A House Is Not a Home

Last year, House did something unusual for a hit TV show entering its fifth season: the creators looked at its weaknesses and did something about them. The medical-mystery scripts were still witty but had become painfully predictable (three wrong diagnoses from Dr. House every week each before he figured out what was going on). So the medical dramas received a skin graft: an ongoing plot about who would be the new members of House’s team, giving the program a weird game-show kick as various cast members got exiled one by one. As a bonus, it relegated the two most boring members of the cast (Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer) to the sidelines in favor of the far more entertaining Olivia Wilde, Peter Jacobson, and (especially) Kal Penn. I had previously given up on the show (only interviewing the charming Wilde got me to check it out again–if Fox could somehow arrange for her to have brunch with everyone in the United States, I’m sure it’d goose the show’s ratings), but I’m now looking forward to the new season (starting September 16).

Two years ago, I interviewed the show’s star, Hugh Laurie, who was equally charming: he called me an hour before our appointment to let me know that dinner with his family was running a little late. He had the thoughtful mien (and British accent) that one would hope for from a Cambridge graduate: we had an interesting exchange about whether self-consciousness was a virtue or a flaw in a television show. (I’ve never watched Blackadder or his work with Stephen Fry, by the way–would you describe them as self-conscious?) Rolling Stone only had room to print about half of our conversation; I think you’ll enjoy the extended version.

posted 10 September 2008 in Archives, Articles and tagged , , , . 5 comments

5 Comments on A House Is Not a Home

  1. Scraps Says:

    You really can’t get much more self-conscious than A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

    I am not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the great sketch comedy shows ever. I don’t know why it has had so little exposure in the US; it’s not all that British. Gavin, I am as certain as it is possible for me to be that you would find it hilarious. I do admit that it plays to one of my soft spots — they constantly deconstruct stock phrases — but that’s just ornament; almost everything they do is funny. The complete four-season set is available in the US on DVD.

  2. Scraps Says:

    Here are a couple good examples of the hyperverbal strain of their comedy:



    The second one is, I am guessing, a deliberate exercise in writing a sketch in the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore park-bench conversation style.

  3. James Says:

    Are you kidding? Olivia Wilde can’t even act and Thirteen is the most boring, bland and robotic character ever written for a tv show, she’s the reason why I no longer watch the show. I couldn’t stand her character being pushed down our throats every episode. The original cast had great chemistry together, I miss Cameron and Chase, the show lost its appeal when they got rid of the ducklings.

  4. Rob Says:

    Scraps is dead on about Fry and Laurie. (And those clips are killer.)

    You’d certainly like Blackadder. The first series is poor, but the next 3 are increasingly great, especially the World War I series. “The Teutonic reputation for brutality is well founded. Their operas last 3 or 4 days, and they have no word for ‘fluffy.'”

  5. Gavin Says:

    That is v. good stuff, thank you. So should I start with Blackadder or A Bit of Fry and Laurie?

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