How The Good Doctor responds to and moves on from House

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It’s not difficult to read The Good Doctor as something of a spiritual sequel to House; indeed, the programme almost asks you to. Certainly, the two dramas share particular thematic concerns. Both are about brilliant doctors positioned as liminal figures, using medical drama as a lens to advance a character study. Their eponymous stars are, if not isolated, placed at the periphery of society: in House, because of House’s misanthropy, borne of his chronic pain and depression; in The Good Doctor, it’s because Shaun Murphy is neuro-divergent.

Where House had a vein of nihilism running through it, however, The Good Doctor is a fundamentally more hopeful programme. This is inarguably the biggest difference between the two shows, each with almost diametrically opposed central perspectives forming. As stated, House always had a vein of nihilism running through it – a product of the eponymous character’s misanthropy, and his distrust and often disdain of those around him. There’s a certain cynicism to House, a programme generally disposed to reach for the dour note and underscore a sense of world-weary scepticism. The Good Doctor, meanwhile, is decidedly more sentimental in approach, more inclined to find and dwell on a positive note – a programme that finds value in life and in people, rather than just pain.

It took me a little while to get into The Good Doctor, admittedly; at first, it felt more than a little… well, rubbish.

Quickly, though, I began to appreciate it more – not just because it improved (it did) but because I realised just how it was being positioned as a spiritual sequel to one of my favourite programmes, House. This is a series in constant conversation with its predecessor – in terms of characters, themes and plotlines – and The Good Doctor ultimately makes a much more hopeful and inclusive statement than House did.

In the end, I’m quite pleased with how the article turned out – it was something that had been gestating for a while before I eventually came to write it, so it was good to get it down onto the page. (I’d meant to edit together a nice image of House and Shaun together, but I couldn’t get it to look nice, which is a shame.) I suspect I’ll end up returning to the ideas I sketched out above at some point; like I said, I really do love House, and I think one day I might quite like to do a podcast or blog series about the show – and, on the basis of that first season, any critical analysis of House that didn’t go on to mention The Good Doctor would be incomplete.

(I do feel, though, that I should also link to the following accounts of The Good Doctor by some writers with autism, simply because that’s a perspective I lack and it’s one that needs to be acknowledged in any discussion of the show.)

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Is a sequel to The Night Manager a good idea?

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For one thing, one has to consider the integrity of the piece – given the ending of the first series, what reason is there to reunite our three leads again? It’s obvious that this is happening because of the success of the first series, and it’d be churlish to denigrate the follow-up on that basis – but the question as to whether it’s the only reason for a sequel is worth asking nonetheless.

Perhaps I’m just biased – after all, I was one of the few people who didn’t love The Night Manager, or even particularly like it. From the nasty fridging as the show began, to the thin writing and poor characterisation of Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathon Pine, there were quite a few flaws to the show that stood in the way of my enjoyment of it. And, indeed, they continue to stand in the way of my interest in a sequel.

Short answer: Probably not.

Long answer? Well…

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Making a House a Holmes

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Of course, though, House is also a riff on Sherlock Holmes. Consider his impressive deductive powers; where Holmes applies this skill to catching criminals, House applies it to diagnosing diseases. House’s entire process of a differential diagnoses is quite similar to Holmes’ famous method of deduction – once you have ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth.

There’s plenty of little links and references dotted throughout the series, though; our good doctor in House also lives at 221B, after all – the infamous address of the world’s most famous consulting detective. Further, when House is shot at the end of the second series, the shooter is named in the credits as “Moriarty”; the Napoleon of crime who was involved in the almost death of Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls, now immortalised forever as Holmes’ greatest enemy. Even Irene Adler gets a namecheck in the fourth season’s Christmas episode, and in another yuletide special, we see Wilson gift House a “first edition Conan Doyle” book.

My latest post for Yahoo TV, discussing the links between the good detective, and the good Doctor as well.

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House: Is Three Stories the Best Hour of Television Ever?

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Of course, though, House isn’t just a narrator – he’s an unreliable narrator. It’s slowly revealed that these patients weren’t just chosen randomly; one of them is, in fact, House himself. Three Stories isn’t just any other patient of the week – we’re watching the origin story for our eponymous Doctor. This twist is what elevates the episode, making it more than just a very clever episode; after twenty episodes of getting to know House, we’re finally coming to understand the source of his pain. The fact that we’ve spent so long with this character means we’re far more invested with his story than we would be with any other patient of the week; Three Stories has a much greater and more immediate emotional impact than a lot of other House episodes.

An article I wrote on one of my favourite episodes of HouseThree Stories. I’m really pleased with this one. It’s a little too hyperbolic in the title; I know it’s not the best episode of television ever, and I hedge against that in the conclusion of the piece anyway. But it was one of the first pieces I wrote about, I suppose, “proper telly” – and that’s a very loosely defined thing, of course – and it got a nice reaction online, with David Shore sharing it in a friendly way himself. Which meant a lot to me at the time, and indeed still does now.

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How The Night Manager gave us the Best TV Villain of 2016

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The Night Manager gave us one of 2016′s best TV villains so far – Hugh Laurie’s Richard Roper, international arms dealer, and supposedly “the worst man in the world”.

Across the first episode, we don’t actually see much of Roper; primarily, we hear of him by reputation, and reputation alone. The murder of Sophie Alekan is attributed to his machinations, and it tears apart the entire world of our protagonist, Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine; his business associates in Cairo are shown to be thugs and brutes, indulging in their own frequent bouts of violence. We can see the dedication with which Olivia Coleman’s Angela Burr pursues him, throwing all her resources at ensuring his capture, and describing him as “the worst man in the world”.

So when Roper eventually does appear, we expect to hate him. We almost want to hate him. But we can’t, not really. Laurie’s performance is charismatic in the extreme; from his first introduction – “Hello, I’m Dicky Roper” – there’s a sheer, infectious charm about his character. Laurie does a very good job of winning over the audience immediately; primed though we are to hate him, all of that is done away in an instance.

I actually mostly disliked The Night Manager – Tom Hiddleston struck me as uncharacteristically flat, mainly because the only character he was given was a fairly tired fridging/revenge plot – but one thing I loved was Hugh Laurie’s performance as the villain of the piece.

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