House and the Arrival of the Asshole

Pop Culture

House and the Arrival of the Asshole

Illustration: Akshita Monga


hen Hugh Laurie debuted as the curmudgeonly doctor in House MD in 2004, nobody imagined that a character as socially awkward, cranky, and downright misanthropic would go on to create TV history. House not only became one of the highest-paid roles on television, but also spawned a whole genre of programming based around deeply flawed central characters who wore their arrogance on their sleeve. But there was a catch. Their asshole behaviour would be excused by genius.

Laurie, whose birthday it is today, started a minor movement. Now, more than a decade later, the Asshole is everywhere. Every second new series proposes a character that we despise and can’t help but like – whether it’s the sharp-tongued Will McAvoy in The Newsroom, the weird Dr Cal Lightman in Lie To Me, the seemingly emotionless Detective Hardy in Broadchurch, or even good ol’ sociopath Sherlock.