I've been rewatching some episodes of House: M.D. during the last few weeks, and it really serves to highlight what's most important in storytelling.
The premise, while good, is hardly earth-shattering; it's a show about a doctor who's a brilliant, idiosyncratic jerk, and the plot pretty much always consists of "House and his team make one wrong diagnosis after another while new symptoms rear their heads, until the correct amount of time has been spent, and THEN they get to diagnose them correctly."
Execution and characters.
While the lines the show is colouring between are almost always the same, the colours they use are so interesting that it doesn't get old.
The patient gets sick, gets sicker, then eventually gets diagnosed - that's a given. But the patients themselves are intriguing and varied, and they always manage to draw out the personalities of the main cast. No matter who the patient is, somebody's buttons are going to be pushed, and the resulting character development is great to watch.
And then there's the execution. By that, I mean the mood, the tone, the lighting, the pacing, the foreshadowing, all the little technical details. This show does them well.
It draws the viewer into what's happening on the screen, enough that if you can forgive it for the fact that you KNOW when the patient is going to be diagnosed, it's a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
Have you ever noticed a show, book or movie like that? One where the plot was repetitive, or the premise overused, but it still managed to be really good?
If so, I'd love it if you'd name some examples in the comments section. Who knows - you might help someone to find a new favourite, or at least a guilty pleasure. :)