House, M.D./Season One
Season One of House, M.D. premiered on November 16, 2004. It is primarily the brainchild of creator David Shore, although executive producers Bryan Singer and Paul Attanasio are also heavily involved. Attanasio had previously attempted a similar medical drama with a similar hero, then starring Andre Braugher, in Gideon's Crossing. Originally a series produced under the NBC Universal umbrella, it was picked up by FOX as part of its drama line-up. The pilot has the look and feel of an NBC series with its washed-out mood lighting and cinematic staging. When it became clear House was a FOX series, pilot director Singer and writer Shore reteamed for another episode which was, in terms of plotting and story development, almost identical to the pilot, 1x03 - Occam's Razor. For that episode (and the one which aired second, 1x02 - Paternity), Singer and Shore adopted a more FOX-style approach, with the cinéma vérité camera styles (similar to 24 and Prison Break) and the pop song "Teardrop" by Massive Attack for the opening credits theme song.
Perhaps because of the similarity of those two episodes, or perhaps because of NBC's success with such procedurals as Law & Order, early episodes of House, M.D. have been criticized as formulaic, and the charge is not inaccurate. There was a pattern to most episodes of the first half of the season: Patient comes down with strange illness. House doesn't want to take case, but something intrigues him enough to change his mind. House makes a diagnosis and insists he is right, but the patient or the patient's family insists he is wrong. The patient's condition changes, and House makes a new diagnosis. When the condition changes again, House finds a clue as to a lie the patient has told, or some crucial piece of evidence he did not previously have. House speaks with the patient – to the surprise of his staff and Wilson – and convinces the patient to accept treatment for his newest diagnosis. The patient does so and recovers, then thanks House for finding the cure.
It should be noted not every episode in the first half of this season follows that pattern – 1x04 - Maternity, for instance, is a marked departure, although its production number may be a clue as to why it diverges. (It is one of the first episodes written and thus may not have had a completed script for Occam's Razor from which the writers could draw a pattern.) Yet, given the series' original conception as a procedural, that it would be so formulaic should not be surprising. Most procedurals – from such early examples as Dragnet through the more recent Law & Order and CSI – are often that formulaic, because in most cases, the formula is the hero. Law & Order has survived over a decade, through a complete cast change, because the characters are, in large part, secondary to the mystery.
Yet House has something other procedurals do not: Dr. Gregory House himself. Like Columbo before it, the hero of House is compelling and three-dimensional enough to be even more compelling than the mysteries he solves. Conceived by Shore as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, House shares many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic hero's quirks: His brilliance, his cynicism, his drug addiction, his musical skills. The creators of House, however, did what the creators of Columbo did not: They recognized the strength of their hero and shifted their focus away from studying his methods and towards studying him. By the time of 1x09 - DNR or 1x11 - Detox, they had come to realize they could generate as much dramatic tension by putting House at odds with his staff and friends, other doctors or his own baser urges as they could by putting him at odds with a dishonest patient or patient's family.
To play up this angle, in 1x14 - Control, House was at last given an adversary to truly oppose him. In that episode, billionaire Edward Vogler takes over as chairman of the board at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, where House works. Vogler takes an instant disliking to House and vows to crush him. It is a variation on one of the oldest hero stories, "brains vs. brawn," although in this case, Vogler's "brawn" is a substantial financial wealth and a position of authority over House without a respect for his medical abilities, which often hampers House's typical adversary, hospital administrator Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Their clash of wills lasts through 1x18 - Babies & Bathwater and nearly destroys House's relationships with every one of his friends. It has repercussions which are not resolved until the next episode, 1x19 - Kids. After that, House's love life is briefly explored in 1x20 - Love Hurts.
It is with the final two episodes of the season, however, that House finally comes into its own and leaves behind its procedural roots forever. The next episode, 1x21 - Three Stories, is the most acclaimed episode of the series to date. It at last explores House's past and motivations thoroughly, yet it does so in a way which is so surprising and yet so appropriate that it is nothing short of a remarkable and singular achievement in television storytelling. With the season finale, 1x22 - Honeymoon, Stacy Warner, a mysterious woman from House's past, returns to his life in a way which both excites and troubles him and sets up a storyline which would last into Season Two.
As with many successful and influential series, the first season of House, M.D. is the story of a series developing. In these first 22 episodes, House grows from a variation on a genre popular at the time of its debut into a wholly original and unique series. Yet, even in the first episode, the elements which would make House so successful – its particular combination of comedy, melodrama, mystery and nonviolent action – are present, and it is these elements which the series builds upon to create the series it is as it continues into Season Two.
- Ratings: An overview of season one episode Nielsen ratings.
|1||1||Pilot||November 16, 2004|
|2||2||Paternity||November 23, 2004|
|3||3||Occam's Razor||November 30, 2004|
|4||4||Maternity||December 7, 2004|
|5||5||Damned If You Do||December 14, 2004|
|6||6||The Socratic Method||December 21, 2004|
|7||7||Fidelity||December 28, 2004|
|8||8||Poison||January 25, 2005|
|9||9||DNR||February 1, 2005|
|10||10||Histories||February 8, 2005|
|11||11||Detox||February 15, 2005|
|12||12||Sports Medicine||February 22, 2005|
|13||13||Cursed||March 1, 2005|
|14||14||Control||March 15, 2005|
|15||15||Mob Rules||March 22, 2005|
|16||16||Heavy||March 29, 2005|
|17||17||Role Model||April 12, 2005|
|18||18||Babies & Bathwater||April 19, 2005|
|19||19||Kids||May 3, 2005|
|20||20||Love Hurts||May 10, 2005|
|21||21||Three Stories||May 17, 2005|
|22||22||Honeymoon||May 24, 2005|
|House, M.D. Seasons|
|Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3 | Season 4 | Season 5 | Season 6 | Season 7 | Season 8|