Every now and again, the trained seals atop American television networks accidentally stumbled upon a good idea. While scouring America’s lavatories, searching for that special pile of excrement in which to grant its own prime-time slot, someone, somewhere, unearths a good idea for a show. Granted, television executives will toss said show out their window and instead rewind whatever masturbatory fodder passes as a show these days. That is why a good show that has not only managed to see the light of day but remain on the airwaves deserves to be celebrated. Please welcome the first entrant into Celebrating Shows That Don’t Suck.
If a televised abortion like Paris Hilton’s My New BFF resembles a heaping, steaming mound of excrement left on a church’s altar, then House is akin to a dribble of piss on the rim of a toilet seat. Granted, ABC’s House is formulaic (patient comes in, House misdiagnoses, almost kills patient before the Act 5 epiphany), cheap and impatient but Hugh Laurie as House is so fucking brilliant, so transcendent, I barely notice the melodramatic plot contrivances that, in the hands of a lesser actor, would send blood flowing from my eye sockets.
Dr. Gregory House is, for all intents and purposes, depressed, angry and misanthropic but is played so pitch perfect; we are allowed fleeting glimpses into the desperate vulnerability House so desperately tries to hide. His neediness is never so clearly seen as when he interacts with his best friend, the Head of Oncology, Dr. James Wilson. Without Wilson, I have no doubt House would have fallen victim to self-inflicted shotgun blast to the mouth, years before the show picked him up. I would argue all his posturing, impulsiveness and grandstanding tantrums are for Wilson’s benefit alone. House is intelligent enough to understand Wilson is attracted – no, obsessed – with flawed, tragic figures. House knows, whether he admits it or not, Wilson’s attention may waver if House made any semblance of getting his life together.
Yet, a clearer beacon to House’s inner torment shines when Wilson, as he often does, gives in to House’s bellowing cries for attention. Infallibly, once House secures Wilson’s cloying attention, House finds a way to hurt Wilson, just because Wilson refuses to give up on him. The acceptance and love House so desperately seeks, he pushes away with even more vigor, because he doesn’t believe he deserves it.
House may be the best character, and Laurie the best actor, on television right now. The scenes with House and Wilson are among the medium’s best, as these two manage to capture the odd, emotionally confusing, macho vulnerability of male friendships. Due to the male’s inability to properly emote, male friendships take place largely underneath the surface. It is small gestures, unseen allowances and grave sacrifice given with a flippancy that belies its true importance, which defines male friendships. We’ll get out of bed at four in the morning to pick up a friend who has just beaten his girlfriend half to death. We’ll berate him for his quick temper while we crack a beer to await the inevitable Court Summons.
After watching the entire series up to the third season, I came to the startling conclusion that, Laurie aside, the show is largely forgettable, perhaps less than good.
THINGS THAT CAN’T HELP BUT SUCK
Change – At the end of Season 2, House is shot and his chronic leg pain cured (don’t ask me how). At the beginning of the next season he’s running, exercising and seems happier than ever before. I wanted to see over 24 episodes how, even though he got exactly what he wanted (to be free of pain), House couldn’t help but revert back to being an asshole. Of course, being Hollywood, the writers return to the status quo (leg pain, misanthropy, etc.) within two episodes. Is evolving a show, growing it with their characters so terrifying we must endlessly be treated to the cheap bait and switch.
At the end of Season Three, House’s entire team quits for various and, naturally, undeveloped reasons. Guess how long it takes the monkeys to write these characters back into the show? Two episodes.
Supporting Cast – Aside from Wilson and, to a much lesser extent, House’s boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy (who looks closer to the average New Jersey herpes host than she does a hospital administrator), the supporting cast is exceptionally weak. There’s Dr. Chase whose only character trait is that he kisses House’s ass; Dr. Cameron, a rail thin waif who, I suppose, serves as the show’s moral compass; and Dr. Foreman, the most one-dimensional character to ever, and I mean ever, make it through four seasons of television. I don’t know whether it’s the writing or Omar Epps himself (blasphemy!) but Foreman grinds the show to a halt whenever he appears onscreen. He has no moral grounding nor does he possess the single, identifiable personality trait. One show, he’ll fight tooth and nail to save a patient from a peaceful and, often, well deserved death. The next episode will have him torturing a child on an operating table for no real reason other than that the script calls for it. Simply removing Foreman from the show would boost it considerably.
NOTE: I caught a segment of the new season and House is working with a new team of models. Had I stuck around to watch more than an embarrassing charade whereby an African Mormon stole Dr. Cuddy’s panties, surely I’d have deleted anything bad I said about Foreman.
Patient of the Day: The Patient of the Day is more often than not played with such cringe-worthy, bile inducing, melodramatic ineptness I, at many points, truthfully think the producers are tanking the show on purpose. Why else would half these “actors” survive the first round of casting without being thrown to the curb with the day’s garbage?
Some notable patients include an old homeless man who is admitted to the hospital screaming like a raving lunatic. Allegedly the bum wanted to die in the most horrible fashion so that Dr. Cameron will remember him after his death rattle echoes through the ICU. If they had played the bum as a fanatical Vietnam vet, and had Cameron commit him to the asylum in which he so desperately belongs, before fucking her boyfriend on the mental patient’s now vacated bed, I would been able to accept him. Instead, they not only play the hobo straight but we are asked to elicit sympathy for this deranged madman, foolishly using up hospital resources for the sole purpose of teaching a doctor he’s never met, a lesson.
Yet, I believe it is the Cuban couple at the end of Season 3 who turn in the worst performance of the show’s tenure – perhaps even of the last 10 years of the medium. I can’t do justice to the insanity of their performance – particularly the husband – with mere words. One must watch the abortion to truly appreciate the horror. The performance was so bad, I was forced to take a two year long break from the show out of sheer rage.
Bottom Line: Hugh Laurie is a pimp and without him the show would be among the hundreds of pilots on CBS’ shredding room.