Anyone who watches television more than casually and with a relatively discerning eye can tell you that these genres are played out. Rare is the series that redefines the accepted dramatic procedure. Though "Hill Street Blues" revolutionized cop shows and "ER" -- at least for a few seasons -- resuscitated hospital shows, there have been relatively few good examples since.
NBC's long-retired "Homicide: Life on the Street" was one. And then FX's audacious bad-cop spin, "The Shield." And finally, the king of all cop dramas, HBO's "The Wire."
The hospital drama hasn't been so fortunate. "St. Elsewhere" and "Chicago Hope" were superb. Hugh Laurie almost single-handedly makes Fox's "House" worth watching. His bitterness mixed with genius is a wonderful dramatic concoction, and he's got the chops to make it all compelling, but the series falters badly when he's not on the screen.