The House M.D. Plot Formula


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I don’t really know how to start off this article, but I suppose I just did, so. . .yea. . .it is at this time that I shall talk about the FOX drama series, HOUSE MD. In case you don’t know what HOUSE is, it’s a show about a big-headed Medicinæ Doctor who’s a scrooge and has no friends but kicks ass in the medical field. He is sometimes wrong, but actually and eventually knows his stuff. He is accompanied by three supporting doctors (or interns or whatever) that give him disapproving looks and oftentimes disagree with him. Doctor Gregory House hobbles around the hospital with a cane (because his leg is all fucked up or something) and sees patients, and basically disses patients before fixing them.

Now, that is a basic rundown of the show’s main character. Now, as to the actual content of each episode? Well, that’s a different story. Actually, it’s a different story of the same exact . HOUSE has been on for a number of years and I have never been a huge fan. Although I am impressed by Hugh Laurie’s (the actor who plays Gregory House) amazing American accent, the show has fallen flat with me in terms of, well, entertaining me. This led to me having a “whatever” relationship with the series, before it became my dreaded “show I always end up watching when I am hanging out with annoying people and wanna leave” show. It is truly amazing how many times I found myself in this situation. I’ll be wanting to do something else with this people (or other people), but no, they gotta watch an episode of HOUSE first (or two, or five, or fifty thousand). It’s like waiting on someone to get ready to go somewhere but they’re going at a snails pace. In this time of boring agony, I have payed someattention to the show, and have noticed something about it.

There is a formula to HOUSE. I cannot recall how many episodes I have seen, but I can say only that I have seen all of them, because if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Now, I am not a television writer, but here I will make an episode of HOUSE, based on the formula I have observed.

Scene 1: Fun activity promptly disrupted by some type body malfunctions

Each episode starts out with a cold open of some fun activity that engages a lot of people. We see lots of people having fun and laughing, and since there are so many people doing random things at these events, no one would ever notice anyone getting sick or falling to the ground, if that were to ever happen. . . .The people are usually at a concert, or a carnival, or some other bustling social thing. They focus on one character, who is seen socializing or dancing the cancan with the rest of the dancers, whatever. And of course now we’re all thinking “Hey, isn’t this a doctor show? Who are these people?” Well, I’m not. So I watch all these scenes of people at birthday parties or at dance practice or whatever the fuck, and then it happens. The “main victim” gets this look on their face like “Oh, fuck, that hurt.” No one notices at first, which then leads our main victim to fall to their knees and perhaps grab their chest or their side and look as if they are in immense pain. In due time, people realize that Bobby has stopped playing the trumpet and fallen to the ground. Of course we’ll zoom in through the victim’s flesh and see some nasty ass bubbles on their organs. People rush to help them and scream “OMG!” So begins every fucking episode of House.

Scene 2: Call the doctor, let him make a lame joke

After the stupid title scene of medical drawings and some piano music, we get the first scene, where House’s assistants come to him and tell him what has happened to the victim, where in turn House makes a joke about it. Once his little “funny” is ended, we actually cut to the hospital where House and his assistant engage in medicalbabble I, and you, and no one else, has ever heard of. The only thing that bugs me the most about these scenes is that I know whatever conclusion they reach now is incorrect .This show is forty-four minutes long. If they come up with a solution in the first five minutes, then I’m pretty sure it’s wrong. And I don’t really feel like giving a damn if I now the doctors will just be proven wrong in ten minutes, so what’s the point?

Scene 3: The totally absolutely unrelated patient with some weirdo disease

Now we get to the part where House sees another patient who is totally unrelated (ahem) to the other patient and the overall story. They have some weird sickness that, in the overall story, doesn’t really matter, but House still has some side conversations with them. Yea, that’s about as much as these scenes give us, besides the “funny” parts where House is an insensitive prick to sick people. Don’t forget these scenes, because they always come into play later.

Scene 4: Insert dramatic scenes of the doctors and their buddies’ lives here

Now, these scenes are full of the actual arching story of the main characters of the show. People try to convince House to stop being a jerk, the Australian dude does something, etc, etc. Since I don’t follow the show (and don’t really a give a shit one way or another), I cannot really give any concrete examples of a season-long story arc.

These are the main ingredients to an episode of House, M.D. Now, for the rest of the article, I shall present it as a recipe, because let’s face it, I’m tired of writing about this damn show.

The House M.D. Recipe

1. Fun activity promptly disrupted by some type of body malfunction
2. Call the doctor, let him make a lame joke
3. The totally absolutely unrelated patient with some weirdo disease
4. Insert dramatic scenes of the doctors and their buddies’ lives here
5. House makes a decision on what the disease is, everyone doubts him, he makes them do the tests anyway
6. House was wrong, he’s like “Oh shit.”
7. Sprinkle in some story-arc drama
8.House is STUMPED and the victim is knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door. What are they ever to do? (Drag this section out for as long as needed)
9. House checks up on Totally Unrelated Hospital Patient and they mention something about something random. Let’s say this time, the patient mentions that s/he is from Romania. Then. . .A LIGHT BULB GOES OFF IN HOUSE’S HEAD OMG!
10. House returns to the main victim of the episode and asks if he’s ever been to Romania, because there’s some fuckin’ lizard or some shit that bites you and causes the sickness. The patient, of course, says “Yea, about a year ago.”
11. Bickety bam, House figured it out. (Thank god for the totally unrelated patient!)
12. Everyone’s elated that House figured it out, but House could care less, and delivers one last dickhole comment before we are sent home “laughing.”

Next Episode Instructions: Repeat steps 1 through 12
Season Instructions: Repeat steps 1 through 12. . . 24 times

Now, it’s not safe to say that all HOUSE episodes are like this, because every drama show has to have those ones where someone dies (cue “Hallelujah” and slow motion video clips now) or some crazy guy takes the hospital hostage. Aside from these two episodes, every single episode of House is the same damn thing over and over. Now, I know you’re probably saying “But Rammfan518, there are many movies that use Joseph Campbell’s Hero Quest plot formula.” While this is true, we cannot say that. . .in fact, let’s not get into a discussion about narratology because I’ll bore you and I’ll stay up all night typing it.

Let’s just conclude that the show HOUSE is itself suffering from the disease of “Same exact plot points used in every episode.” People are indeed like children, wanting to hear the same stories repeated, but I personally would like some difference from episode to episode. If not, then they just mesh together and get soggy like overcooked noodles, and overcooked noodles suck.

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Rammfan is a dude with an Irish name who likes to create things (visit his super-slick website here). He has been called a film writer and a musician. He has created four full-length albums of the industrial and folk metal genres in his room. His articles have appeared on Examiner.com, WhatCulture, and Durham Today. This is a nerdy blog he pwns from time to time. He rants a lot about movies, books, and Star Wars.

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5 thoughts on “The House M.D. Plot Formula

  1. You’ve made it quite clear that you don’t like the show and “don’t give a crap about it” (why bother writing about it, I wonder…). Every T.V. show has its own… per sei “formula”, a structure. But in House, m.d., wether it repeats itself or not is not important. Next time you watch it, if you ever do, you should pay attention to some things and, perhaps, the show will eventually… grow on you:

    * There’s always a main theme in each episode but it’s not as obviously treated as it is on other t.v. series. The “totally absolutely unrelated patient with some weirdo disease”, is not unrelated at all. It is unrelated to the main case but not to the theme of the episode.

    * The way they treat some themes is, really, unique and, I don’t know how to put this, but it’s remarkably done. The best are: religion, medical ethics, human relationships.

    * The main character, Dr. Gregory House, is not only wonderfully portrayed by Hugh Laurie but it’s also perfectly developed. Not only because of the fact that he’s an antihero, but also because of his personality, it’s so well done. All the character developtment in general is great.

    * The dialogues are incredible. Those “funny moments” as you call them, could easily not be funny at all. It’s the sarcasm, the vocabulary, the logic in his arguments (and I mean logic as a science), the twisted contents… And I’ve learnt that once you’ve watched it enough, you start kind of understanding their medical blabbing.

    * The paralelism with Sherlock Holmes.

    Finally, just so you know, there are episodes that break the structure. And House is sometimes wrong in the end. I’d say he knows it all but is wrong enough times to keep you guessing. And you have to be very concentrated to watch it because you can miss some stuff, some jokes for example. I’m sorry, I’m a fan. I could easily be a groupie… Anyway, it’s fine if you don’t ever watch it again or if you do and you still hate it, that wasn’t my intention, I just wanted to make my point :)

  2. […] at him. Loki gives him a whiny earful before Odin starts having a heart attack like he’s in the first scene of a House M.D. episode. Odin collapses on the stairs, and I’m sitting here thinking “did Loki’s words, […]

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