When a commonly sick person is driven by ambulance to Princeton Plainsboro, a fictive place which is a mix of Century City Studios and Frist Center Campus of Princeton, there’re very few chances that it’d raise Gregory House’s interest, Head of Diagnostics Department and misanthropic doctor who’s only driven by challenge and puzzles. So true actually that his boss, his scapegoat, albeit faithful friend and occasional lover (after seven seasons), Dr. Cuddy (played by Lisa Edelstein) forces him to deal with people until an interesting case catches his attention and intrigues him enough to make him want to solve it with his team. Firm follower of philosophical and Ethics questioning, the good doctor is also a fine psychologist. House (to Cuddy): “You’re not happy unless things are just right. Which means two things. You’re a good boss. And you’ll never be happy.”thx to maya295_
In short, House is an uncommon guy; which doesn’t prevent the show from being hugely famous worldwide, partly due to the charisma of its main character, British actor Hugh Laurie, one of the currently best paid actors in the TV industry - almost $400,000 per episode.
Not without a reason: in 2009, 82 million viewers all around the world have weekly followed House’s episodes, ranking the series number one of the most watched shows on the planet. Each episode is built as an investigation that House has to solve as fast as he can, a sort of race against the clock, and death, based on one of the biggest fears of our time: the threat of incurable disease. In spite of the almighty power of technology, Life-and-Death mystery still remains unsolved. House is confronted with men and women who believe in the afterlife, a concept he’s fiercely trying to reject scientifically. This thin line haunts our anti-hero, each episode a new challenge against the irrational, sheer lunacy, pain or search for meaning. There undeniably lies one of the keys of success for the show, the TV drama bringing up questions that feed our hyper technological world, obsessed with the need to scientifically dissect the living without ever finding the answers, nor finding the meaning of it. It’s the metaphysics of the TV industry.
In real life, Hugh Laurie seems quite disconcerted by the sex symbol status he’s earned via his role in House. In Los Angeles, he often gives his interviews in Chateau Marmont – which is probably related to his passion for music, one of his multiple talents – and is left dumbfounded when a young aspiring starlet approaches him in the lobby to say how much talented she thinks he is. “I don’t even know who she is!” he confesses a few moments later. Born in Oxford, ex-student in Cambridge, his British accent takes over as soon as he leaves the coat and cane behind.
Here in the USA, there’re not many people who still can remember that Laurie, long before House, was famous in England for his role in the legendary TV series Blackadder with Rowan Atkinson, aka Mister Bean. “I travel back to England as soon as I can because my family lives there, he explains, but I sometimes feel as if I was in a coma of some sort here in L.A. I don’t even know if we’re still driving on the left side or if Queen Elizabeth is still alive.”
He admits that the press often depicts him as a grumpy man who whines about living as an exile in a hostile land (California) “but truth is, I’m grateful every day for my good fortune.” To keep himself busy, as everyone knows, Hugh Laurie writes (his polar, The Gun Seller has become an international best-seller), plays the piano and is a member of the Band From TV a charity cover band, whose musicians are all actors in TV shows.
After seven seasons of House, Hugh Laurie says he’s still very fond of his character: “I know he’s flawed and not always nice, but he and I certainly have a lot in common. Like House I feel connected to people who have problems or are tormented, he conceded to the Sunday Times in February 2010. I always pretend to be suspicious towards people who are happy. I tend to think something isn’t right or about to go wrong there.”
For Lisa Edelstein, his hospital colleague, a large part of House’s success can be explained because the series has found the right balance between drama and comedy: “it’s mostly the writers and Hugh Laurie who are responsible for making the show so unique and original, says Edelstein, even if, viewers are usually mad about medical TV series because, somehow, it deals with our fear of death.”
But House also owes its success to the fact that its main character is totally atypical. He rules over his Department and his friends as a tyrant, as much execrable as he’s touching, as much snappish as he’s fragile, revealing through his weaknesses a damaged, maybe incurable, humanity. If every episode is stuffed with references to the great Sherlock Holmes (House lives in apartment 221B, like his famous predecessor and is addicted to Vicodin, which subtly mirrors cocaine), let’s set the metaphor aside to focus on the fact that, in both cases, the goal is to defeat evil instead.
May he have to face criminal charges for drug abuse, or be confronted to the hospital Board for his lack of respect of the rules, or to the patients’ families which are opposed to his methods, completely misunderstanding his motives, House keeps his head up and resists, punctuating the episodes with famous one-liners (house-isms), such as: “if a guy has a brain/balls problem, that’s probably because he uses one too much and the other not enough.” or “lies are necessary sometimes, like when you need to lie to someone to teach him humility.”
If the viewers are so hooked to the show it’s because, within each episode, its structure restores the world order. In the meantime the genius doctor have played music, walked on the edge on insanity and bullied his Team, just to make sure they can keep up with his knowledge.
Renowned actor, executive producer, director of an episode, but also singer and musician, Laurie, who’s often described by his co-actors as a man with a ‘challenging’ character, seems to be seeking meaning as well. After The Gun Seller, he’s recorded a blues album, during the summer 2010, in New Orleans, collaborating with the legendary Dr. John, among other brilliant musicians. The album should be released in early 2011 (the project already has its facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/hughlauriblues) “I’m aware of the unsurprising tendency of actors who turn into musicians at some point of their careers but I promise nobody will get hurt during the process.” he concludes with a bit of his famous trademark humor…
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