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Barbara Barnett gives the scoop on House, M.D. in new book

By Dorothy Thompson
Posted Mar 3, 2011 in
No one knows more about the popular television show, House, M.D., than Barbara Bennett. In fact, not only does she write columns about House, has had behind the scenes talks with the writers, but she has also penned a book recently titled Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House M.D. which is all about the hit show.
Barbara is here with us to give us the scoop on House, what makes it tick and other really interesting facts.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Barbara. Can you tell everyone what your latest book, Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., is all about?
Barbara: Chasing Zebras is an intelligent look at one of television’s most popular shows. Medical students are taught that when they hear hoofbeats, they should think horses, not zebras, but Dr. House’s unique talent of diagnosing unusual illnesses has made House, M.D. one of the most compelling series on television. Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. takes fans deep into the heart of the show’s central character and his world, examining the way this medical genius’ colleagues and patients reflect him and each other; how the music, settings, and even the humor enhance our understanding of the series narrative; what the show says about modern medicine, ethics, and religion; and much more. Complete with a six-season episode-by-episode guide and quotes from my Blogcritics interviews with cast members, producers, and writers
Q: What do you believe is the addiction or fascination with the show?
Barbara: I think most people are fascinated by the main character, Dr. Gregory House. On the surface he's a complete jerk: a horrible person. But diving just beneath his surface there is a very perceptible nobility and a lot of humanity in this damaged character. So I think that's what most people are there to watch: the unfolding and journey of Dr. Gregory House. But also the series relationships and its take on medicine, ethics--even religion are wonderful gifts for people who get into the show more deeply.
Q: Why do you believe there are so many unethical things happening on the show?
Barbara: I think House's point is that being "ethical" or following medical ethical rules isn't the same as "doing the right thing." Doing the right thing means saving the patient's life, sometimes at all costs--even breaking those ethical rules. So things that seem to be unethical usually are, but not doing them leads to people dying.
Q: What are some of the more unusual things about the show included in your book?
Barbara: The connection between the series and its literary grandfather Sherlock Holmes: I interviewed a Holmes expert/House fan to get his take on the obvious and more subtle parallels. I also interviewed a psychologist about House's psychiatric issues (especially when he started hallucinating at the end of season five). The psychologist diagnosed House for us. My chapter on the character of House explores him as a "Byronic" hero from classic Victorian literature. He truly does fit the literary archetype, and that was a fun chapter to write. In the episode guide, I ferret out all the "bromantic" moments between Wilson and House, as well as analyze the title of every episode. Each title ties back into the episode's themes. That was also a lot of fun to write (and I hope to read about)!
Q: Have you had any interaction with the cast and crew?
Barbara: Quite a bit. I write a regular feature for Blogrcitics Online Magazine (I'm the co-executive editor). I've interviewed showrunner Katie Jacobs, executive producer/writers Garret Lerner and Russel Friend (a few times), Writers Doris Egan, Eli Attie, David Foster and others, as well as cast members Lisa Edelstein--Cuddy (twice), Amber Tamblyn--Martha Masters, Jennifer Morrison--Cameron and Jesse Spencer--Chase. I've also interviewed Jeremy Cassells, the production designer on the show.
Q: Do you take notes while watching the show?
Barbara:Occasionally, to get my weekly commentary written quickly, but usually on my first watch, no. I just like to enjoy the show.
Q: Of all the memories you have of past shows, which one was your favorite?
Barbara: There are so many. I loved the final episodes of season four, where we got inside House's head (House's Head/Wilson's Heart). I also thought the final episode of season five and its partner the season six premiere with House struggling against mental illness and addiction incredibly raw and compelling. The season six finale as well, which had House lose a patient with whom he'd formed a tie to be exceptional. There are so many. The cool thing was having the opportunity in all of these episodes was to spend time the next day with the episode writers to get into their heads and learn what they were thinking as they wrote these magnificent episodes.
Q: Thanks for the interview, Barbara. Do you have any final words?
Barbara: Thanks for this opportunity! You can find out more about Chasing Zebras, including excerpts at! You can read my House blog at
Be sure to join Barbara on March 25 at Pump Up Your Book’s March 2011 Authors on Tour Facebook Party where she’ll be giving away an autographed copy of her book, Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D.