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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

House 1x01

A great premise has a great pilot... everybody lies.  Except House.

Well, mostly.

What we have here is a 66 page "Network Draft" written by David Shore and dated January 12, 2004 (download here).  Interestingly enough, the script is titled "HOUSE - UNTITLED DAVID SHORE PROJECT".  I guess they decided to just stick to the basics, go with what works.  As this is a Network show, there's all sorts of things here that we haven't seen in a while -- notably, Teasers and full on Act Breaks. 

And if there's one thing I love about Act Breaks, it's the Act-Outs that come with them.

Aka: This show's calling card.

Looking back to when this show first came about, before the formula was fully figured out and perfected -- the whole 'House is presented with mystery, he guesses, makes things worse, has an off-the-cuff epiphany and saves the day in the nick of time' thing -- I remember thinking to myself just how riveting this show was (and still can be).

Frankly, it's no less riveting here in script format. 

Of course it doesn't hurt that Mr. Shore included a fantastically creepy mystery with a gruesome final reveal (she's got a worm in her brain!?!).  Yeah, folks, that's how you get the CSI folks latched on nice and tight.

One thing I found interesting was that there was a surprising amount of dialogue that was pretty on the nose.  I'm not sure how far back this draft is from what ultimately made it to air, but there are a few weird moments. Ie. doctors and patients boldly calling each other out on their character flaws while working in some weirdly-timed exposition.

 
I get that you need to get that information out there, we need to know what kinds of doctors they are (though in House's case it never seems to matter...), but I don't know.  Maybe it is just better to get it done and out there and over with -- this info comes at us in the first few minutes of the actual show.

Mr. Shore also does an excellent job of setting House up as a medical mastermind -- talking about how he diagnosed a man's supposed heart attack as actually a cat allergy... over the phone; having pretty much every single character in this thing bow down to him in some way.  Even Cuddy, his worthy 'adversary' respects the hell out of him (if only he'd do the parts of his job that he doesn't like as well).

That latter note ends up segueing into a brilliant set of vignettes where House has to pull 'clinic duty' and deal with 'regular people'.  To him it's the equivalent of being put on a chain gang, but for us, to see how quickly and easily he carves through these cases -- showing, truly, how little worth his time they are, it helps us appreciate the man and his mind even more.

So that when he ends up completely stumped in the A plot, well, we know it's pretty damned bad.

It's great stuff.

That said, my favourite scene in the whole episode was actually in the teaser -- mixing in that perfect blend of dark humour that House really made it's own.

 
The B characters (Cameron, Chase, Foreman) are all well-rendered and each of them have an opportunity to go through House's meatgrinder -- which not only gives us a bit of sympathy for them, but also helps us to appreciate them as well; for as brilliant as House is, these are the people that he believes are good enough to assist him.  

Hand-picked.

Of course I couldn't write about House without getting in a bit about Wats--Wilson.  House's only friend spends a good moment honestly stumped when asked if House actually cares about him.  It's a simple, quiet moment but it says so much about him -- his loyalty, his compassion, his vulnerability.  And really, for all the creepy gore and special effects, its these kinds of quiet moments that really help to sell the show.

That make me want to see more.

I've been a fan of House since the first ep and it was a great pleasure to get to sit down and read the pilot for this show.

Technically, again, there's not a lot different here except that House really does raise the art of the Act Out to a whole other level.  At every interval the stakes get raised more and more -- hell, when she flatlines on the table halfway through the episode, you're like 'okay, how are they going to top this?'... and then the next thing they do is go and reveal that she has a worm living in her brain.  Okay, maybe not as high stakes as almost dying... but still, a worm.  In your brain.

Holeee shiat.

Read this script.  That's all there is to say about that.

Tomorrow I'm going with an oldie: Due South 1x12 - Hawk and a Handsaw.
I barely remember this show, but I'm looking forward to reading it!

Cheers,
Brandon

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