"Audience is always right."—House
I think I may need to quit this show.
Yeah, I know, I've said it before. Half a dozen of you have brought the idea up, in tones ranging from polite suggestion to I'm glad you don't know where I live, and I've resisted the idea until now. For a lot of reasons: It's a paycheck, for one, and I don't like giving up on anything, for another. And you know what? I used to love this show. Hugh Laurie is as strong as he ever was, and I like most of the cast. There would be occasional glimpses of what the series used to be, and I kept hoping that somehow, despite all the evidence of every other long-running show ever made, and really, the basic laws of the universe, somehow, the show would find a way back to the show I started watching. But that ain't happening, and really, I think I knew that the moment it became obvious that Cuddy and House were going to hook up. The relationship makes no sense organically; it exists because the writers needed a new direction, and hey, it's not like he could lose his whole team again.
The relationship has turned House into a romantic melodrama with some medical elements thrown in for spice. House has gone from an edgy, damaged misanthrope to a slightly more intelligent Adam Sandler character; he does wacky pranks and is selfish and lazy, but he's really a good 'un at heart. Y'know, the man-child whose immaturity can only be redeemed by the love of good woman. That bores me to tears, and that's a big problem when you're trying to come up with something worth saying about a show every week. Even now, I can feel myself repeating old lines and resorting to a self-conscious appraisal of that repetition is a dead-end trick. The more I draw attention to how often the same criticisms come up, the more obvious it becomes that I'm struggling for new insight. And now I'm pointing out how I'm repeating myself in pointing out that I repeat myself, and, well, I'm no Charlie Kaufman. This rabbit hole can only go so far.
That's part of the problem. The other part is that there might actually be something good left in the series that I'm not seeing and that because my opinion is so rooted in what the show was, I'm fairly incapable of accepting it for what it is. I laughed a few times during "Two Stories," although the jokes wore thin as the plot became increasingly irritating. It was slickly made, and the odd structure did a good job of hiding the fact that almost nothing interesting actually happened. (To sum up: A patient choked on something; House was a boyfriend cliche; Cuddy still wuvs him.) I didn't like it because the characters behaved stupidly, and there were a lot of groan-worthy cliches about women being different from men. I didn't really need to hear elementary school kids kvetching over "sluts"; bizarrely, while House has gotten more surface level sappy and crowd-pleasing, its cynicism about human interaction has become, if anything, more intense. Before, the show would challenge you about how people can be opportunistic and self-centered and vile. Now, it seems to just accept that we all suck, but there are hugs sometimes, so isn't that nice?
I also didn't much care for "Two Stories" because the title and the idea of House lecturing a bunch of students are direct references to House's best episode, "Three Stories," from all the way back in the first season. That episode was a tantalizing glimpse of what the show could've been, a powerful mixture of good jokes, strong characterization, and a believable emotional arc. It was clever and a little showy, but the cleverness made sense in terms of House's teaching method, and it worked to make the final 10 minutes all the more powerful. Here, House rips off a bunch of random movies because it's funny, and it adds nothing to anything. Yes, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a surprisingly deep-cut. But who the hell cares?
So my judgment on the episode is that it wasn't very good, but that doesn't mean I can't see someone making a case for it. At least there was some cleverness here, for once. I have no rooting investment in this series anymore, and because of that, I can't stand by my opinion as the opinion of someone fans of the show should necessarily trust. This is not my beautiful House, and it never will be again, and the more of these reviews I write, the more I feel like I'm poring over some novel in a foreign language, trying to judge it on some hopelessly irrelevant criterion. My fellow TV critics have been talking lately about whether or not you need to be a fan of a series to write about it week by week; I don't think fandom is a job requirement, but I do think there needs to be some crucial element of interest to keep you working. Otherwise, it's just a lot of cheap shots and navel-gazing.
- House spends most of the show getting interrogated by a boy and a girl outside the principal's office. The boy, who looks like the first in a wave of terrifying Justin Bieber clones, is named "Zack." Clearly, the writers are trying to communicate to me directly. It won't work, guys! I mean, maybe if you brought Olivia Wilde back, we might be able to work some kind of… no, no, never! I have my principles.
- "If porn was bad, why would there be so many nuns in it?"
- Tune in next week to see if I give up or if I last out the season. Cliffhanger!