Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

A Not So Subtle Pattern

TPB1988's picture

I have been watching House for many years but once I sat down to view the show for the class rather than pleasure I noticed a pattern in the episodes that is also seen in the series. Roughly every show begins with the patient performing a mundane everyday task and then suddenly some sort of seizure or abnormal activity occurs that leads the rest of the show to take place in the hospital. At first no one knows what is wrong with the patient and after a series of hypothesis that are proven incorrect, House will have a holy moment in which he will suddenly pause mid-sentence because he has figured out the proper diagnosis. The End. In between these steps there is personal drama between the doctors about their private lives, such as Wilson having accidentally participated in an adult film, that adds appeal and excitement to the show. It is as if there is a recipe to making a House episode. If so, why do I keep watching the show if I already know the ingredients?

I think I keep watching because it provides familiarity and comfort (and secretly, similar to Teal, I am waiting for House to possibly redeem himself). I know when I turn on the show I will enjoy what I am watching because the new episode will most likely resemble the last, although I will admit that not every episode is exactly the same. Occasionally episodes even stray from the step-by-step formula and surprise a viewer but, that is not usually the case. The only conclusion I can reach is that the House series is similar to a genre. When one selects a certain genre to read they most likely know they will enjoy the novel before they even open it because genres are reliable, and to a certain extent you know what to expect. With mysteries one can expect a murder, with romance one can expect passion, and with fantasy one can expect to meet fictional creatures or beings. The same elements are kept intact.

With House I can guess what will happen and the best parts are when I can't and I am caught by surprise. It is a win/win situation for me. With literary genres I have the same experiences. When I first read The Princess Bride I expected romance and true love, what I did not expect was that Buttercup would be brainless. It was a new twist to a familiar genre and I loved it. Characters also account for many of the ratings that House receives. House is for the the series what Robert Langdon is for Dan Brown. Handsome Harvard professors who love to swim and also solve crimes involving art on their spare time...not exactly seen in every mystery. Crabby doctors with witty comments and a cane...not your typical diagnostician. I never really thought of House as being in a genre of it's own but I suddenly realize it is a genre, at least in my opinion, and one I will most likely continue to watch because it is reliable and I love the thought that when I start an episode I might be pleasantly caught offhand.


sgb90's picture

The formula that is a TV series

I completely agree with your characterization of the “not so subtle pattern” that is intrinsic to popular television. It seems that the most successful and enduring series (Law and Order, CSI, etc.) are the ones that abide by an addictive formula, that while identifiable, does not become so absolute as to bore the viewer. The challenge with the genre that is a television series is that, to succeed, it must appeal to a wide audience--it must be made for easy consumption. At the same time, it must have a distinguishing characteristic, an unusual premise or a compelling or outlandish character, that differentiates it from the rest of the formulas vying for a place in popular culture. Our culture is bound by the comfort of such formulas, which somehow have to integrate the social interests of any given time and place to achieve wide appeal.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
4 + 16 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.