Book Excerpt: Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D.
Title: Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D.
Author: Barbara Barnett
Genre: Television Nonfiction
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Ecw Press (September 1, 2010)
Medical students are taught that when they hear hoofbeats, they should think horses, not zebras, but Dr. House’s unique talent of diagnosing unusual illnesses has made House, M.D. one of the most popular and fascinating series on television. In Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., Barbara Barnett, co-executive editor of Blogcritics magazine and widely considered a leading House expert, takes fans deep into the heart of the show’s central character and his world, examining the way this medical Sherlock Holmes’s colleagues and patients reflect him and each other; how the music, settings, and even the humor enhance our understanding of the series’ narrative; what the show says about modern medicine, ethics, and religion; and much more. Complete with an episode-by-episode guide and quotes from her numerous Blogcritics interviews with cast members, producers, and writers, Chasing Zebras is an intelligent look at one of television’s most popular shows.
“It is an axiom of medicine: “when you hear hoofbeats, you think horses, not zebras.” Dr. Gregory House and his elite team of diagnostic fellows chase medicine’s “zebras” — the anomalies, the odd presentations, the diseases so rare that most doctors would not have encountered them in a normal medical practice.
House, M.D. is, itself, a zebra in a herd of horses. It is a rare find of a show blessed with consistently sharp, intelligent writing: densely packed and multifaceted. It features one of the most complex characters ever to have been written for the small screen, Dr. Gregory House, brought to life through Hugh Laurie’s brilliant and nuanced performance.
I grew up on TV. By age nine, I was hooked on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and by 11, I was addicted to Star Trek classic. Nowadays, I have little time for series television. But when I get hooked on a television show, I really get hooked, and so it is with House, M.D.
Whenever the media say that women are attracted to House because he’s a “bad boy,” I tend to cringe first and then shake my head in disagreement. I don’t like “bad boys” — real or fictional. I like my heroes, well . . . heroic. Heroic, but tragically flawed: equal parts Mr. Knightley and Edward Rochester; Mr. Spock and Rick Blaine.
House has a “public persona” and also one he keeps tightly under wraps, reluctant to reveal — to anyone. Publicly, he’s a brilliant diagnostician, intuitive, deductive, and eerily smart. He’s also a risk taker and more than a tad reckless.
In many ways he’s an adolescent boy constantly hatching his next manipulation or elaborate game. He’s crude and rude. House’s closest associates tell us that House cares only about the puzzle. No messiah complex for him; he has a Rubik’s complex instead. But how does this image reconcile with the times we’ve seen him gazing yearningly from behind the glass into patient rooms, watching them with their families? How often do we observe the arrogant and egotistical Gregory House late at night, alone in his office or apartment, desperately searching for answers inside himself long after everyone else has gone home? Like the show that bears his name, House is as complex and rare as the medical cases he takes on: a zebra amongst the horses.
This book is a highly subjective look at a great television series through one fan’s perspective. Another writer might focus on the medicine, the humor, or the mysteries. But I view House, M.D. fundamentally as a detailed character study: House’s journey, his struggles, and the people in his orbit. This is the lens through which I enjoy House — and through which I understand it.
There are chapters here on the writing, the structure, and the elements that make House, M.D. such a fascinating series. There are chapters on each of the characters and some of the show’s oft-visited themes viewed through “closer looks” at key episodes. I’ve also included an extensive six-season episode guide.
Although there are episode guides all over the Internet offering episode recaps and credits (and even in-depth analyses, including my feature at Blogcritics), this guide is slightly different. It’s a road map through the series, showing you the highlights from six seasons: memorable scenes, House’s patented eureka moments, clinic patients, relationship highlights, music, and more — all from a fan’s perspective.”
Visit Barbara Barnett on the web at www.barbarabarnett.com.