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A small amount of fuss has been generated recently by the announcement of Elementary, an unauthorised American remake of the BBC show Sherlock. This confused me greatly, as there’s already been an extremely successful version of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero, updated for a modern audience. It’s called House.

Powered mostly through the performance of Hugh Laurie1, House follows the exploits of a damaged yet brilliant doctor, whose genius sets him apart from the common man. His ego and arrogance is such that he must constantly seek challenges and solve medical cases, as to avoid doing so means that he would go quite insane and be driven to self-destruction. He is aided in this by an equally brilliant, but empathic companion, a Doctor Wilson. House and Wilson team up every episode to fight obscure illness and disease.

Well, that was the idea, anyway, and in earlier seasons, that’s what we got; the adventures of a damaged, cruel yet brilliant soul, an engaging and interesting puzzle to solve (though rather than a complex crime, it being a medical show, it was a complex illness) and a supporting cast designed to generate conflict, high-light the ethical side of medicine and generally allow us to enjoy Laurie’s full tilt performance of a dangerous yet brilliant lunatic.

Grumpy Doctor Adventures

House began brilliantly, but whereas British shows have a habit of finishing when the creative team have ran out of things to say, American shows are more likely to keep running until public interest wanes and the money runs out2. This is a problem, as they are only so many interesting medical stories that you can make fit into a crime-style story. At its heart, House is a detective story with a biological twist; the criminal may have always been some obscure illness3, but the crime was always interesting.

As the series progressed, however, it became formulaic; it was no longer about the good detective fighting the human condition, but instead, the broken curmudgeon fighting the world. This worked for a while, pretty much on the weight of Laurie’s acting, but what we have now is a better than average medical drama, rather than a brilliant detective show in a white coat.

House is reportedly in it’s last season, and I am personally hoping that the show ends with the grumpy git fighting the elemental force of cancer in a sword duel over a waterfall. I suspect I’ll be disappointed.

1: The talented one from eighties gag-show, Fry and Laurie.
2: That the BBC can do short-run, brilliant shows is one of the many reasons that you shouldn’t whine too much about your license fee. That and the fact that it irks Rupert Murdoch.
3: But never Lupus, which is a devastating illness and alas, is nothing to do with werewolves.

Categories: TV
  1. ruinmikey
    April 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I could argue that both Mr Fry and Mr Laurie have talent and that you have suggested otherwise to be both hip and cool.

  2. April 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Laurie is a far, far better actor. Stephen Fry is very good at being “that bloke off the telly”, which isn’t as impressive.

  3. April 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Fry is, however, a far, far better writer. Except when he’s churning out crap, anyway.

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