18 November 2008

Diagnose This

Before I begin, let me extend an apology to those of you who don't watch House. You are not going to be interested in this post at all.

If you are still reading, I beg you to explain to me what is going on with this show. Because I am sincerely and completely baffled. I just don't understand it anymore.

Listen, I was a huge fan of House before the first episode even aired. I have been a Hugh Laurie fan since about 1993, when I saw him in the relatively horrible AIDS flick Peter's Friends (he was my favorite friend of Peter). I read his book The Gun Seller (a book I believe he only wrote to keep up with friend and comedy partner Stephen Fry, who turned his hand to fiction first). I even admit to occasionally popping Stewart Little into the DVD player to get a little Hugh-Laurie-in-bowtie action. (Actually, I've been trying to convince Ella that she really likes that movie so that I don't feel so creepy about watching it. But she isn't playing along.) SOOOO when I saw the previews for House--interesting premise, great supporting cast, dead-on American accent, and amazingly consistent limp--I knew it was a show I would enjoy. And I have enjoyed it, pretty regularly, for 5 seasons now. Although the show is ultimately formulaic, the relationships between the characters and the clever last-minute saves have kept me and interested and avid viewer.

I was somewhat concerned at the end of the 3rd season when the concluding episode left House without any of the original members of his team, and, for all intents and purposes, without a love interest. But, being a television viewer well versed in hour-long drama conventions, I assumed one of two things would happen at the beginning of the 4th season: either House would find some way to regroup the team (or at least a part thereof), or all three actors (Jennifer Morrison, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer) would leave the show. After all, these seemed like the only conventional and, therefore, plausible resolutions. Well, mea culpa, people. I lived through the Bobby-Ewing-in-the-shower-it-was-all-a-dream Dallas season 10 opener, so I should have known that these television writers are sometimes a dodgy lot.

When it became clear that, in addition to a huge group of potential new team members, Chase, Cameron, and Foreman would continue to be written into scripts, I assume that the arrangement would be a temporary one (a la MI-5 cast member departures, which have generally occurred mid-season). And here we are, 8 episodes into the 2nd season after the dissolution of the original team, and CCF continue to appear.

Herein lies my first source of confusion. Although Omar Epps's character plays a fairly well-exposed role as the assistant leader of House's new diagnostic team, he has not been given much of a story line, or much character development, in the last 2 seasons. With the weird exception of last week's episode, Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer have only been given a few minutes of screen time (often together) an episode.

WHY? First of all, why would these actors continue on with the show in such diminished capacities? Only two reasons come immediately to mind. 1) Money. 2) The promise of new developments for their characters over time. I hate believing that any of these actors would stay solely for the money (since their new roles on the show amount to a demotion), let alone all of them staying solely for monetary reasons. On the other hand, I hate waiting for the other plot shoe to drop. Are they going to leave? OR is something very dramatic going to happen to make them central once again? Do I continue to keep Cameron (a character of whom I have always been fond) at a distance, believing that she will eventually REALLY leave the show? Do I invest any more effort in disliking Chase and wanting him to return down under, if he is just going on marry Cameron and take her off to another teaching hospital? There is too much tension--too many expectations--for me to be comfortable in my relationships with these characters. I just can't see where this is all going, and that makes me nervous.

Then there is House's relationship with Cuddy. Although I joked with Laura all of last season about how badly LC wanted to get with Greg, now that it is sort of happening, I feel a little icky about it. It feels slightly incestuous, not to mention inappropriate, given their professional relationship. And, of course, I am gun shy about any sparring partners getting together on a television show after the whole recent season 5 Moonlighting debacle.

Further, and this is probably the most complicated thing of all, the potential relationship has made me realize how much I dislike House, which is making it harder and harder for me to watch the show. Because the fact is, I like Cuddy. And I maybe even relate to her a little. (Not the successful and hot parts, but some of the other.) And I have realized that I fundamentally am worried for her emotional safety in a relationship with House. And THAT has made me realize that I don't have a lot of faith that he is a decent guy underneath it all. There are several things that have eroded that faith: his dealings with Wilson this season, his lack of any meaningful connection with his new team, his on-going quest to humiliate Cameron (especially since I am now convinced that he is no longer doing it because he has complicated feelings about her). But the biggest problem is USA. That's right. House marathons are to blame. When I only see him once a week, and have summers off, it is really easy for me to romanticize House. To think that he is just too smart for his own good, or a man with demons, or a rough exterior with a soft inner core. When I watch episodes on end though, I am confronted by the stark reality of Gregory House: he's an asshole all the time. And there is rarely any evidence that there is anything going on inside of him. And when that evidence does present itself, it is usually immediately undone.

It's too much unpleasantness. As much as I like the idea of him, the reality of him (and I realize the sad irony of using the word "reality" to describe a fictional character I am taking WAY too seriously), is too much for me. And I can't see my way to thinking that it would be a good thing for Lisa Cuddy.

So where does this leave me? I've become, increasingly, aware of a deep conflict. I am a House fan who can hardly bring myself to watch the show any longer. I'll watch it tonight, but through the cracks between my fingers, which will be over my eyes.

Tell me I'm wrong, fellow House fans. Give me a reason to believe again.


Marcus said...

I love kittens.

qwanty said...

I think we saw Peter's Friends together? And also The Crying Game? Huh.

deadbrownie said...

i wish i could give you a reason to believe again. i stopped watching half way through the forth season because i finally saw through the romance of the show. i don't think there is a way to come back. lo siento.

KRD said...

Hey qwanty. I believe that we did see Peter's friends together, on my 18th birthday after having dinner with my parents. I think I have a picture of us from that night. I was wearing a brown sweater and holding a lot of balloons. That wasn't a very good birthday movie, was it?

Damn it, bro, why can't you give me reason to hope? C'mon!

fsk said...

This is something i've actually been wondering about. Why exactly did the three people leave, and what plot-wise brings them back periodically? i don't really love this show, but i find myself watching it b/c i think there's not much on at that time. but i couldn't figure out who was doing what on the show and why people were coming and going.