House’s End

Hugh Laurie and David Shore, the main creative forces behind the TV drama House, have announced that the series will end this year — after eight years of putting the acerbic, misanthropic Dr. Gregory House into every imaginable situation and seeing him solve every imaginable diagnostic problem.

House has been one of my favorite shows since it began.  It’s still good, and it’s still one of the few shows that we automatically record on our DVR.  I’ll be sorry when it ends, but I also understand and appreciate the decision to bring the series to closure.  I hate watching favorite shows go inexorably downhill, sometimes to the point of embarrassment.  If the actors and writers and producers conclude that the creative string has been played out, as apparently is the case with House, I’m inclined to trust their judgment.

With the announcement of the series’ end, the question now becomes — how will it end?  There really haven’t been many great final episodes of TV shows, and often the final episode is awful.  I hope that the House crew resist the temptation to tie up all the loose ends, bring back House’s ex-wife Stacy, Cameron, and Cuddy for final bows, and have House cure Wilson of cancer.

Whatever else may happen, let House be House — in all his brilliant, miserable, appalling glory — to the inevitably bitter end.

House In The Big House

When we last caught a glimpse of Dr. Gregory House, he was in a bar by a sandy beach in the Caribbean, having just crashed his car through the front window of his ex-girlfriend and boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Last night we saw him a year later, imprisoned, finishing his sentence for property damage, reckless endangerment, fleeing the scene, and probably countless other offenses.

The creators and writers of House have always played a bit fast and loose with the House timeline — as Dr. Greg himself observed the classic episode Three Stories in season one, “time is a fluid concept” — so the shift into the future isn’t a complete surprise. I think the creative team at House wants to take this familiar, by-now iconic character and give him some new challenges in an effort to avoid the creeping staleness that is fatal to so many long-running TV shows.

So, last night we got to see Dr. House implausibly locked up in a prison with violent offenders, doing his diagnostic thing on fellow prisoners and the intrigued, rule-breaking female doctor in the hospital infirmary. We learned that no one has called or visited him in a year — not even his best friend Wilson, or the sycophantic Chase! And now House will have to reintegrate himself into society, and reestablish his ties with his old friends and colleagues.

This scenario should create some interesting storylines.  Does ex-con House even have a medical license anymore?  Will Foreman lord it over House when he springs him from the slammer to help on cases?  Is Cuddy married?  How long will it take to repair the House-Wilson friendship?  (I’m betting part of one episode.)  Will Taub and Chase take House’s cruel comments?  Will House and 13 trade stories about their respective times in the pen? 

House has been on for years and has covered a lot of territory.  I like the show, I applaud the effort to keep it new, and I hope it works.

Whither Huddy?

As any reader of this blog knows, one of the TV shows I watch regularly is House.  I’ve followed the acerbic diagnostician as he has dealt with a crush from Cameron, tried to rekindle his romance with Stacy, endured an unreasonable chair of the hospital board and a vengeful police detective, and ultimately spiraled down into drug abuse, hallucinations, and institutionalization before kicking his Vicodin habit.  All the while, his  friend Wilson tells House how miserable he is.

The challenge for a long-running series like House is to avoid falling into an uncreative rut while not ruining the characters that fans have come to know and love through ridiculous plot contrivances.  This season’s big story arc has Dr. House grappling with a torrid affair with his boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy.  So far, I don’t really know what to make of House and Cuddy — called “Huddy,” for short, by fans.  At times, it seems that the primary purpose of the plotline is to have an excuse to show some skin in the bedroom scenes.  Sparking romances between characters also is pretty trite TV fare.  But then the writers will toss an interesting idea into the mix, like how the relationship causes both House and Cuddy to act differently in their sparring about House’s outlandish proposed treatment of the patient of the week, that indicates that the plot line could work.

The most recent episode introduced House to Cuddy’s adopted daughter.  I was glad to see that when the girl chewed on House’s cane, Dr. House didn’t dissolve into misty-eyed wonderment at being around a toddler.  Instead, in true House fashion, he looked upset that the bratty kid had slobbered on the cane.  Maybe this could get interesting.

Happy About House

I have been pleased with the new season of House, which I think is shaping up to be one of the best ever.  The entertaining Dr. House already has survived an extended stay in a mental institution, kicked his Vicodin habit (for now, at least), lost his medical license, shown his cooking ability, moved in with Wilson, watched his team kill off a ruthless African dictator, and generally shed a lot of the baggage that, I think, weighed down the show last year.  How often can you watch House pop pills, act like an ass, treat people like dirt, and then see that all is forgiven because he solves the unsolvable medical mystery after an epiphany with about five minutes left to go in the show?  Predictability breeds viewer fatigue.

Last night’s episode was a good example of how old story lines apparently are ending and the characters are moving on to promising new vistas.  For years, House has treated Wilson like crap, with rare exceptions.  Last night, after House kept Wilson from committing a career-killing move and then made Wilson feel better with some straight talk, you got a sense of why Wilson honestly considers House to be his best friend.  For years, House and Cuddy have danced a smoldering, unconsummated sexual samba.  Last night, when House decided to finally act on his interest in Cuddy, he learned that he had waited too long and Cuddy was going out with House’s brilliant and exceptionally odd former private investigator.  Even better, House seemed to accept the news with some maturity, rather than pulling a crude prank or plotting some painful method of revenge.  For a few episodes now, Foreman has actually seemed like a likeable human being rather than an arrogant jerk.  Chase and Cameron have gotten some camera time, and now they will have to deal with Chase’s decision to tell Cameron about his cold-blooded murder of the perpetrator of African genocide.  From the previews, it looks like Taub will be returning and 13 too; I pray only that the leaden, completely unconvincing romance between Foreman and 13 isn’t resurrected and thrust in our faces yet again.

I don’t know where it will all lead — which is the main reason I am finding this season so enjoyable so far.