Ornery Dr. House might not care about external validation, but his show and creator are garnering a lot of it this month.
On the day House entered summer reruns, executive producer David Shore was announced as a finalist for a Humanitas Prize for the Emmy-winning "Three Stories" episode. The prize honours television and movie writing that "honestly explores the complexities of the human experience and sheds light on the positive values of life."
This marks the third episode from season one to be nominated, following the pilot and "Damned If You Do" last year. In "Three Stories," House reluctantly gives a lecture to med students, describing three cases of leg pain to illustrate a lesson not just in diagnostics, but in the frightening power and consequence of choice - entwining the stories in a surreal, comedic way. Not until midway through the episode do we realize that one of the patients is House himself.
"Three Stories" is joined by ER's "Darfur" episode and "Ripped" from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in the 60-minute dramatic category (see all nominees at the Humanitas website). Winners will be announced June 28.
On Monday, the previously announced Peabody Awards were handed out at a ceremony in New York City hosted by comedian Jon Stewart. House was one of the recipients, cited as "the most distinctive new doctor drama in a decade." (The webcast of the ceremony may eventually be archived at the Peabody site – the original announcement from April is currently posted.)
Piling on the accolades, Shore will be acknowledged next week with the Banff World Television Festival's Award of Excellence. Though he's gained prominence with the creation of FOX's highly rated, critically acclaimed show, Shore already had an award-winning career in both Canadian and American television, including Due South, Traders, The Practice, and Law & Order.
It remains to be seen if House's streak will linger until July 6, when the Emmy nominations are announced. Nods in acting and writing fields are possible-to-almost-definite: Omar Epps possibly, "Autopsy" likely, Hugh Laurie definitely (with the caveat that nothing is ever actually definite with those unpredictable Emmy voters).
However, the show rarely makes prognosticators' cuts for the top five dramas. With a surplus of exceptional, innovative dramas on the air – of which House is, of course, one – it may suffer from a stigma against procedural shows – of which House is not, exactly, one. However its flaws may count against it more than, say, Lost's or Grey's Anatomy's, because of the procedural elements.
The charge is that it's formulaic, and while that's not completely untrue, I deny it some weeks, and dismiss it others. Because even when it's not breaking free of its template, what it does within that template reaches higher and takes more creative risks than can be shrugged off with accusations of simplicity. Complex characterizations and thoughtful presentation of issues combine with quality writing, where episodes are structured so that many of the character and plot reveals are both unexpected yet completely congruous.
House is also funnier than most comedies on the air – which I realize is a backhanded compliment these days, but I've given the show enough, um, forehanded compliments to get away with it. In a rather Housian dig at Desperate Housewives' Emmy success last year, Shore had joked that perhaps his show should have entered in the comedy category. That's not likely to ensure success either, but whatever the Emmy outcome next month, House is having a pretty good June.
News to get House fans through the summer: FOX is rerunning season two throughout the summer with two back-to-back episodes Tuesday evenings beginning at 8 p.m. The season two DVD is scheduled for release on August 22. The webcast of the cast and producers speaking at an Academy of Television Art & Sciences event is now online at the Emmys site.