Tuesday, October 4, 2011

House gets stuck in a rut



As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m a big fan of the TV show House, M.D.. Last night was the season premiere and I was ready for it. I rushed the kids through the bedtime routine and herded them upstairs with strict instructions to “Go to sleep Now!” I was even willing to resort to bribery since Zach normally gets out of bed three or four times to ask me whatever burning question pops into his head before he falls asleep--Mommy, is dark matter the same as anti-matter? Mommy, did you know that the sun orbits around the center of the Milky Way? (If you haven’t guessed, his space is his newest fascination. Sigh, butterflies are a thing of the past.)


Luckily, I didn’t have to part with the two dollars I had slipped into my pocket—hush money for Zach—because he actually stayed in bed and fell asleep. Probably because Steve drove the boys to the unfinished part of our subdivision so that they could do some star gazing without interference from the street lights. Have I mentioned that Zach’s newest interest is space?

Anyway, for weeks, I scoured the internet, eagerly devouring any tidbit about the upcoming season of House. Trailers of House in prison garb had me giddy with excitement. Finally, I thought, after dropping the ball half-way through last season we’ll get to see House struggling with the emotional fallout from his behavior.

Nope. Not at all. Oh sure, there are a few lines where House reveals that no one has come to visit him in prison. That he didn’t hire an attorney and accepted the first deal the prosecution offered in order to punish himself. But where is the substance?

Half way through last season, House and Cuddy broke up. Rather than deal with his pain, House ignored it until in a fit of self-destructiveness he drove his car through the front room of Cuddy’s house then ran away to a tropical island. This season opens with House in prison as a result of that stunt.

Now I like the idea of House in prison. The writers could do some really great stuff with that. House isn’t in charge. His Vicodin usage is monitored. Wow. We might actually get to see him struggle to control himself. Instead, House, being House, finds and accurately diagnoses a sick inmate. Same thing he does when he’s not in prison.

I wanted to see the scenes they just talked about in this episode. I want to see House deciding not to hire an attorney. I want to see him trying to destroy himself. I want to see Cuddy confront him (I know, I know, Lisa Edelstein is no longer with the show—but she should be). I want some CLOSURE to their relationship. I want to see Wilson abandon House.

The reason I love(d?) the show is that it wasn’t the same old boring medical drama. Yes, it’s interesting to see a brilliant doctor diagnose a case. But good grief, enough already with the doctor-dramas. Yes, House’s abrasive, destructive personality is enticing, and I love seeing it. But the real appeal is watching House want to be more than he is and never quite attaining it. That’s why I loved the House/Cuddy relationship. Because it gave House the opportunity to change. And he did. A little. But those little glimmers of humanity were enough.

For a story to remain interesting to readers/viewers, the characters must grow and change. Now, the change doesn’t have to be for the better, House could spiral completely out of control. He’s never going to be a warm and fuzzy guy, nor would I want him to be. What I want to see is his desire to change. His struggle with the knowledge that he’s never going to be able to maintain a “normal” relationship.

I realize that David Shore (show’s creator) has said that he believes people don’t change and that’s why House keeps doing the same things over and over again. Okay. Fine. I can buy that. So don’t show us a changed House. Show us he desires to change, but fails. Scenes that could have shown that desire (House not hiring an attorney, House taking the plea, interaction between House and Wilson, House and Cuddy, etc.) were glossed over in a bit of dialogue. The show broke the cardinal rule of writing—Show, don’t Tell. They told us about these moments, instead of letting us see them. As a result, they lost whatever emotional impact they could have had with the viewer.

Hugh Laurie is a fantastic actor. He could play the hell out of those small moments, but he’s not getting the chance. Instead, we’re getting the same thing over and over again. Next week, it looks like House will be back at the hospital, doing the same old thing that he did before. I'm extremely dissapointed that a show with such brilliant potential has become stuck in a rut.

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