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House, season 5

Is anyone actually watching? I was worried in the second episode when they introduced the private investigator character, but he seems to be shaping up into a kind of evil twin of House and is also a much more interesting replacement for Wilson. The potential love triangle with Cuddy provides some extra juice for the tension between her and House, without ruining it by having them actually sleep together.

Mercifully, Wilson didn’t even appear on screen in the latest episode, nor did Cameron — the only holdover from the old regime was Chase, in his capacity as go-to surgeon for all of House’s patients. They seem to be shifting more fully toward the new team, though I’m curious as to why the opening credits remain unchanged. Simply dumping the old team may have risked a shark-jumping in retrospect, even though I was worried at the time when I realized that Cameron and Chase would be recurring characters. Using the season to phase them out somewhat while setting up the break with Wilson may turn out to have been a great idea. When I compare him to the PI, it is even more clear that all Wilson ever did was act grumpy and vaguely constipated. (Perhaps he’s actually a brilliant character and the guy playing him is just a bad actor — still, the end result is the same: bad.)

Ultimately, I think that what’s holding House back as a “high-quality TV drama” is the fact that it’s a network show and therefore has to have way too many episodes each season. Premium cable dramas seem to have decided that 13 episodes is the perfect number to pull off a story arc, and after watching enough of them, I’m inclined to agree. Think of the ill-fated season 3, for instance. If it hadn’t been so drawn out, the cop subplot might have had some actual dramatic tension, and they could’ve woven in the tension with the team and the departure of Foreman much more elegantly. As it stands, there was a whole lot of padding. Similarly with season 4, where the plotline also comes in two somewhat linked movements, picking the new team and dealing with Wilson’s girlfriend — everything gets too stretched out. Cable dramas can get bloated and slow as well — recall The Sopranos season 4, and arguably the current season of Mad Men — but at least it’s not intrinsic to their very structure. (Of course, there’s the danger of going the other way and trying to squeeze too much plot development. I have never watched Lost, but that’s in part because I get the impression that the plot is positively labyrinthine.)

The concept and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the characters in House have the potential for something beyond just a good semi-episodic network drama, but in the end, that’s what it is: a semi-episodic network drama. Thus I predict that we’ll get maybe five or six solid episodes, then they’ll kind of mark time for most of the rest of the season, and then it will suddenly get much stronger for the last few episodes. (I know that doesn’t add up to 13, but maybe I can make up the total by positing a few great episodes scattered through the “marking time” period.)

October 1, 2008 - Posted by | television

15 Comments

  1. I didn’t see the premier episode, but I saw the second one. It confirmed my suspicion that House was no longer worth watching. Wilson was, by far, the most sympathetic character in the show – House is intolerable (and I don’t mean in the way that he is supposed to be intolerable). The new team – even Kumar! – is intolerable. If it is possible, they worse than the previous team. I was hopeful that the show would become more interesting last season after the original team had been fired. Unfortunately they didn’t actually go away. I may watch the next episode, the House/Wilson road trip, but I’m not sure. I’m happy to watch Fringe, Sarah Connor Chronicles and Bones from Fox, but that is it: House doesn’t make the cut this year. Fringe has enough “WTF?! factor” that it might be worth following through the entire season, but I am still wary of it.

    Comment by Craig | October 1, 2008

  2. I find it hard to take your opinion on House seriously when you’re happily watching Sarah Connor Chronicles and Bones.

    I’m not inclined to get started on Fringe, even though it has someone from The Wire, simply because 90% of heavily-promoted Fox shows wind up either sucking, lasting only five episodes, or both. One is reminded of Peter’s list of failed Fox shows on the first episode of Family Guy’s return.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 1, 2008

  3. I hate the new team, but like the PI Wilson replacement.

    Fringe is pretty good.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | October 1, 2008

  4. I think Kumar at least has some potential, but they completely sideline him for some reason. Thirteen is not shaping up to be very interesting — in part because the “startling revelations” about her are trickling out, due to the excessive number of episodes required…. As for Taub, exactly what is he contributing, personality-wise, that Foreman doesn’t?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 1, 2008

  5. I don’t watch House, but I do think they need to not choose crazy ass symptoms and come up with a diagnosis from it. Rectal bleeding isn’t related to MS. They have got some other things going on if they’re bleeding out their ass.

    Comment by Heather | October 1, 2008

  6. I like split infinitives, by the way.

    Comment by Heather | October 1, 2008

  7. I actually think that users of split infinitives should not be persecuted. What good is having a two-word infinitive form if you’re not going to split it every once in a while?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 1, 2008

  8. It seems to me that Wilson is David Shore (is that his name?), whereas House is what David Shore would like to be.

    This is more than vaguely pregnant with meaning.

    Comment by Jonathan | October 1, 2008

  9. I’m finding Fringe pretty mediocre; like a stupider X Files, or a Bugs that takes itself too seriously. I’m holding out a little bit of hope for the new team in House, though; Thirteen getting angry with the patient last week did vaguely hint at a personality, which would be helpful. I’d like to think that the writers actually have some idea about the multiple “startling revelations,” rather than just periodically deciding that the previous revelation wasn’t startling enough, but there’s no sign of that so far.

    Comment by voyou | October 1, 2008

  10. Wouldn’t it be great if all academics had a “making time” period…

    Comment by Amish Lovelock | October 2, 2008

  11. I watched the last episode, without paying attention (I was reading something), and at the end I realized that I must’ve missed something important in the narrative of the “trust your spouse” parable in it. So, the middle-eastern looking guy’s wife was secretly saving money to buy him a Porsche, right? I got that. So, why does he say “we need to talk” when he gets the Porsche?

    Comment by abb1 | October 2, 2008

  12. The whole reason he quit his previous job was to avoid having to reveal to her that he had an affair.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 2, 2008

  13. Ah, I see. Thanks.

    Comment by abb1 | October 2, 2008

  14. Fringe has the following going for it: (1) Neil Patrick Harris is no longer the current king of hilarious scene stealing – John Noble is; (2) should this show last more than a season, Pacey might be able to steal Joey away from the evil clutches of Tom Cruise; (3) they are upfront about the conspiracy aspect – too many shows take too long to introduce what is obviously going to be the central theme of the series; (4) if nothing else, at least it is entertaining – watching House is like being his patient: it is painful and you only feel better once its over. Oh, and when there is a cross-over episode with Without A Trace, Anna Torv can play Poppy Montgomery’s sister.

    Comment by Craig | October 3, 2008

  15. How do you create those ‘trackback’ things? Anyway, here it is.

    Comment by abb11 | October 3, 2008


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