Today, we look at an award-winning episode of House, M.D., where House teaches a class of medical students and reveals more about himself than expected.
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
When House, M.D. debuted in 2004, a few things stood out. There was the sharp concept behind the series of essentially “What if Sherlock Holmes was a doctor, and instead of solving crimes, he solved tricky diagnoses?” There was the sharp writing by creator David Shore. There was the brilliant performance by Hugh Laurie as the irritable drug addict (but brilliant diagnostician) Dr. Gregory House. There was the charming performance by Robert Sean Leonard as Dr. James Wilson, the Watson to House’s Sherlock. There was a whole CAST of great supporting actors from Lisa Edelstein’s hospital administrator, Dr. Lisa Cuddy to House’s team of Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison). There was an excellent director performance by the series’ executive producer, the since disgraced Bryan Singer. The music was even outstanding (Christopher Hoag was nominated for an Emmy for his score of the series’ pilot).
And yet, even with all of that in mind, and the series already drawing so much acclaim, no one was quite prepared for the penultimate episode of the show’s first season, 2005’s “Three Stories,” an episode written by Shore (and directed by Paris Barclay) that Shore noted was unlike anything he had ever written up until that point, and an episode that he told the Canadian Jewish News was “either the worst thing I had ever written or the best. Honestly I wasn’t sure.”
The concept behind the episode is that Cuddy gets House to cover for a sick medical professor in a lecture on diagnostics. Before that point, though, House is visited by his ex-girlfriend (played by Sela Ward), who wants him to diagnose her current husband. House quickly looks at his chart and says no, telling her that there’s nothing wrong with him. Once in the class, House presents the students with three case studies with three different patients suffering from leg pain, but obviously, things go differently for each patient. As House tells the stories, he is being an unreliable narrator (also, the incidents take place at different points in time), with one of the patients being Carmen Electra at first, because House found it more interesting to imagine treating her (the Electra bit is a funny one, but at the same time, it’s kind of interesting to see how even just 19 years ago, there was that sort of slimy undercurrent to jokes like this one. In this particular instance, I don’t think it went too far, but there was this general sense of female objectification that existed in the humor of 2005 that is less present today. Just like how there’s, say, less Saturday Night Live monologues that are all about how hot the female host is that given episode. Again, I don’t think that this specific episode went too far, but that general style of humor still struck me as, “Wow, this is very much a show from the past, isn’t it?”)
In any even, in a brilliant twist by Shore, we soon learn that one of the three patients is House himself, as we learn the origins of why he walks with a cane, and why he became addicted to pain killers. We also learn why he is no longer with his former girlfriend, as she used her role as his health care proxy to override House’s wishes after House asked to be placed into a medically-induced coma (once in the coma, she became in charge of the decision-making on his medical care), to go for a “middle ground” approach that would avoid amputating his leg rather than his much more dangerous approach that COULD have fully saved his leg in THEORY (but likely would have led to his death). As she notes, House doesn’t like compromises….
The guest actors playing the students are awesome, as House really challenges them as future doctors. The whole thing is so well-written, and it was no surprise that Shore won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for this episode.
Both readers Gene P. and Garth G. suggested this one!
Okay, if I’m going to have 353 more of these, I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!