'House' Fan Columnist: The Result of Breaking Format
'House' Fan Columnist: The Result of Breaking Format
With a show like House, you know what you're getting. Fox loves to make every week sound like the most dramatic week in a series of mysterious, undiagnosed illnesses. We know how the medical formula works. But what happens when the show breaks medical formula? What is the purpose of doing this, and why do we as viewers come to have high expectations for the show when it does go outside of its comfort zone?  In order to answer this, I wanted to explore each episode that veered from the beaten Housian path. 

"Three Stories" Season 1:

This episode is highly notable for being many of the creators' and producers' favorite episode, as well as viewers.  This was the first episode that broke free from the constraints of the one POTW pattern.  It also served to answer the audience's burning question: what happened to House's leg?  We find out about Stacy, House has to give a lecture to med students, and we learn about Cuddy's role as his doctor all at the same time Cameron, Chase, and Foreman do.  As far as character development for House, look no further than "Three Stories."

"No Reason" Season 2:

House had to piss off a former patient to the point of insanity at some point, right?  Moriarty was the perfect match for House's wits and philosophical quandaries. What we find out from House during his time between being shot and being wheeled to surgery is genius.  Really, the best format breaking episodes and the best episodes in general show us what House is really thinking in the most creative ways. While this episode took me a couple of tries to get into, I can now thoroughly appreciate it on a psychological level. Watch this one at least twice. 

"House's Head/Wlson's Heart" Season 4: 

These two episodes are paired together because they were basically one episode. A bus accident. Cuddy in a stripper outfit. House's subconscious. Chase the hypnotist. Allusions to House's feelings for Amber. And finally, us finding out who really was dying on that bus. Pure genius!  

And then Wilson's heart was broken in one of the best performances by RSL on the series.  I think the most prolific part of the two was perhaps the conversation Amber and House had when he was in a coma.  Finally, we get some honesty and a nice circular reference back to the philosopher Jagger which was noted in the pilot: you can't always get what you want.

"Last Resort" Season 5:

While I thought the actor who played the patient at the end of his rope was great, (Zeljko Ivanek) this episode to me didn't quite do what the other format breaking episodes had done.  Ivanek played a character who was sick and undiagnosable, so he held people hostage to get House to diagnose him. Because the plot to me felt farfetched, I wasn't able to buy into what was happening. However, this episode did make Thirteen want to live and it showed us House's obsessive side can be over the top in a new way that involves other hostages and guns.

"Locked In" Season 5: 

I wouldn't qualify this one as format breaking as much as some of the others, but we did get an interesting patient perspective from Mos Def which I enjoyed.  And we found out House was seeing a therapist, showing he was trying to change.

"Broken" Season 6:

This season's two hour premiere was arguably one of the best episodes of House.  I am partial to the second half where we got to experience House finally resigning to the fact that he really can't fix himself with deflections and drugs. Andre Brauer, who played his therapist, was a welcome addition to the episode as was his roommate and arguably Lydia. I like any character that can make House feel something other than alone and that challenges his stubborn world view. Filming at a real mental institution added to the feel of this episode. The music used was also top-notch.

"Wilson" Season 6:

A day in the life of Wilson. I have to say, on an excitement level, this episode didn't do it for me. What I did enjoy was learning that Wilson, while naive at times, is an amazingly astute doctor and an even better person for House to be around.  It's also revealed in this episode that House's philosophy on people being able to change, has changed since Mayfield. 

"5 to 9" Season 6:

Mirroring the day in the life of Wilson, "5-9" showed us Cuddy's hectic day. Left my head spinning, in fact. I said this in my review, but I wish that more of her was revealed to us, but I realize now this has to do with her own vulnerability issues. She doesn't bare her soul to anyone, so why would we see it? Lucas is clueless (surprise, surprise).  House is the only one who can come close. Unfortunately, that was nearly the last we saw of Huddy scenes.  Now we've got five episodes left, and all I can do is cross my fingers that we get to know a little more about Cuddy.  Either way, "5 to 9" was really enjoyable and Lisa Edelstein is fabulous.

"Lockdown" Season 6:

While I love the idea of characters stuck together, I did wish that the format was used to really show us more depth. All the things I found out, I already knew if I couldn't have already guessed. Loved some of the funny parts, and Laurie's direction was great, but hey, if you're going to break the format, give us something other than the usual standard of solid acting and direction. Give us more!

What do you think of the episodes that break format?  Wish they'd just stick to the solid formula or would you like more episodes like the one above?  Comment below! 

(Image courtesy of Fox)

-Lisa B. Palmer, BuddyTV Fan Columnist