The Story Pitch That Got Me Fired From The Writing Staff Of House M.D.

By: Frank Ferri

Sit down. Okay? You need to be sitting down for this.

So, House is being his surly self, belittling staff, annoying Wilson, snipping at Cuddy. You’re with me? Pretty standard stuff so far. Okay, so a patient is rushed in by his parents. House doesn’t even look at the kid. It’s just a kid. House just keeps his head down. He’s doing something more incongruous with the serious situation. He’s whittling wood. Maybe fashioning a boat out of a block of Honduras mahogany. No. A stethoscope. He’s carving a stethoscope. He never whittled on the show before, but that doesn’t mean he can’t, right? Anyway, he’s still at it with his chisel or knife or whatever. Wait. Scalpel! He’s whittling with a scalpel. Genius. He keeps his head down and just says: “Pituitary microadenoma.” Long pause. Close up on House. Then he adds “Releasing way too many hormones.” He just knows where and what the problem is without even looking up. We sorta give House superhuman powers, but we do it subtly.

Anyway, this kid’s pituitary gland is messed up or whatever. Our physician consultants can add detail.

House wants to try a new procedure. No. The procedure doesn’t even exist. There’s not a research study in the country — in the world — testing what House has in mind. He just invents it on the spot.

You guys are dying to hear what it is. Look at your faces. Okay, hold on to your lattes.

House wants to use a high-powered vacuum to suck the patient’s pituitary gland out through the ear. He builds it himself out of stuff lying around the hospital — you know, a little nod to MacGyver, but not so overt.

House makes a bon mot about getting frisky in the janitor’s closet with Cuddy and got the idea when he saw a Hoover canister vac.

Like I said, there’s no precedent for this, so House gets one of his doctors on the case. Maybe the hot chick with Huntington’s. She calls the patient’s health insurance company. And here is where we make television history: A full 38 minutes of the show is dedicated to the staff fighting, pleading and begging the insurance rep, whom we never hear on the other end of the line. The docs take turns on the phone. They’re asking to speak with a manager, but no dice. We have the most talented and respected doctors explaining to someone who possibly has a high school diploma why the insurance company needs to cover this.

It’s excruciating to watch. That’s the point. We juxtapose House’s seemingly unlimited capabilities that we established earlier, with the frustrating experience of dealing with an insurance company. This will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to go through that phone call of hell with a miserable insurance rep who makes the experience as unpleasant as humanly possible.

Finally, House takes the phone, and everyone is looking at him. But he doesn’t speak. You think he’s gonna speak, right? Nope. He just unscrews the bottom part of the receiver, and puts the phone down. It’s one of those older phones with the round ear and mouthpieces that have lots of holes in them. Yeah, you know the ones — usually a creamy light beige color? Anyway, he uses it to finish the vacuum.

Now the intensity is ridiculous. There’s no time. The insurance company is gonna have blood on its hands. Viewers are thinking, “who is gonna pay for this? Is this some to-be-continued crap?”

Cut to the O.R. House delivers another witticism. Maybe, “I’m a doctor not David Oreck. Let’s hope this works.” Then he raises the vacuum to the patient’s ear.

Success! Our physician consultants can invent some remotely realistic way in which a doctor can suck a pituitary gland out of an ear. We pay them plenty. So, surgery’s done and the kid comes to — instantly. The anesthesia wore off at the exact moment the pituitary came out because House administered the anesthesia himself — he anesthetized the kid and he’s not even an anesthesiologist! House did it perfectly of course. So the kid gets out of bed and skips over to the windowsill where House’s unfinished wooden stethoscope is. He turns it over in his hands and looks at House and says: “I want to be a doctor like you.” House rolls his eyes and says something like, “Well, enjoy the several hundred thousand dollars of student loan debt, kid.”

Cut to a month later. House is at his desk, looking pensive. Wilson walks in and says, “I never mentioned it, but I respect what you did with that vacuum procedure. That took guts — and suction, lots of suction. Hopkins, Lahey, Mayo, all the clinics are clamoring to perfect it.” House doesn’t seem happy. He says good night in his rude way, flicks the lights off with his cane and snaps, “Lock up my office when you’re done.”

House leaves. Wilson stays. He turns on the light and looks on House’s desk. We see a bill from the insurance company — they rejected coverage for the vacuum procedure. We also see a check — and wait for it — it’s from House’s personal checking account. Made out to the insurance company. He’s paying for it with his own money. The check is for thousands — no, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You know how we do that a lot? Give glimpses into the soft side he rarely shows?

Episode name? “Cleaning House.” Because of his name and the fact that he uses a vacuum cleaner.

Look at you. You’re all speechless. You love it, don’t you?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *