November 8th, 2010
To check in on a show you haven’t watched for a while is always a bit disarming, but being as media saturated as I am sort of softens the blow. I think the last time I watched House regularly was early in its fifth season, since then tuning in for special episodes (like “Broken” and “Wilson”) where the internet suggested it would be worth my time. However, because I spent so much of my time surrounded by people who do keep watching the show, I get bits and pieces: I wasn’t shocked to see Thirteen missing, for example, and I was thankfully prepared for the alarming sight of Cuddy pressing her lips against House’s lips (I think they call it kissing? It was icky).
And yet, the whole point of House is that we’re supposed to be able to jump right in, especially in an instance like “Office Politics” where a new character (and subsequently a slightly new dynamic) is being introduced. Amber Tamblyn’s arrival as Masters, who effectively replaces Thirteen since Olivia Wilde is off becoming a movie star, is not the seismic shift that perhaps the show needs to enter back onto my radar full time, but the episode has just enough dynamism to feel like an event for those of us who appreciate Tamblyn and like to imagine a world where House remains a relevant television program.
Of course, at the same time, the sheer similarity of the formula means that stepping back out is just as easy as one might imagine.
November 30th, 2009
You might be wondering why I stopped reviewing House after the season premiere. And, well, the answer is quite simple: I stopped watching House after the season premiere.
It wasn’t an intentional decision: a few episodes piled up on the DVR, which proceeded to crash and lose all of its files, and then more episodes piled up alongside some frustrated critics who were growing tired of the show’s ignorance of the rather great premiere, “Broken.” And so my desire to catch up with House was limited, and until tonight I was kind of convinced that I may never return to the show again.
However, on the advice of those same critics, I returned to “Wilson” and discovered what role House will play in my television criticism future. It is a show where the only episodes that truly engage me, truly suck me in, are those which feel uniquely possible within the show’s universe. Alan Sepinwall quite rightly observes in his review of the episode that the focus on Wilson in the episode would never work if not for the inherent juxtaposition of his methods to House’s methods.
It’s an episode that puts someone else in the driver’s seat, and rather than feeling like an overly complicated, soap operatic version of the show’s basic premise (which, based on what I’ve read of the season so far and parts of last season, is effectively what the show has boiled down to) the episode felt like a rumination on character, themes, and the inherent humanity or lack thereof at the show’s core.
The result was a very compelling hour of television, one which is uniquely housed (I made a funny!) within this particular series but will do little to change its overall downward trajectory.
“Both Sides Now”
May 11th, 2009
You will notice that this is only one of a handful of times that I’ve blogged about House all season. The reasons for that are really quite simple: the show has done very little to compel me to watch it, yet alone write about it, and the longer the season wears on the more weary I become of some of its formula. I wrote about the biggest moment of the season, Kutner’s suicide, but even then it was in an admittedly negative tone: the show is so averse to change, House always being House and the formula always being the same, that any chance to fundamentally change the series always feels like a missed opportunity once you’re a few episodes out.
But the show loves doing season finales, as demonstrated in “Both Sides Now” where we make a ‘shocking’ discovery about the events in last week’s penultimate episode, which featured the long-anticipated (by some) House/Cuddy hookup and more of the return of Anne Dudek as Amber. I love Anne Dudek, and I enjoy the tension between House and Cuddy, but the episode didn’t really do much for me in the end, outside of providing Hugh Laurie with his Emmy reel.
Hopefully, the Emmy voters don’t see the finale which, although containing perhaps the most interesting “case” of the season, felt like more manipulation for the sake of manipulation.
Yes, I’m Still Watching…House
February 24th, 2009
I don’t particularly know if I can put my finger on why I care so little about House’s fifth season, considering that I was actually quite a big fan of the fourth one. Although oft criticized for eschewing the show’s regular sidekicks for a new batch, the fourth season felt like things were being shaken up: that the producers realized that the show was in danger of becoming too formulaic, and that some changes were necessary. I like that level of self-awareness in my showrunners, personally, and it was healthy to see it here.
Unfortunately, House has fallen off the wagon for me this season, and I’ll admit right now to having very little desire to even watch last night’s episode, which is waiting for me on the DVR as soon as I get around to it. [I watched it – check for my thoughts in parenthesis throughout the post added after I sat down to watch the episode]. There just isn’t anything about the show that I find engaging, which is because of two fundamental problems: one is the show focus on what is ultimately an uninteresting and worthless character, and the other is that the show’s other drama must derive entirely from relationships, all of which are misguided and doomed to failure if only for the sake of the show’s normal points of tension.
It all adds up to a show that I honestly don’t care about anymore – and there will come a point where I might stop watching altogether in the very near future.
“You’ve Got Yale!”
January 19th, 2009
After starting the season seemingly boosted by summer buzz and showing positive growth, Gossip Girl has been on a ratings and creative slide for quite some time. It is not so much that the show was great to begin with, but rather that it was showing an odd sort of complacency: rather than trading a period of angst and contrivance (mostly surrounding young Jenny) the show rights itself by introducing a mysterious son given up for adoption and by insisting that its central relationship is worth testing even when I, as a viewer, am convinced that it was dead a long time ago. “You’ve got Yale!,” despite its usual movie title-pun charm, feels like the show just doesn’t get it: whatever fun we might get from Blair going back on the warpath can’t possibly overcome the idea we’re supposed to care as much about Dan and Serena as Gossip Girl’s readers.
The funny thing is that House is in many ways going through the same problem: for weeks, the show has been focusing on Thirteen as a central source of drama and interest in a series that has always been most interesting when focused on its eponymous doctor. While it is ostensibly an ensemble, the show is really about House, and while the show’s tendency to have patients who reflect their doctor’s problems can on occasion be frustrating I was just kind of glad to finally have a patient who is about House instead. What “Painless” does wrong, though, is feel as if it needs to pile on the drama: House’s pain is enough reason for the show to stop and consider his illness, compounding that with more drama for Thirteen and Cuddy’s complete and total breakdown seems both false and overkill.
Neither show is going off the rails enough for me to be disinterested, but I remain skeptical about whether they know what they are doing isn’t working.
November 11th, 2008
When David Shore and Co. decided to make the rather odd decision to “fire” the three fellows who worked for Dr. Gregory House at the end of the show’s third season while still employing them as cast regulars, I think we all asked ourselves a question: how, precisely, do they plan on balancing new fellows with the old ones who are off in various corners of the hospital.
And while they pushed Foreman back into the diagnosis group fairly quickly, this has remained a problem, especially as it relates to developing the characters of Chase and Cameron, and the new fellows for that matter. There have been some rumblings about House beginning to fall into the medical procedural trap, designing cases which are “on the nose” for individual cast members as a shorthand version of character development. And for Chase and Cameron, who have had almost zero “showcases” since leaving House’s team, this episode has been a long time coming.
“The Itch,” at the end of the day, is an episode that walked a fine line between organic investigation into the lives of these characters and a convenient episode that dealt with how we scratch that itch, whether through imaginary mosquitoes, coveting every single drawer in your apartment, or giving in to your agoraphobia. What we learn most of all is that some things never change: House will always be manipulative but emotionally stunted, Cameron will always be woefully incapable of self-rationalizing, and Chase will always be a character without, well, a character.
But even if it wasn’t a life-changing return to our former cottages, I’d say it was enjoyable enough.