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'House' Calls on Tuesdays

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We’re pulling for Hugh Laurie, the Droopy Dog-esque star of FOX-TV’s House, during tonight’s Emmy Awards (from the Shrine Auditorium downtown) as best actor in a drama. His role as pain-pill popper Dr. Gregory House is a heartbreaking study of pathos. As the brilliant "leader" of a crack team of physicians who take on the medical cases no one else can solve, Laurie’s character borders on being antisocial; but the hospital he works for can’t get rid of him because, well, he’s that good.

In the words of Nick Lowe, House is cruel to be kind – and though at first we’re supposed to be turned off by his brusque bedside manner, deep down we know he really cares about his patients. Sort of.

Take last Tuesday’s premiere of the show’s second season. House would rather treat an inmate scheduled to die than take the time to confirm the terminal cancer diagnosis of a young woman, much to the chagrin of one of his team members, Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison). He only allows further tests on the cancer patient when Cameron agrees to take over more of his weekly clinic hours. (The thing about House is that he usually doesn't like patients, or people in general: He thinks they all lie.)

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While the episode focuses on the serious ethical dilemma of exactly who deserves medical treatment, the show does have its lighter moments, which isn't surprising since Laurie is a lauded British comedian. In an exchange between House and his pal and former Dead Poet, Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), Wilson finds the good doctor in a patient’s room eating lunch and watching a soap opera. “The man’s in a coma,” says Wilson. “You’re getting crumbs all over him.”

The show’s other supporting cast, including Omar Epps, Lisa Edelstein, Jesse Spencer and newly added Sela Ward, are great foils to House’s eclectic behavior. But the show is all Laurie’s. Instead of robbing viewers of brain cells, this show actually makes us think – setting House apart from most of the pabulum on TV. (Can you say Stacked?)

Tune into House. It airs Tuesday at 9/8c on FOX.