. Love that Netflix!


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