From an article in today’s Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “Fox’s bitter medicine man a hit”–
Hugh Laurie was quite likely the last person anyone imagined would star in Fox’s hit medical series “House.”
Creator David Shore loved Laurie’s British sketch show “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” but couldn’t imagine that anyone best known for playing utter twits could convincingly play a brilliant, bitterly caustic man of medicine.
Likewise, Bryan Singer, who directed the films “X-Men” and “The Usual Suspects” and would helm the series pilot, distrusted working with actors who might struggle with an American accent. It was left to Laurie to make his own case with an audition case, shot on location in Africa in a hotel bathroom.
“They only sent two pages [of a script], so I had no idea what it was about,” Laurie remembers. Actors frequently make such tapes for pilots, Laurie says, and imagine that “they get tossed into a Dumpster and no one ever watches it. When they called me back, I had to be reminded of what it was.”
Moreover, Laurie assumed he was auditioning for a supporting role: As he notes, usually, “the quirky, bad-tempered guy is the peripheral satellite to the show.”
But “House” had defied all odds–it’s one of the year’s most critically acclaimed new series and, now that “American Idol” provides it with a phenomenal lead-in, has become one of the season’s hits, ranking in the top 15 last week, and the network has ordered four additional episodes for this season.
“Fos likes to compare [Laurie’s] House to Simon [Cowell] on ‘American Idol,'” notes executive producer Katie Jacobs. “He’s very straight with yo, and sometimes you laugh at him and sometimes you want to slap him.”
Laurie stars as Gregory House, an accomplished if amusingly misanthropic doctor who heads up a medical team (film actors Omer Epps and Robert Sean Leonard and newcomers Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer) that tackles cases that have bewildered ordinary health-care professionals. House walks with a limp, uses a cane, and copiously pops painkillers.
Laurie’s character doesn’t like to meet patients because he believes they lie.
Intriguingly, Jacobs and her writing parter, Paul Attanasio, previously produced the medical drama “Gideon’s Crossing,” a critically admired yet ratings-challenged series starring Andre Braugher, about a doctor who was 180 degress removed from House: He was earnestly dedicated to patients in a touchy-feely kind of way. Somehow, cranky House has captured viewer’s imaginations in a way the virtuous Gideon never managed.
“It is kind of interesting–House is certainly a complete reversal of Gideon and all the way back to Marcus Welby, the kindly country doctor holding people’s hands as he gives them chicken soup,” Shore notes.
“Why would that be?” Laurie wonders. “Maybe the audience feels the same sort of freedom I do in playing the character–there’s a sort of exhilaration in seeing someone say the unsayable. Maybe we all wish we could care too little about the consequences of our actions.”
I’m watching House. Now I make my schedule around it.
I will admit, though, to wondering why the frell Hugh Laurie was slumming on American television. Slumming! Everytime I saw the commercials for House during the baseball post-season I hung my head in shame. Shame! I tell you. It was Hugh Fucking Laurie, doing the weekly American television grind. Prince George! Bertie Wooster! The dopey father from the Stuart Little movies! Did the guy owe his bookie?
And then I saw a couple of episodes.
Lisa Edelstein! I loved her from the first moment I saw her on some show a few years ago. Then when Alan Shore played some twisted sexual mind games on her on The Practice last season, I loved her even more.
Robert Sean Leonard! Okay, the guy hasn’t done frack, but it’s Neil! Neil! (Talking Dead Poet’s Society here, people. I’m on a roll, leave me be.) You have no idea how much my self-image in high school and my early college years was based on Neil (from Dead Poet’s) and Lloyd Dobler (from Say Anything). Hey, you grow up in West Virginia, and there’s not a lot to build from.
And Hugh Fucking Laurie! Hugh Fucking Laurie! Okay, it absolutely flabbergasted me that he wasn’t some stiff English bloke on House. He does a tolerable American accent. He’s utterly convincing as a brilliant psycho. He’s like Vincent D’Onofrio on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but much easier to take and far less annoying.
Watch House, people. It’s on FOX, so you don’t have to worry about FOX pulling stupid-ass crossovers with another drama program as is the usual for some other networks (I’m talking about you, NBC). Find the time. Make the time.