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In Defense of 'House'

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  November 3, 2008 06:00 AM

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I was going to say that “House” has finally lost its luster.

Why? For one thing, overpopulation. Here’s a drama series, now in its fifth season, with too many regular characters who have nothing to do. Between Dr. House’s old staff, his new staff, his private detective, Drs. Wilson and Cuddy, and the patients-of-the-week, the Fox show has become something of a traffic jam. When the “House” writers finally devote an episode to the once-prominent Cameron-Chase romance next Tuesday, it will feel like nostalgia night.

I was also going to say that the “House” storylines have grown increasingly preposterous over the years -- and they were cuckoo to start with. Sometimes, the medical mysteries and the dramas about the doctors’ personal lives are so over-the-top, I have to go into denial to get through the hour. I have to work to suspend my wild disbelief while I’m watching the insanity unfold -- doctors breaking into patients’ homes, House having his P.I. go through Wilson’s garbage, Thirteen getting fired but not leaving. But then later on, or during the commercials, I shake my head and laugh at the lunacy. OK, Cuddy just drugged House so that Wilson could kidnap him and drive him to his father’s funeral. Got it.

And yet I would much rather say something completely different here...


Against all odds, and against all the evidence of sloppy storytelling and excessive implausibility , “House” remains one of network TV’s most dynamic hours. Obviously, Hugh Laurie is outrageously good; he has created an awful, brilliant, condescending, needy, childlike, curmudgeonly character with nary a wrong note over five years. His House already deserves a spot in the TV character hall of fame, near Archie Bunker and Hawkeye Pierce.

But I do find that, despite the occasional bum episode, the drama that is built around Laurie is still good, too. Weird, but good. “House” can’t be approached and judged as a typical medical procedural, even while it has that formulaic quality. The show needs to be viewed as a comic psychodrama in which all the medical cases reflect aspects of the doctors, and all the doctors reflect aspects of House, and House reflects the naked id. It’s a crazy “House” of mirrors. The crowded cast, the overheated action, and all the absurd twists and turns are the show’s unique stylization. “House” may be mainstream TV’s boldest-ever psychological farce.

Yes, I have sometimes joined in the chorus of fans who feel that “House” is over. But right here, right now, I’m feeling more optimistic. With Olivia Wilde’s Thirteen getting more compelling, and House and Cuddy getting romantic, and bold direction that can turn a prime-time hour into a dreamlike fantasia, the show still deserves a chance.

Where do you stand on "House" these days?

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48 comments so far...
  1. I will follow this show wherever it goes, however it goes and as long as it goes.
    I will not second-guess its creator, its producers or its writers, and I will enjoy this roller coaster ride all the way to the end of the line.
    I like shows that employ a gentleman in the starring role.
    This one is it!

    Betsy Fisher

    Posted by Betsy Fisher November 3, 08 07:00 AM
  1. Love it. It's must see. Always recorded on the DVR.

    Hugh Laurie is riviting.

    If anything the overpopulation is due to the outrageous number of re-runs that are on per day.

    Posted by Red November 3, 08 07:21 AM
  1. House has been running now for five years and it is natural for knowledgeable tv show enthusiasts to question 'has it jumped the shark?' But regardless of whether the show's more chaotic story lines point toward the end of the series or merely take it in a new direction, I'm still simply entertained by Hugh Laurie's character and would really be happy to watch him in any situation. The character and the performance is that good.

    Posted by Bob Sanders November 3, 08 07:28 AM
  1. It's the same crap week after week...I stopped watching last year. I hope it gets cancelled.

    Posted by Chloe-OBrien November 3, 08 07:30 AM
  1. An intelligent show full of literary refrences, layered dialogue, double and triple meanings. A show that is based on relationships, expressed and repressed. It facinates me because I am constantly astounded by the turns characters take. Like our lives I guess. But most of all the acting is superb. Hugh Laurie is magnificent. Thanks to all concerned for such a wonderful production. Sometimes
    excellence is rewarded.

    Posted by Andreina China November 3, 08 07:51 AM
  1. Most one-hour drama start with a big ensemble, like ER or Brothers & Sisters. Meanwhile, House had, well, House, the three ducklings, Cuddy and Wilson. The House ensemble was as small as a half hour sitcom ensemble. Maybe the show feels crowded right now because at the start it was rather minimalistic.

    Posted by Jules November 3, 08 09:03 AM
  1. Still love it - Suspension of disbelief is key, but Laurie is just so much freaking fun to watch I can forgive the show's logjam of characters and medical mysteries better left to Vulcan shamans than oncologists.

    Posted by Jon November 3, 08 09:11 AM
  1. One of the best shows on TV, end of story.

    There's a lot of useless crap out there- House is a beacon of good story telling and character development.

    Posted by Blecher November 3, 08 09:54 AM
  1. Love it and always have.

    Could do without the new PI though. He adds nothing dynamic to the show. Be happy to see the writers finally decide whether the new group is enough or the old group was better. Too many people otherwise.

    Posted by Jay November 3, 08 10:10 AM
  1. This has been my favorite show for the past 4+ years, and nothing about that has changed. Hugh Laurie is flat-out brilliant as Gregory House (when are the Emmy eggheads going to realize this?), and despite some off-the-wall medical mysteries, everything in the show has a purpose and relates to the central character. The writing is amazing, the acting top-notch, and I will be in withdrawal when this show takes it's final bow.

    Posted by Sue Freemire November 3, 08 10:53 AM
  1. HOUSE just keeps getting better and better! Granted, it's not for those afflicted with attention deficit, but a veritable FEAST for anyone who enjoys being challenged to think by complicated, witty, nuanced, tremendously well written stories. Hugh Laurie is beyond brilliant...wherever he goeth, I goeth.

    Posted by Nina W. November 3, 08 11:11 AM
  1. This show is horribe. The acting is abysmal. You people should ashamed to say you watch this crap. Go for a walk; ride a bike; turn off bad TV.

    Posted by Will November 3, 08 11:31 AM
  1. this show is AWFUL... same thing over and over again... patient comes in... seems like an easy fix..but isnt...then house or his minions almost kill him while trying to figure out the mystery diagnosis...then house's crazy tactics are again proven to be right... every week...over and over and over and over and over again.... I liked it until I could predict exactly what would happen every week.... all the cast changes and whatnot are window dressing to cover up the lack of an original plot

    Posted by kevin November 3, 08 11:54 AM
  1. I do not like the new "team" and the show is now up against NCIS which I love. I always liked the lunacy. So I watch the current week's repeat on Friday nights at 11 p.m.

    Posted by Doris November 3, 08 12:10 PM
  1. I sometimes wonder if the writers work too hard at finding obscure medical problems (like last week). A few years ago, they addressed the problem of a pregnant woman having cancer. Her problem wasn't a total mystery, and House still had his "a ha" moment. But it was a serious and more "common" issue handled wonderfully.

    Despite the sometimes formulaic writing, Hugh Laurie is brilliant.

    Posted by Eme November 3, 08 12:15 PM
  1. Ceartainly better than the plethora of inane sit-coms. Sit-coms rely more and more on double entendre and push te good taste envelope often just for shock value. DEFINITELY better than "Reality" shows when a brain dead viewer watches an edited stream of hours of video tape and beieve some how the antics of the week fit neatly into a 43 minute package. I'll stay with House.

    Posted by Xenophon November 3, 08 12:48 PM
  1. what else are you gonna watch?

    The number of shows that make you THINK has been dwindling since West Wing went off the air. Face it, we'd watch House sit and read the phone book if that's what they gave us.

    Posted by jgodsey November 3, 08 12:58 PM
  1. Gotta love it. It's so full of satire like earlier episodes of MASH that it's one of my favorite shows on television now (aside from MASH reruns of course!) My boyfriend, though, who doesnt understand satire very well, thinks it's awful. So another night of fighting over the remote control!

    Posted by Me, of course November 3, 08 01:03 PM
  1. I've reached the age (or maybe it's a reflection of how full my brain has become after this much living) when I can't track back all the allusions and references in the rapid-fire banter -- plus I know too much to be innocent of some of their goofs in medical terminology and understanding -- but I've come to accept that. I just relax and enjoy watching Hugh Laurie. He's such a pleasure to watch work, and those blue eyes! *whew*

    Posted by Priscilla Ballou November 3, 08 01:04 PM
  1. What started off as quirky has become unlikeable. House is now an unmitigated jerk with no redeeming qualities. Someone please put him out of his misery.

    Posted by Stu November 3, 08 01:08 PM
  1. I think they should have House connect with the doctor who he treated via a video hook-up when she was in Antartica. That was one of the best episodes ever. The PI is getting old.

    Posted by PPAG November 3, 08 01:23 PM
  1. Too many characters is a minor issue...Figure out how many times they have to be wrong about a diagnosis and how outlandish the problems need to be just to fill an hour. And the patients almost ALWAYS survive.

    Also, drink every time House says "...which means that..." while trying to analyze the actions of a secondary character. You'll have bedspins on a worknight.

    Still it's one of my favorite shows on right now, if only for the contrast between House's volatile character and the more conservative Cuddy and Wilson..and of course the unforgiving treatment that House shows to his patients.

    Posted by Brian November 3, 08 01:24 PM
  1. I watch the show religiously but House has always had a problem with additional cast members and strange diversions in story lines. Stacy Warner (Sela Ward) was extraneous in the first year as was the noxious Edward Vogler (Chi McBride) thread. The Michael Tritter (David Morse) story arc was just awful in year 3. Although I admired the firing/resigning episodes in year 4, I also like those cast members more than the current crop -- Traub and 13, in particular. However, when the focus is on House/Wilson, the show can be riveting. The last two episodes of season 4, "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart" were great television. Emmy-award winning, in fact.

    Posted by GK November 3, 08 01:24 PM
  1. Hugh Laurie's character of Dr. Gregory House will go down in the TV Hall of fame more so with past TV characters such as Columbo, and know those uncoventional and quirky characters. It's greatness could also be it's downfall in the end where as I feel too much of the show's greatness is too dependent on this actor and his charater and will fail quickly if and when Hugh Laurie decides not to protray him no longer..

    Posted by Greg November 3, 08 01:54 PM
  1. He has gotten so obnoxiously self-righteous and cynically snarky, sometimes it's hard not to turn the show off. He doesn't believe in one bit of light or goodness or decency; it's all a coverup for some sick pathology. People are dark and twisted. He didn't used to be that bad. It seems more and more of the plot is taken up with him hounding people, having to prove he's right, denigrating the lives of others, and less and less with the actual medical case. If I was Cuddy or several other of the characters, I'd tell him to go up on the roof and take the quick way down. Enough is enough. Stop prying, stop preaching, get a life.

    Posted by Nancy Harding November 3, 08 01:56 PM
  1. I still love it. It's TV, so it's more about the characters than the story. But just once, I'd love to see them solve the mystery at the, say, 35 minute mark. Because, you know it ain't solved if it's not at the 50 minute mark. Like on Law & Order, you know they haven't caught the right guy if it's only 10 minutes into the show...

    Posted by tdneel November 3, 08 01:58 PM
  1. I have watched House since it started. Yes, some of the episodes have been clinkers--but I watch regardless--because it's well written, funny and Hugh Laurie (who should have had an Emmy by now) is priceless. I watch because I enjoy it--no matter how long the ride is. Appreciate quality television when you see it--those are the ones you'll remember........

    Posted by QuickDraw November 3, 08 04:00 PM
  1. I've also been a fan from the beginning. I treated myself to the DVDs (including the shorter season 4). And always try to make an effort. Gilbert makes solid points, but they'll fall on deaf ears of true fans. Laurie is a strong point, strong enough to carry the show when it gets bad.

    Posted by caitlin November 3, 08 06:22 PM
  1. After the first two episodes felt like total clunkers I wasn't sure I'd stick with this show, but since then they've shaken off the static feeling and gotten back into delivering stories with oomph. I've realized that I watch this show because it's populated with amazing actors - the outrageous stories are just fodder for them to bring out the humanity in their characters, despite how preposterous some of the writing gets.

    Posted by Tori November 3, 08 06:34 PM
  1. I miss Chase and Cameron. I'm sick of 13. She's neither a compelling character nor a well cast one. Taub is a boring drone. Kutner is the best of the new team, probably only because the other two are so lame. House himself seems to have disappeared with the old team's screentime because he acts like a different guy since the new characters came around. 13 killed a man and his dog and instead of firing her worthless behind, House coddled her and hired her. Now you know how to get a job working for top-notch doctor. The new team needss to be put on the backburner and they need to focus on the original six characters.

    Posted by Sonya November 3, 08 07:51 PM
  1. I'm loving season five--the show is still riveting and House is revealing more layers. The writers are getting the hang of integrating the characters. Of the team members, I love Chase and Kutner, like Taub and Thirteen, am meh on Foreman and could do without Cameron of the Neverending Crush. If any cutting needs to be done, start with her. House, Wilson and Cuddy are stellar as always. And Hugh Laurie remains amazing as he brings this fascinating guy to life.

    Posted by Marg November 3, 08 08:17 PM
  1. I've never been bored with House before but this season I'm only watching out of previous season loyalty. It's not even intelligent or funny any more, House keeps getting more and more ridiculous. The formerly witty House/Cuddy banter has sunk to the level of a schoolyard, no matter how much they throw 13 at me I still dislike her intensely(and House's refusal to get rid of her makes him look stupid. Taub bores me.
    I miss the show that this used to be. I miss Cameron and Chase, Cuddy's brain & backbone, and the formerly intelligent and quasi-adult House. House is so ridiculous now, not even Hugh Laurie's acting can save it. I'm ready to leave.

    Posted by Annie November 3, 08 08:22 PM
  1. House used to be a fantastic show to watch week after week. But that was only when they were in seasons 1 to 3. Once season 4 started, whatever magic was created by the original team and House was lost by this stupid, long-winded arc where they hired 3 of the most boring characters. And it was quite obvious who they were going to hire. Season 5 has shown that 13 is NOT compelling and she should have stayed fired. She is the worst character to have been created and severely miscast. I will never understand why they keep pushing her on screen when she's not even remotely interesting. Taub is ok but still dull and Kutner is not too bad. But overall, the new team sucks big time and can't carry the show and does nothing for House as a show or character. The show was so much better when Cameron and Chase were back into the main story. They brought so much more to the show when they were interacting with House, now we get nothing. Even Foreman is better when he's talking to Cameron and Chase. Overall, season 4 was the worst of the series and season 5 isn't that far behind either. It's too overcrowded and it's quite obvious the producers have no idea what to do with them.

    Posted by Kylie November 3, 08 08:32 PM
  1. i leaped from ship last season.

    Posted by shawn November 3, 08 09:32 PM
  1. I find the overpopulation frustrating, but I have to admit that the cast and writers do an incredible job juggling it. It's the best show on television, and I agree that it doesn't fit labels like "procedural" or even "television drama"...

    House and Wilson should be getting together, though, not Cuddy. It's the only thing that makes sense.

    Posted by Emily November 3, 08 10:05 PM
  1. I'm not sure either. it's such a freakin mess. They way they tell stories, they way they have House invovled in every story line, FOCUS PEOPLE! I write for another TV show on a different network and I used to love house, but as a TV writer I'm ike this show is such a mess. Yes, hugh laurie is amazing and can do everything, but I love candy corn, doesn't mean I eat it all day every day. I'm trying to say, just because Hugh excels at a ton of things, doesn't mean the writers need him to be doing stuff all day every day to impress us. Simplicity, that's what needs to come back. Watch a first season episode and enjoy the quiet

    Posted by s. mac November 4, 08 12:39 AM
  1. I have never been a fan of House quite like I`ve been a fan of other show... sloppy wtiting is bad. The morals are insane, the acting and the characters are weird and inconsistant, the show is also in some ways trying to hard to shock and compel, at the same time they only do shocking things they KNOW they`ll get away with, the female characters are way to often represented as different sexual fantasies (Camerons puppy love to take care of House, Cuddy is bossy and controlling, but House makes her weak and soft and strippery only for him, 13... well.... how obvious can you be.) and plots are dropped without resolution all the time.
    At the same time I agree that Hugh Lauries acting, the humor, the philosophy, the weird cases and the character of House himself weighs up for all these faults and makes it compelling television anyway. But.... Only as long as the focus IS on House. In this season they`ve experimented with letting other characters getting the spotlight, and to me the faults of this show are showing more than ever. Especially when it comes to 13. She is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with this show, and I`ve never hated a character more, because she makes all the mistakes so glaringly obvious, that I am going to stop watching soon.
    I still love House, Wilson, Chase and at times (when she`s not completely degraded to sex object) Cuddy. I also like Kutner, Taub and notinlovewithHouse-Cameron, and I think I will continue to be a fan long after I`ve stopped watching. Yay for fanfic, right? :D

    Posted by Kath November 4, 08 12:49 AM
  1. Wait a minute (to Nancy Harding)...

    You're reponse to someone who doesn't believe in human goodness is "commit suicide"? Wow. That's really proving his theory wrong, aint it.

    Posted by Jamie Graham November 4, 08 06:46 AM
  1. Hate it! What, An arrogant doctor? No, really? The plots are ridiculous and the acting is bad. Pull the plug!

    Posted by Michelle2112 November 4, 08 09:04 AM
  1. Tired of watching a show that would repeatedley insult and degrade nurses. As an MGH nurse working with some of the most talented docters in the world, it's pretty unrealistic. I'm not saying some Dr's are not arrogant a-holes, but most Dr's realize that without us they would be f***ed, to but it mildly.

    Posted by J November 4, 08 10:08 AM
  1. House is the sexiest man on tv.

    Posted by Anne Smith November 4, 08 12:16 PM
  1. Hugh Laurie is a genius. His earlier work, including Blackadder and Jeeves & Wooster, prooves the man's versatility. I also appreciate that Lisa Edelstein's character has evolved, she's terrific at countering House's sarcasm!

    Posted by Angela November 4, 08 12:33 PM
  1. It's one of the few shows that my husband and I both enjoy equally.
    Me for the medical stories and characters, my husband I think for the gore, mystery and most unexpectedly, the VERY graphic scenes with 13 a couple of weeks ago - couldn't believe my eyes for a 8PM show. And I'm no prude.
    Hugh Laurie is simply outstanding.

    Posted by kc November 4, 08 12:40 PM
  1. House is the BEST much watch TV! Hugh Laurie is outstanding! The cleverness of the show can't be matched! It's the one show I look forward to seeing week after week.

    Posted by Joan Johnson November 4, 08 08:30 PM
  1. Jules said ". Maybe the show feels crowded right now because at the start it was rather minimalistic. "

    Even ensemble shows like ER and CSi work best with six core characters. More than that and story lines get lost. On this show, it's 90% about House himself so no one else gets time unless they're in a plot with House. Plus, the writers of this show can't write ensemble at all.
    Much better to have left it with House and 5 secondary characters when everyone got some storyline.

    Posted by pat November 5, 08 10:50 AM
  1. I've loved this show from the premiere and still find it to be the most compelling hour on TV. Hugh Laurie's brilliance is matched by the versatility and depth of acting by Lisa Edelstein and Robert Sean Leonard. These three are the reason I watch the show along with the sparkling writing.

    I am loving this current season and am especially happy with the hesitant exploration of the House/Cuddy relationship. The heated interplay between these two is superb. I would be quite content to have the other characters relegated to a few scenes each week and keep the focus on House, Cuddy, and Wilson as we unpeel the intricately irritating and fascinating character of Gregory House.

    Posted by dee November 5, 08 02:46 PM
  1. House is a great show with, layers within layers that most people do not see/understand. I for one stopped watching NCIS in favour of House. House is so much better

    Posted by Mike November 6, 08 07:21 AM
  1. I think WE are all saying the same thing in regards to today's HOUSE. We miss the old characters and their own little drama, and House's relationship with them. Now in season five we don't understand where the plot is moving because the new characters are not stearing the plot one way or another. Hence, as an audience faithful to the HOUSE character we are still watching the show for HIM and not for the rediculous medical misteries. We are yearning for the direction that are beloved HOUSE character will take after this long... We'll shall see..

    Posted by Kim November 12, 08 03:53 PM

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