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Gregory House, M.D., is a fictional atheist, the protagonist of the American medical drama House. Portrayed by Hugh Laurie, the character is a maverick medical genius, a diagnostician with specializations in infectious diseases and nephrology. He works as the Chief of Diagnostic Medicine at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, and there heads a team of diagnosticians. House's character has been described as a "misanthrope", a "cynic", a "narcissist" and a "curmudgeon".

In the series, the character's unorthodox diagnostic approaches, radical therapeutic motives, and stalwart rationality have resulted in much conflict between him and his colleagues.[1] House is also often portrayed as lacking sympathy for his patients, a practice that allots him the time to solve pathological enigmas. The character is partly inspired by Sherlock Holmes and Perry Cox.[2][3]

A portion of the show's plot centers on House's habitual use of Vicodin to manage pain stemming from an infarction in his quadriceps muscle some years earlier, an injury that forces him to walk with a cane. This addiction is also one of the many parallels to Sherlock Holmes, who was addicted to cocaine.[4]

Throughout the series run, the character has received positive reviews.[5][6] Tom Shales of The Washington Post called House "the most electrifying character to hit television in years."[7] In 2008, Gregory House was voted second sexiest TV doctor ever, behind Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) from ER.[8] For his portrayal of Gregory House, Hugh Laurie has won various awards, including two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Television Drama Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor from a Drama Series.[9] Laurie also earned Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009.[10][11][12][13]

Character history

Gregory House was born on September 2, 1959 (the same day as actor Hugh Laurie, who plays House; however in dialogue of several episodes he is referred as being younger than his actor, with his age given always as 45), to John and Blythe House (R. Lee Ermey and Diane Baker).[14] House is a "military brat"; his father served as a Marine Corps pilot and transferred often to other bases during House's childhood.[15] One place in which his father was stationed was Egypt, where House developed a fascination with archaeology and treasure-hunting, an interest which led him to keep his treasure-hunting tools well into his adulthood.[16] Another station was Japan, where, at age 14, House discovered his vocation after witnessing the respect given to a buraku doctor who solved a case no other doctor could.[17] House loves his mother but hates his father, who he claims has an "insane moral compass", and deliberately attempts to avoid both parents.[15] At one point, House tells a story of his parents leaving him with his grandmother, or "oma" (Dutch for grandmother), whose punishments constituted abuse.[18] However, he later confesses that it was his father who abused him.[18] Due to his father abusing him, House never believed that John House was his biological father; at the age of 12, he deduced that a friend of his family with the same birthmark was his real father.[14] In the season 5 episode "Birthmarks", House discovers that this was true, after he ordered a DNA test that compared and matched his DNA against John's.[14] House initially attended Johns Hopkins University,studying medicine at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. He was up for a scholarship at the Mayo Clinic,[19] however, during his medical education, he was caught cheating by a co-student named Philip Weber, who ultimately got him expelled.[19] Then, he attended the University of Michigan in order to finish his medical study. In Michigan, while working at the bookstore, he met his future boss Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein)[20] with whom he shared a one-night stand.[21] During a medical convention in New Orleans that he attended shortly after graduating medical school, House first saw Wilson among a "sea of boring people" clutching a package. House asserted that it contained divorce papers. While at a bar, Wilson accidentally broke an antique mirror and started a bar fight when a man, allegedly House, repeatedly played "Leave A Tender Moment Alone" by Billy Joel to the frustration of Wilson, who indeed was going through his first divorce at the time.[14] Out of interest, House bailed him out and hired an attorney to clear his name, thus starting their professional and personal relationship.[14] Approximately ten years before the series began, House entered into a relationship with Stacy Warner (Sela Ward), a constitutional lawyer, after she shot him during a "Lawyers vs. Doctors" paintball match.[17] Five years later, during a game of golf, he suffered an infarction in his right leg, which went misdiagnosed for three days due to doctors' concerns that he was exhibiting drug-seeking behavior. (House eventually diagnosed the infarction himself.)[22] An aneurysm in his thigh had clotted, leading to an infarction and causing his quadriceps muscle to become necrotic.[22] House had the dead muscle bypassed in order to restore circulation to the remainder of his leg, risking organ failure and cardiac arrest.[22] He was willing to endure excruciating post-operative pain to retain the use of his leg.[22] However, after he was put into a chemically induced coma to sleep through the worst of the pain, Warner, House's medical proxy, acted against his wishes and authorized a safer surgical middle-ground procedure between amputation and a bypass by removing just the dead muscle.[22] This resulted in the partial loss of use in his leg, and left House with a lesser, but still serious, level of pain for the rest of his life.[22] House could not forgive Stacy for making the decision, and because of this, Warner left him.[22] House now suffers chronic pain in his leg, and uses a cane to aid his walking. He frequently takes Vicodin to relieve his pain.[23] When Warner makes her first appearance in the series, she is married to a high school guidance counselor named Mark Warner.[24] Although she and House grow closer together and reunite briefly during the second season, House tells Warner to go back to her husband, which devastates her.[25]

At the beginning of season three, House temporarily regains his ability to walk and run after receiving ketamine treatment.[26] However, the chronic pain in his leg comes back and House takes painkillers and uses his cane once again.[27] The other doctors speculate that his cane and opiate re-usage are due to his psychological tendencies.[27] During season five, House once again regains his ability to walk without pain after taking methadone, but soon stops after nearly killing a patient due to a medical error. At the start of season six, House stops taking pain medications and finds other ways to deal with his pain. One of these includes cooking, upon which "Thirteen" and Wilson discover that House is a great cook, which can be attributed to House thinking of combining all the ingredients in terms of chemistry.[28]

Personality

"Dr. House is a fascinating and daringly cantankerous enigma, the proverbial bitter pill who also happens to be a highly intuitive medical genius. He despises interacting with patients and prefers dealing with diseases -- with medical mysteries that leave other doctors scratching their heads in befuddlement."
— Tom Shales describing the character.[7]

House's character frequently shows his cunning and biting wit, enjoys picking people apart, and often mocks their weaknesses.[29] House accurately deciphers people's motives and histories from aspects of their personality and appearance.[30] His friend and colleague Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) says that while some doctors have the "Messiah complex"—they need to "save the world", House has the "Rubik's complex"—he needs to "solve the puzzle."[31] House typically waits as long as possible before meeting his patients.[29] When he encounters his patients, House shows an unorthodox bedside manner and uses unconventional treatments.[32] However, he impresses them with rapid and accurate diagnoses after seemingly not paying attention.[27] This skill is demonstrated in a scene where House diagnoses an entire waiting room full of patients in little over one minute on his way out of the hospital clinic.[33] Critics have described the character as "moody", "bitter", antagonistic",[34] "misanthropic",[31] "cynical"[35] "grumpy", "maverick"[36] and a "curmudgeon".[37] The Global Language Monitor chose the word "curmudgeon" as the best way to describe the character.[38]

Laurie describes House as a character who refuses to "obey the usual pieties of modern life" and expects to find a rare diagnosis when he is treating his patient.[39][40] As a protagonist, many aspects of his personality are the antithesis of what might be expected from a doctor.[29] Executive producer Katie Jacobs views House as a static character who is accustomed to living in misery.[41] Jacobs has said that Dr. Wilson, his only friend in the show, and House both avoid mature relationships, which brings the two closer together.[42] Leonard has said that Dr. Wilson is one of the few who voluntarily maintains a relationship with House, because he is free to criticize him.[42]

Although House's crankiness is commonly misattributed to the chronic pain in his leg, both Stacy and Cuddy have said that he was the same before the infarction.[24][25] To handle the chronic pain in his leg, House takes Vicodin every day, and as a result has developed an addiction to the drug.[43] He refuses to admit that he has an addiction ("I do not have a pain management problem, I have a pain problem"). However, after winning a bet from Cuddy by not taking the drug for a week, he concedes that he has an addiction, but says that it is not a problem because it does not interfere with his work or life.[44] While both Cuddy and Wilson have encouraged House to go to rehab several times, no attempts have successfully gotten House off the drug. In the 2009 season House goes through detox and his addiction goes into remission, so to say. [45] However, it does seem that House may have gotten over his addiction in the season 6 premiere.[46] House creator David Shore told the Seattle Times in 2006 that Vicodin is "becoming less and less useful a tool for dealing with his pain, and it's something [the writers] are going to continue to deal with, continue to explore".[47] House openly talks about, and makes references to, pornography.[48] In "Lines in the Sand", he returns the flirtations of a female underage patient.[49] He regularly engages the services of prostitutes,[19][50] of which his female diagnostic team member Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), who has a crush on him, is aware.[51]

A polyglot, House speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Japanese and Mandarin. He is an atheist, openly and relentlessly mocking colleagues and patients who express any belief in religion.[31][52] He does not believe in an afterlife because he finds it is better to believe that life "isn't just a test".[22] However, in the season four episode "97 Seconds," he expresses sufficient interest in the possibility of an afterlife to nearly electrocute himself in an effort to find out; however, he is dissatisfied with the results.[53] This is also an example of House's tendency to self-experiment and submit to risky medical procedures in the name of truth. Over the course of the series, he disproves the effectiveness of a migraine cure by self-inducing a migraine and controlling the effects through drugs, undergoes a blood transfusion to assist with a diagnosis, and overdoses on physostigmine to improve his memory after sustaining head injuries, subsequently causing his heart to stop beating, then undergoes deep brain stimulation soon after.[19][54][55][56]

"[House] enjoys pursuing the truth, and he knows we all see the world through our own lenses. He's constantly trying to strip himself of those biases, to get a clean, objective view of things."
— Shore to Variety.[57]

House frequently says "Everybody lies", but jokingly remarked that he was lying when he said that in the first season finale.[39] House criticizes social etiquette for lack of rational purpose and usefulness.[49] Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps) states in the first episode of the first season "House doesn't believe in pretense ... so he just says what he thinks".[58] In the season three episode "Lines in the Sand", he explains how he envies an autistic patient because society allows the patient to forgo the niceties that he must suffer through.[49] In the same episode, Dr. Wilson suggests that House might have Asperger syndrome, which is characterized by a number of traits found in House, such as difficulty accepting the purpose of social rules, lack of concern for his physical appearance, and resistance to change; though he later reveals to House that he does not truly believe this, and that claiming this was a part of a ploy to soften Cuddy's opinion of House.[49] House is a strong nonconformist and has little regard for how others perceive him.[40] Throughout the series, he displays sardonic contempt for authority figures.[59] House shows an almost constant disregard for his own appearance, possessing a permanent stubble and dressing informally in jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers.[60] He avoids wearing the standard white lab coat to avoid patients recognizing him as a doctor.[23][59]

House does not have much of a social life, and his only friend is Dr. James Wilson.[31][40] Wilson knew House before the infarction and looked after him when House's relationship with Stacy ended.[25] Dr. Wilson's moving into House's apartment after his failed marriage in "Sex Kills" symbolizes his taking emotional refuge in his friend.[61] Although they frequently analyze and criticize each other's motives, Wilson has risked his career to protect House, including having his job terminated in the first season as an effort of Edward Vogler to dismiss House, and having his practice damaged by Detective Michael Tritter in an investigation of House's narcotics consumption.[48][62] House has quietly admitted, at several instances, that he is grateful for Wilson's presence, including referring to Wilson as his best friend. When Wilson resigns and moves away from both New Jersey and House's friendship in the season 5 premiere, House is desperate to have his friend back, and hires a private investigator (Michael Weston) to spy on him.[63] The two ultimately reconcile at House's father's funeral.[14]

Despite his sardonic personality, Edelstein has said that House is a character who is reliant on people surrounding him.[39] Edelstein says this characteristic is portrayed on several occasions in the third season, during which House's medical career is in jeopardy due to investigations by Det. Michael Tritter (David Morse), who arrests him for possessing narcotics.[64] House's legal trouble ends when Edelstein's character, Lisa Cuddy, commits perjury during his hearing.[45] In Season 5, a relationship with Cuddy begins to blossom, as they are unable to deny feelings between each other.[65] They share a kiss in episode six "Joy" which sparked an ongoing romantic tension between them.[65] In the season finale "Both Sides Now" it is confirmed that House wishes to pursue a romantic relationship with Cuddy.[66]

Development

Conception

"The title diagnostician of the show would be as smart a physician as Dr. Kildare and as sharp a sleuth as Gil Grissom of CSI, it was important to us that he be damaged, both emotionally and physically."
— Shore on House's creation.[67]

While the show was originally set to be a medical procedural, the idea changed when the writers started to explore the possibilities of a curmudgeonly title character.[57] Shore traced the concept for the title character to his background as a patient at a teaching hospital.[68] Shore recalled that "I knew, as soon as I left the room, they would be mocking me relentlessly [for my cluelessness...] and I thought that it would be interesting to see a character who actually did that before they left the room."[69] Shore also based the character partly on himself: in a 2006 interview with Macleans he explained that, while he does not have "cynical and cold attitude lurking within" him, he almost agrees with House's point of view.[67] A central part of the show's premise was that the main character would be disabled in some way.[70] The initial idea was for House to use a wheelchair, inspired by the 1960s police drama Ironside, but Fox turned down this interpretation (for which the crew was later grateful).[57][70] The wheelchair became a scar on House's leg, which later turned into a bad leg necessitating the use of a cane.[70] House usually holds his cane on the same side as his injured leg; Shore explained: "Some people feel more comfortable with the cane in the dominant arm, and that is acceptable."[71] The cane tricks that are seen throughout the series are created by Laurie himself.[42]

Cathy Crandall, costume designer for the show, created a look for the character that made it seem like he did not care about his clothing.[72] She designed House with a wrinkled t-shirt, a blazer that is one size too short, faded and worn-in jeans and heather-gray rag socks.[72] It was Laurie's idea to have the character wear sneakers, because he thought "a man with a cane needs functional shoes"; the Fox studios' wardrobe department keeps 37 pairs of Nike Shox on hand.[72] House has worn t-shirts designed by famous designers such as Barking Irons and Lincoln Mayne,[72] but also by less known designers such as Andrew Buckler[73] and Taavo.[74] The shirts are usually kept tied in a ball overnight to get them to wrinkle.[72]

Casting

When casting for the part started, Shore was afraid that in "the wrong hands", House would "just be hateful".[67] The casting directors, were looking for someone who could, as Shore described "do these horrible things and be somehow likable without just, you know, petting a kitten".[75] When Laurie was asked to audition for the role of House, he was filming Flight of the Phoenix in Namibia.[76] Laurie had no big expectations for the show, thinking that it would only "run for a few weeks".[60][77] He planned to audition for the roles of both James Wilson and Gregory House.[75] However, when he read that Wilson was a character with a "handsome open face", he decided to audition solely for the role of House.[75] Laurie chose not to change his clothing, but to remain in the costume he wore for the film, he also decided not to shave his beard.[60] He put together an audition tape of his own in a Namibian hotel bathroom, the only place with enough light,[78] while his Flight of the Phoenix co-stars Jacob Vargas and Scott Michael Campbell held the camera.[60] He improvised by using an umbrella for a cane.[79] Laurie initially believed that James Wilson would be the protagonist of the show after reading the brief description of the character and did not find out that House was the main character until he read the full script of the pilot episode.[80][81]

After he had watched casting tapes for the pilot episode, Bryan Singer grew frustrated and refused to consider any more British actors because of their flawed American accents.[40] Although Singer compared Laurie's audition tape to an "Osama bin Laden video",[82] he was impressed with Laurie's acting and, not knowing who he was, Singer was fooled by his American accent.[78] He commented on how well the "American actor" was able to grasp the character, not realizing Laurie is British.[69] Although Laurie's appearance was very different from the way Shore pictured House, when he watched the audition tape, he was equally impressed as Singer.[67] More famous actors such as Denis Leary, Rob Morrow and Patrick Dempsey were also considered, but Singer, Shore, and executive producers Paul Attanasio and Katie Jacobs all thought Laurie was the best option and decided to cast him for the part.[83] Laurie was the final actor to join the cast of House.[84] After he was chosen for the part, Laurie, whose father Ran Laurie was a doctor himself, said he felt guilty for "being paid more to become a fake version of my own father."[78] Adopting an American accent for his role has been difficult for Laurie, who said words such as "coronary artery" are particularly tricky to pronounce.[50] During read-throughs of the script, as well as between takes, Laurie maintains the American accent.

Parallels to Sherlock Holmes

Similarities between House and the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes appear throughout the series;[85] Shore explained that he was always a Sherlock Holmes fan, and found the character's traits of indifference to his clients unique.[69] The resemblance is evident in various elements of the series' plot, such as House's reliance on psychology to solve a case, his reluctance to accept cases he does not find interesting and House's home address (apartment 221B, while Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street).[39] Other similarities between the two characters are drug use (House is addicted to vicodin and Holmes recreationally takes cocaine), playing an instrument (Holmes plays the violin and House plays the guitar, piano and harmonica) and a talent for accurately deducing people's motives and histories from aspects of their personality and appearance.[86]

Shore has also explained that the name "House" is a play on the name Holmes (i.e., homes).[87] Both Holmes and House each have one true friend, Dr. Watson is Holmes' and Dr. Wilson is House's.[3] Leonard has said that House and his character were originally intended to play the roles of Holmes and Watson in the series although he believes that House's team has assumed the Watson role.[88] Shore has also said that Dr. House draws inspiration from Dr. Marc Chamberlain, a professor of neurology at the University of Washington, Seattle, and Dr. Joseph Bell (who was also a source for the creation of Holmes), who could "walk into a waiting room and diagnose people without speaking to them".[3] In the season two finale "No Reason", House is shot by a man named Jack Moriarty, a name that coincides with Sherlock Holmes' adversary, Professor James Moriarty;[86][89] likewise, in the fifth season, Wilson uses Irene Adler as the name for an imaginary love interest of House,[90] the same name as the only female adversary Holmes ever encountered.[86]

References

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