I genuinely expected to hate the TV show “House” when it debuted eight years ago. It had all the earmarks of “ER” (which I loathed for its uninspired blandness) and — worse than that — it was a procedural (which I detested). I avoided most of the first season, despite my admiration of Hugh Laurie. Eight years ago, there was enough on TV worth watching that I frankly didn’t need to devote an hour to some lame-ass “CSI: Hospital.”
Oddly enough, it was not Hugh Laurie who sparked my interest in the series. Jennifer Morrison proved to be the show’s salvation. It was near the end of the TV season, everything else I watched was either in reruns or on another day. I flipped through the channels, and there was Jennifer Morrison jogging on a treadmill, tiny beads of sweat covering her body and soaking through her sports bra and tight shorts (didn’t need to rewatch the scene to vividly recall all of that, by the way — some images are everlasting). The episode was “Love Hurts,” wherein Morrison’s character agrees to return to work for House on the condition he agree to go out on a date with her. It was at that moment when I realized this was not just another procedural piece of crap.
The episode that followed featured House addressing medical students, offering three virtually identical diagnostic scenarios (chronic leg pain), comedically flashing back to each of the patients, then twisting the whole story on its ear when it is revealed one of the “patients” was House himself. If “Love Hurts” hooked me with the promise of a hot, brainy chick in a sports bra, “Three Stories” reeled me in.
At its best, “House M.D.” worked when it ignored the diagnostic/procedural moments to focus on character development. The original series of “Star Trek” featured the trio of Kirk, McCoy, and Spock — the perfect external representation of id, ego, and superego. “House M.D.” contained not only the famous triad, but topped the id, ego, and superego off with a witty smart ass. The combination of characters, both guest starring and recurring, made the show enjoyable to watch on a weekly basis.
Then they f*cked it all up.
At the tail end of season three, House’s core team of doctors either quit or were fired. At the start of the fourth season, it was decided to expand the cast with a new group of doctors auditioning to work with House. A lot of people point to the House/Cuddy relationship as the worst decision of the series, but — to me — the destruction of what was a fine bit of on-screen chemistry amongst House, Cameron, Foreman, and Chase was when things started to suffer. The character of House gave all of the new doctors numbers, as did the viewers. This was a mistake on the part of the creative team behind the series, because it signaled how interchangeable and insignificant the new characters were. It was a struggle making it through the fourth season.
The writing in season five improved as the new characters ultimately found their respective voice, but it was the premiere of season six where the show reminded me why I watched in the first place. Hugh Laurie can deliver one-liners with comedic timing because — well — he is a comedian. But to be able to offer a dramatic performance as an addict in a harsh detox facility takes a whole other skillset, and Laurie proved up to the challenge. Toss Andre Braugher into the mix and viewers basically have a stand-alone feature film. Sharp writing, excellent acting, and some poignant moments to remind us that the show is worth watching even without a solid ensemble cast.
Olivia Wilde is a bad actress. There, I’ve said it. She has one bland facial expression which she uses to convey anger, sadness, pain, and lust. Back when “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ did its send-up of Kathy Ireland in “Alien From L.A.,” they remarked she was only capable of expressing “dull surprise” on her face in every scene. The same is true of Olivia Wilde.
Or maybe I’m just ticked that she more-or-less assumed the Jennifer Morrison position and was underwhelming by comparison.
Season seven begat the House/Cuddy relationship which was much maligned by both fans and critics. What I will say about it is this: I just didn’t care. Whereas I liked the flirtation between House and Cameron (mainly because I liked the idea of a woman that hot going for a brooding cynic), whether or not House and Cuddy hooked up held no interest to me. Their love scenes held no interest to me. Their break-up held no interest to me. That said, the seventh season had some fun moments; it was certainly better than the agony of the fourth season.
Overall the series is better than any other procedural on TV, with the possible exception of NCIS (which also includes a stellar cast of characters and is more than it appears to be). I am one of those people who can get hooked on a show. I can still quote entire scenes of “Moonlighting” from memory (my rendition of the “mole on his nose” exchange is almost as good as the original). And I will sink into a funk when a show I like is prematurely cancelled (if I ever find out who killed “EZ Streets” I’m gonna kick his ass like it has never been kicked). I will miss House and his band of merry men and women.