We watch... so you don't have to.

House of Laughs

There is one show on television that is guaranteed to give me multiple laugh-out-loud moments -- and not just laugh-out-loud, but laugh-out-loud-long moments.

It is, of couse, Fox's gritty one-hour medical drama House.

This is one of the big reasons why House has risen to the vaunted status of "show you watch on the TiVo the same day it airs" in our home. Yes, the show's plots are formulaic -- try eight different things to save a patient, the first seven fail, the patient's about to die, a moment of revelation, and cure number eight saves the day. But that's not why we watch it.

First off, I enjoy being swept along by the group of doctors who are working a problem -- and indeed, House feels to me much more like a police procedural than a medical show. Its focus on investigation and leaving no stone unturned reminds me more than a little of Homicide.

But even more than that, I enjoy the characters and their interplay. The show's supporting cast is pretty solid, but when they're interacting with one another everything usually grinds to a halt. That's because these characters haven't been engineered to interact with one another as much as they've been created to square off with Hugh Laurie's Gregory House.

And House is just a revelation. The character is written incredibly well, and Laurie plays him note-perfectly. (Just to amp up the difficulty level, of course, Laurie's doing this all while faking an American accent. As viewers of Black Adder know all too well, Laurie's a Brit, through and through. Let me just say that his accent is immaculate. Which is why Zach Braff's joke at the Emmys last year when he co-presented with Laurie, "I didn't know we were doing accents," was so perfect.)

It's odd, this mixture of pleasure and pain. Why do I get big laughs out of a medical drama? The contrast with the show's serious subject matter has something to do with it. And compare with Scrubs, which ties for second in my laugh-out-loud funny listings (with The Office). There's a wacky sitcom that ends up turning over into pain and pathos a whole bunch.

Alan Sepinwall noticed yesterday that he considers Laurie better at comedy, but Scrubs' John C. McGinley more interesting when it comes to a dramatic performance. I think he might be right, but more interesting to me is the fact that both House and Scrubs mix the funny and the serious and end up doing both better than most of the shows on television today.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *