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House's decline and fall

(Reposting my comment on the journal of a non-House fan friend who wanted to know, "So what I'm asking is, what happened to turn so many against it? What the heck COULD have happened that was so awful everyone decided House would be better off with a bullet in its brain?" )



I definitely agree that the format of the episodes has always been very
formulaic. However, one of the biggest complaints among my set this past
year was that too much time was spent on exploring the regulars'
personal lives (especially the House/Cuddy relationship) and not enough
on a compelling Patient of the Week plot. Recent announcements by the
creator that he intended to restore the show to its roots have been met
with cautious optimism. With enough medical mystery ideas, I think the
show could have endured as a beloved procedural for eight plus years.


I think that the big problem has been with the writers' inability to
envision anything like believable character development. In the first
season, House was clearly the hero of the story - eccentric and
misanthropic, but on the side of the angels, willing to risk his career
to save his patient in an unorthodox way, etc. I loved his flirtatious
friendship with Wilson, a fascinating foil to House, and enjoyed the
antagonistic sexual tension with his boss Cuddy. I also enjoyed House's
complicated relationships with the three original Cottages, each of whom
was there to serve a particular professional purpose on the team (once
mocked by House as "No!" "Yes!" "Have you considered the ethical
implications?") but also had an interesting personal dynamic with their
mentor.


I agree with [info]jcello that a once-brilliant show became a parody of itself. I think that the
end of S3 would have been an excellent time for the show to end, and one
of my own favorite fics is an AU in which it does because House is
diagnosed with terminal cancer. Instead, they brought in new characters
(which in the context of a medical school makes sense, but they just
weren't as compelling as the original ones) while failing to move the
old ones along in their careers and personal lives. So on the one hand
we saw stagnation for the secondary characters, and on the other, the
three leads - House, Wilson, and Cuddy - lost their intriguing
multidimensionality and became caricatures of their previous selves.


In particular, starting as early as the second season, one can see the
writers, astonished by the success of their show, start flexing their
muscles in an attempt to see just how unlikeable they can make House
without completely alienating their viewers, and how much psychic pain
he can inflict on himself and those who care about him. This culminated
in a dramatic way with his driving his car into ex-girlfriend Cuddy's
house at the end of S7, but really his behavior had been building to
something on that level of appalling for a long time. Now the actress
who portrayed Cuddy has left the show (and I certainly can't blame her
for that decision!).


Many of us wish that we could quit, too.


ETA: What the heck is wrong with the paragraph spacing on LJ since they changed the rich text toolbar??


Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
blackmare
Aug. 21st, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Pretty much this, although I liked a lot of the things we got in seasons 4 through 6.

I'll watch until the end for House and Wilson, but God help me, I hope so hard there will be no season 9.
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that I enjoyed S4 a lot more on rewatching, and of course there's a lot of great House/Wilson dynamic in S6. But I also really hope that there will be no season 9.
nightdog_barks
Aug. 21st, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
I think it's worth noting that Season 4 -- when the new Fellows came on board -- was also the strike-shortened season, so whatever character development TPTB might have had in mind for the old Fellows got lost in the rush to put 16 episodes on the screen. Still, personally I think some pretty weird creative decisions were made, then and later, but of course we've all got our own definitions of what constitutes "weird." *g*

Anyway. I'm very curious to see what Season 8 brings, but I don't think I would have minded that much if last season had been the ... well, last. :-)
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, you're absolutely right - the writers' strike probably wreaked some havoc with their plans for character and plot development that season. Actually I have few problems with the creative decisions made in S4 (other than the fact that the old Fellows kept hanging around PPTH instead of getting real jobs elsewhere). After that, though, at least by my definition, it gets weird *g*.

I'm curious about S8, and I will watch it. But it's less something I look forward to and more like a tragic accident, away from which I can't tear my eyes...
stenveny
Aug. 21st, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
I concur with much of this, but I thought season 4, by putting House into contact with more and more varied characters, provided a good exploration of House's character. Its finale, along with the first few episodes of season 5, delved into the House/Wilson relationship in a satisfying way. Both seasons demonstrated how he deals with change and loss, and how he expects to be treated by people he cares about, and hinted at why.

The more I think about the season 7 finale (and I can't help but think about season 7 no matter how had I try not to, oh, the humanity), the more I'm inclined to believe that someone somewhere knew about Lisa E's departure long before that final scene was filmed. They didn't quite kill Cuddy off, but they came as close as they could. The character had served its purpose, and it's time for House, MD, to have a professional relationship with an equal, or at least someone whose medical skill he respects and who he isn't flirting with.

I'll be watching season 8 with the hope that they'll do something to tie up some loose ends and end the show with House, not necessarily loved, but respected, accepted, perhaps even understood.
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
I agree with you about the S4 finale and the beginning of S5. The S3 finale made a good natural break, but I would have missed out on some of my favorite episodes if the series had ended there.

And I CANNOT believe that they (or at least DS) didn't know about LE's departure before writing the last few episodes of S7. I clearly remember the rumors floating around about LE's plans to leave - I think this was roughly midway through S7 - and coupled with Shore's decision to take charge of the last part of the season and re-break/rewrite? It's too much of a coincidence.

I'm too convinced of Shore's essentially nihilistic vision at this point to hope that House will get some kind of happy ending, but it will be a pleasant surprise if he does.
jezziejay
Aug. 21st, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
For the first six seasons, House worked so well because despite being an ass, he was consistently redeemed through his interactions with others. I always enjoyed how the writers pushed the audience into almost disliking him, before having him do something that led to either forgiveness or understanding – so you could understand why his team respected him, why Wilson was his friend, why Cuddy and Stacy were in love with him. But they really dropped the ball in the last season, and turned him into an ass without much to redeem him. There was little for the audience to empathise with, and for the first time ever, I found myself disliking House – and I love House. Asshats!
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
I do think that House was trying to be a better man in S6 at least (after an ugly run in S5). But in S7 he seemed to be reduced to his relationship with Cuddy... and that might not have been so bad if it had seemed like it was worth the loss of his passion and genius, but it really didn't. (I know you think that it still would have been just as bad ;).)
jezziejay
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, by all accounts it seems as though House got a little lost in the huddy arc - but I can't believe how unsympathetic they made him - he was a terrible boyfriend, a terrible friend, a terrible doctor and a terrible driver! I just can't find anything to like about him in season seven. I felt far more for Cuddy and Wilson than I did for him, even before the finale.
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
he was a terrible boyfriend, a terrible friend, a terrible doctor and a terrible driver!

Or a really good driver ;) - after all, he managed to do exactly what he intended without accidentally injuring anyone in the house (and Wilson wouldn't have been hurt if he hadn't panicked and jumped out of the way). But otherwise I think you've pretty much summed it up!
cuddyclothes
Aug. 21st, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
This is written with excellent clarity. Especially explaining to a non-super-invested fan what the issues are. Does this friend watch House?

I don't believe DS knew LE was leaving. I think she was probably putting out feelers once the contract talks got so ugly. Someone in her position has to know she's in demand. But we'll never know. I keep thinking of that video of Jesse Spencer getting his head shaved, and remarking that he had to get approval for six different levels of management to do it!

This might not be comparable, but Sasha Alexander left NCIS to raise a family, and years later she's made a big comeback with Rizzoli and Isles. In that case, she was part of ensemble show (which I think of as a repetitive procedural show but enjoy the characters).

I first saw the end of S4 and then S5, go all of the DVDs and barrelled through them, so I didn't have a problem with the new ducklings. I did have a problem with putting C & C so much on the back burner. I didn't have a huge problem until S6, where honestly, I felt betrayed.

Oh, God, I'm talking about the show as if it was a person.
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
Does this friend watch House?
My friend has seen a few episodes - I don't know which ones - and decided that House was an ass and it wasn't worth continuing. So she's not a fan, but she had heard things about it from friends off and on and was curious about the recent brouhaha.

I don't believe DS knew LE was leaving.
I think that LE is lovely and talented, and I hope that she does find happiness and success on other projects. I tend to see her departure as the desertion of a sinking ship... which imo is a sensible thing to do! I would really like to know what the timing looked like in terms of her decision vs. the penning of the finale, but you're probably right that we'll never be sure.

Oh, God, I'm talking about the show as if it was a person.
The show may not be a person, but the writers are people. I don't think it's weird to feel betrayed when you think they aren't being true to the original vision with which you fell in love.

menolly_au
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
I will always pinpoint season 4 as the start of the decline. Up until that point the character of House was the main, and really only, focus of the show - he was in virtually all the scenes, he drove the plot.

Then by the end of season 4 he shared the limelight with Thirteen for several episodes, and I don't think he's ever regained sole focus. Then there was the mess with Cameron/Chase still hanging around and having to be worked into scenes, the show went from six to nine characters and I think it suffered a lot from that. (We lost the clinic scenes for one thing, which was a huge loss)

I didn't mind a lot of season five and six but I never regained the passion for the show I had for the first three seasons. Season seven was terrible of course, not so much the Huddy but the fact that they did it so badly. (and the Taub suplot, which went on and on and on and on....which I think might have killed it for me almost as much as the Huddy)

Overall I think that House the series has had some brilliant episodes that the writers/producers failed to follow up on to their full potentional.

I'm hoping that season 8 will be good, if not great, and by midway through people will be saying - hey, I hope this gets picked up for another season:)




menolly_au
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
Oh I forgot, yeah LJ rich text editor is totally stuffed, and the HTML one is a bit wonky too - when I tried to edit one of the chain fic threads it became one giant paragraph and I spent ages putting all the breaks back in - using two different browsers. Finally found an annoucement on LJ somewhere saying that they made changes to the editors and there are some 'problems'!!
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's ridiculous - doesn't matter whether I type in directly or copy and paste from Word, it still totally screws up my formatting. Stupid so-called improvements.
menolly_au
Aug. 21st, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
You'd think someone might actually test the changes before making them live....
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
I think that House started sharing the limelight with Thirteen after her Huntington's diagnosis (so starting in S5) - am I forgetting something? But the focus on him definitely started to soften in S4 - it had to with so many characters hanging around (which is why I wish they'd made a clean break with the original fellows even though I prefer them to the second set).

ITA about the endless Taub subplot and the mishandling of the Huddy.

And it would be wonderful if I actually enjoyed the first half of S8 instead of cringing in anticipation of the next horror...
menolly_au
Aug. 21st, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, sorry you're right - it was season five - when the focus should have been on House/Wilson and their recovery after the Amber thing it was all on Thirteen.

As much as I would have hated to see CC&F go I think it would have been the right decision if they were determined to bring in new characters - personally I think we didn't need the new characters when the originals were still fairly unexplored. And then they killed off by far the most interesting one anyway...
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
Yes, Kutner was definitely my favorite. I guess they had to do something with him when Kal Penn left, and they chose to kill him and set off House's downward spiral, but they could have come up with some kind of Thirteen-in-jail explanation instead if they hadn't wanted it to be final...
barefootpuddles
Aug. 21st, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
starting as early as the second season, one can see the
writers, astonished by the success of their show, start flexing their
muscles in an attempt to see just how unlikeable they can make House
without completely alienating their viewers, and how much psychic pain
he can inflict on himself and those who care about him.


This is a really excellent point! It seemed at the beginning they took a unlikely, but still possible, humanly flawed character and eventually turned the entire thing into a showcase for an impossible character with completely implausible situations.

I thought season 4, though funny and well written, began this breakdown. No one could get away with a "Survivor" style job hunt that broke every law and moral ethic, especially not at a university teaching hospital. Once credulity was strained to breaking, the writers decided they could do anything and got more and more silly.

I have been watching old favorites this summer via the joys of Tivo, and House's problems were there, but he was so much more private about them.

Someone (as usually, I forget who) pointed out that the hooker in "Distractions" is realistic. She's the young woman who comes to the door and House asks "do we have to talk?". The scene is gritty and sad, but realistic. House needs a distraction and he doesn't want someone he might care about who will want to talk to him. He just needs a distraction. Nothing is bragged about, no one on the team, nor Wilson nor Cuddy, has to know. Compare that with "Out of the Chute" and the hookers in the bed. Stuff like that looses all realism and the show's humanity with it.
flywoman
Aug. 21st, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
Compare that with "Out of the Chute" and the hookers in the bed.

This is an excellent example of how House became a caricature. He resorted to the hooker in "Distractions" (after Wilson suggested it!) because he was physically hurting himself in order to try to escape psychic pain. He's not proud. It's not funny. But then by "Out of the Chute," although he's using hookers for much the same purpose, it's become a big joke to the writers and something to be flaunted in front of his employees.
yarroway
Aug. 22nd, 2011 10:17 am (UTC)
I was just having a similar conversation on Alternatealto's journal. I guess all our minds are on this now.

It's funny that I agree with your sentiments and yet disagree about the particulars. I liked S4 and much of 5. I even liked parts of 6. I found 7 unwatchable. For a show that trumpets its hero's unchanging nature, he sure has changed. I agree with those who thought the ensemble was too large and that 13 got too much screen time. As much as I liked the original 3 fellows, IMO they should have left the show for the changeover to work.

I think the move from medical drama to nighttime soap, had it been handled better, could have been successful. If they'd moved the story along, varied the plots among the supporting players, and given us less H/C time it could have worked.

A few people here said House was a bad boyfriend. I didn't think so at all. I thought he was a terrible baby sitter but a good boyfriend. Well, aside from changing himself to please Cuddy, which freaked me out.

BFP's hooker example is a good one. They lost all subtlety on the show.
flywoman
Aug. 22nd, 2011 11:09 am (UTC)
I should make it clear that I did like S4 and much of 5 and 6. However, I stand by my opinion on the new vs. old fellows and the ongoing distortion of House, Wilson, and Cuddy's characters.
yarroway
Aug. 22nd, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
I SO agree that the second set of fellows was less compelling. I was interested in Kutner and Taub but they weren't used well. My favorite Taub scene is also one if my favorite S5 scenes (there were many) and is when he cries after Kutner's death.

I never saw Wilson or Cuddy as a lead character until S7. I agree with you that their characters changed drastically, and not for the better. S5 seems to me to be when they destroyed Cuddy. IMO she didn't change after that, it was just all more of the same. Wilson had more of a slow slide into doofus territory. And House...sigh. Poor House. What they did to him is just awful.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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