I learned an astonishing thing recently: the most popular TV show on Planet Earth right now is House,
watched by 82 million people last year in 66 countries, edg[ing] out “CSI” and “Desperate Housewives” to get the top spot, according to Eurodata TV Worldwide.
That’s from an article by Vanessa Richmond at AlterNet, wherein she ponders the character’s charms… or lack thereof:
Gregory House is a cantankerous, antisocial misfit riddled with imperfections – physical and otherwise – who is nonetheless successful and loved. Wouldn’t you like to be able to get away with that?
And wouldn’t you like to feel that no matter what ails you, no matter how rare, fatal, mysterious, or terrifying – whether it’s your fault or not – someone will save you? That someone will appear, and with calm, methodical, playful, god-like omnipotence, see inside your body and mind, and heal any ill?
And so, Richmond concludes:
more than anyone right now, the character of Gregory House (played by Hugh Laurie) offers the fantasy of curing, or at least soothing, the various ills du jour that ail us.
Richmond suggest there’s more going on, too, from House as a symbol of rebellion against our culture’s obsession with physical perfection (“He’s appropriately wrinkled for his age, rumpled and seemingly indifferent. Oh yeah, and he walks with a limp.”) to the show succeeding because it offers a fantasy of good health care (“It’s worth pointing out that in this age when not everyone enjoys health care, simply putting a hospital on screen is enough to make audiences salivate.”)
What do you think? What is the appeal of Dr. Gregory House?
I started watching House when it was new, because I’m a huge fan of Hugh Laurie, but I gave it up when it started feeling repetitious — sure, House was a cranky but brilliant old fart, but the show didn’t seem to know what to do with him after that. I’m surprised enough that it’s still on the air, actually, never mind the most watched show around the world.
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