Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pulling the Plug on House

I'm done with House.

House, M.D. was one of my favorite shows for the first 3 seasons.  There has been much written about Hugh Laurie's central performance as the brilliant and sardonic diagnostician, but it is true that when House debuted, there was nothing quite like him on network TV.  He wasn't exactly another anti-hero in the vein of Tony Soprano and Vic Mackey, but he was deeply disturbed nonetheless.  How many TV protagonists can you name who are drug addicts and frequent customers of prostitutes?  And he is a doctor- the venerable profession of such upstanding gentlemen as Marcus Welby and Mark Greene.  Laurie embraced these contradictions and made House eminently watchable...at first.


There is no doubt that House is a formula-driven show.  Every week, a patient gets sick in a cold open, Dr. House and his team guess what the mystery ailment is, supervisor Cuddy yells at House over the potentially dangerous and unethical treatment that he deems necessary, House ignores her and treats the patient his way, the patient gets worse, House has a heart-to-heart with his only friend Wilson that culminates in House figuring out the answer to the medical conundrum based on a single thing that Wilson says about something completely unrelated, and House runs down the hall and saves the day just as the team is about to kill the patient.  All the while, House is popping Vicodin and being a dick to everyone.

Yet, somehow, I didn't mind this predictability.  The writing was sharp and had some cool insights into human nature.  The show had a quietness about it that set it apart from other "cool" shows like 24 and ER that contained a constantly moving camera and quick edits, jumping from one suspenseful situation to another.  As I mentioned before, most episodes of House climax with a conversation.  The supporting cast was able.  I particularly enjoy the underrated Robert Sean Leonard, who always sells the reason why Wilson puts up with House, and Omar Epps, who I believe should have been nominated for an Emmy based on his work in the season 2 two-parter "Euphoria" (the one where Foreman is quarantined alongside a cop with a deadly disease).  There were occasional episodes that strayed from the formula.  Season 1's fantastic "Three Stories" comes to mind, but I liked almost all episodes of House in the beginning.

Inevitably, as with almost every other show I enjoy, things became stale.  The writing went downhill.  The character of Cuddy and the whole idea of her getting together with House (and having a baby) became a huge bore.  In fact, the whole show became a huge bore.  There was nothing new to say.  The new cast that was brought in in season 4 were good actors, but the writers didn't know the best way to use them.  I like Peter Jacobson, but does anyone care about Taub's relationship with his wife?  In the early seasons, the supporting characters were fleshed out on the job.  We didn't follow Foreman home from the hospital and he was still entertaining.  The show stopped giving poor Omar Epps anything to do at all.  He sits in the background of scenes looking like he wishes he quit like Jennifer Morrison.  I honestly can't remember the last time I noticed Foreman in an episode.  Finally, the powers that be decided that House should be a better person.  This is a fine development for the end of a show's final season, but a whole season of House without the House we know and love is too much to bear.  I managed two episodes of the new season before deciding that the show has nothing left to offer.  The TiVo season pass has been canceled.  I stuck it out two seasons too long.  It has become the latest in a long line of once-great shows that doesn't know when to call it quits.

3 comments:

  1. I have been waiting for a visiting character to say "what's with all the pop psychology, you fucks?"

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  2. The dialogue on the show has never been realistic - at least it used to be funny...

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  3. The thing that always annoyed me about this show is Hugh Laurie's delivery. His sarcasm would have worked so much better if it had been deadpan, but he always did it a little too over the top. I mean, he's British for christ's sake...he should know better.

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