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Television Collision: House’s One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer


In honor of House‘s final episode (which aired last night), we’re revisiting Phoebe Raven’s 2011 column dissecting the series.

Sound off below: what did you think of the series finale?

A lot of sighing occurred before I sat down to write this article. I didn’t want to write it, but I felt it had to be done, no matter how much it upset me or how much effort it took.

It’s been a long, long fall from grace for House M.D. (cue Mad Men opening credits sequence and its falling cut-out man) and I believe the show is still falling.

I’ve been loyal to this show, which I once heralded as maybe the best medical drama ever, my number one show of the year 2008, but I believe I have pretty much had it.
Any TV show that is on long enough, especially if it operates on a somewhat procedural level, is bound to wear and tear a little as it loses its novelty and inevitably presents us with “more of the same”. It’s not easy keeping a juggernaut show interesting, while simultaneously pleasing those viewers who have been on board since the start and are hesitant about change.

 

Yet I maintain that House made a few very good, if at first upsetting, innovations to its own formula. I now remember with fondness the Survivor-style competition for the three spots on House’s team, even if I still think the characters that ultimately made it onto the team were spectacularly bad choices and dull characters (Kutner is somewhat exempt from this, but Thirteen (currently in exile) and especially Taub still bore me to sleep after three seasons).

Similarly, it was the right and only choice to have House go to rehab in an attempt to become clean and to devote time to his subsequent struggle with how to be a good doctor without his drugs. Even his recent relapse this season made sense, because for a lot of addicts, the road to being clean or sober is one lined with failed attempts. And many never make it at all.

So on some level House is doing a lot of things right. And yet the current seventh season of the show is such a bore, I literally have to force myself to watch it. I feel like I am Wilson (who is criminally underrepresented in a lot of the episodes this season): I know House won’t ever really change, I know I am always going to be frustrated and I am even partly to blame, because I enable him/the show (by watching the show), and yet I cannot help myself, I have to confront House and at least try and make him see the error of his ways.

Many shows operate around a central “will they, won’t they” set-up between two characters (Bones, Castle etc.), yet almost as many refrain from putting the central couple together for as long as possible. House didn’t stretch the limits of this beyond any plausibility of the characters and finally put House and Cuddy, i.e. Huddy, together at the end of the last season. And while I thought this was a brilliant move and I was looking forward to seeing this relationship unfold and ultimately crumble (there was never a doubt in my mind it wasn’t going to work), I didn’t expect this storyline to play so unbelievably dull and unexciting.

I used to like the character of Lisa Cuddy. She was witty, she was confident, she was even funny on occasion. Until she got into a relationship with House. From that point on Lisa Cuddy became a boring, yoga practicing, eternally sweat pants wearing drab, who continually passive aggressively let House know that he was doing a horrible job at being a boyfriend no matter how hard he tried. And when he messed up, which naturally he did, because he is – after all – still House, he was berated for it, as if in the years and years of knowing him, Cuddy hadn’t learned a single thing about this man. I refuse to believe that Lisa Cuddy is the type of woman who believes she can change a man and therefore enters into a relationship against her better judgment. The Huddy relationship was too long in the making and we saw both characters debate the pros and cons of it for too long for Cuddy to be ignorant as to what to expect from House in a relationship.

House’s behavior makes a little more sense to me, even up to the point where he chooses being happy with Cuddy over being a good doctor. I feel he honestly gave it his best shot, she just didn’t give him a fair chance. Instead of measuring him against his own potential, she measured him against her own high, idealized expectations. He was bound to fail.

However, the disappointing way the Huddy storyline was handled (again, the ultimate break-up was inevitable in my mind, no matter what) could have been counteracted by providing other interesting storylines, thus salvaging the season. This didn’t happen. Taub remains as depressing and unsympathetic a character as he has always been, with one dim shimmer of hope in the mid-jinks (a category just below hijinks) that ensued when he moved in with Foreman.

The introduction of the “female replacement character” Dr. Masters was also mildly entertaining for a while, because Season 1 was a long time ago, so the moment had come to reiterate all the moral dilemmas Cameron had back then and shatter them all over again. Will the results be ultimately different? Will Masters adapt to House’s often questionable ways or will she save herself in time, maybe even quicker than Cameron ever did? Or will the fact that she hasn’t even ultimately finished med school conveniently provide her with an out at the end of the season (when Thirteen is also scheduled to reappear) and a likewise convenient “back in” once she actually has finished med school (given that Thirteen isn’t too long for this world)?

I feel this season’s episode “Two Stories” perfectly exemplifies my gripe with the show: the episode tried to recapture the glorious Season One episode “Three Stories”, which is still held in high regards by everyone with its intricate, intertwining storylines that ultimately revealed a vital insight into the character of House. Yet “Two Stories” was convoluted, unsurprising and seemed to be promoting sexual relationships between twelve-year-olds. I am not sure how much in favor of that I can be. The big “insight” into House’s character was supposed to be that he is trying his damndest to get Cuddy’s kid into a good school, even if it means he has to apply his usual amount of trickery, deception and mind games. Yeah, somehow that insight lacked punch. We had seen House and Rachel bond before this episode and it was plenty “awkward hence cute”.

Where once upon a time I trusted that the writers of House had a plan for what they did, I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t think they have a clear vision of where they are going, they are just “rolling with it” and see what they end up with and that’s not a very comforting feeling to have as a viewer. (Also, the non-chalant, almost disrespectful way director Greg Yaitanes handles statements about the show on his Twitter account makes me feel unappreciated as a viewer who has emotionally invested in the show.)
I see there are directions the writers are taking the characters (House back on Vicodin, Taub going through a divorce, Chase avoiding commitment after Cameron), but none of the directions seem to lead down a very entertaining or pleasant path. All I see in House’s future is more angst, more depression, more gloom and more murk.

Can House’s left-field move of a green card marriage provide some much needed quirky humor? I am pretty positive about that, which is why I am a fan of this storyline, because the only episode of the season I have genuinely enjoyed was the one post-Huddy-break-up, where House lives it up in a hotel (bow and arrow action included). But all in all, as a viewer, I feel a lot like Wilson/Robert Sean Leonard: like I am running up against a wall, especially lately. No wonder Leonard wants to spend the spring and summer acting in a play on Broadway (which may or may not affect how much Wilson we see in a yet-to-be-confirmed Season 8 of House). So, much like Robert Sean Leonard, I will enjoy walking away from House this summer and I will seriously have to debate whether I come back at all to a show that has depressed me to no end this season, even when it was doing exactly what I wanted and expected it to do.

Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.

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