FOX (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
"How is it you always think you're right?" Dr. Gregory House is asked. "I don't," he replies. "I just find it hard to operate on the opposite assumption."
Cherish this moment in the Nov. 16 premiere of House. It's as humble as the good doctor gets.
This series is an ER-CSI blend some-what similar to NBC's Medical Investigation, with a team of physicians racing against time to determine what's causing the mystery illness of the week. But House stands out on the strength of its misanthropic main character, the head of diagnostic medicine at a prestigious hospital. He's an acid-tongued egotist who not only lacks compassion but openly disdains it. British actor Hugh Laurie, sounding completely American and looking as though he hasn't slept in a fortnight, plays House as a man with contempt for everything except results. Armed by creator-writer David Shore with an endless supply of sarcasm, Laurie gives a brilliant, fully committed performance. It takes nerve to say "Humanity is overrated" without a hint of apology.
The show comes close to copping out when House actually listens while a female patient analyzes his arrogance as overcompensation for his crippled leg, which forces him to pop pain pills and walk with a cane. Generally, though, he avoids visiting the sick unless ordered to by hospital administrator Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), with whom he has a running verbal battle. Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), the closest thing House has to a friend, suggests that the great people-hater may be sexually attracted to the boss. Let's hope not—that kind of humanity would fatally weaken the character.