Tuesday, October 06, 2009

House, "The Tyrant": We stand on guard for thee

Quick spoilers for last night's "House" coming up just as soon as I raise my hand...

Two episodes into our return to Princeton Plainboro Teaching Hospital, I still find I don't care about any parts of the show that don't involve House and/or Wilson.

Even the reunion of the original team didn't do much to boost my interest in the patient's story this week. I've come to appreciate Chase a lot more in the last two seasons than I did when he was getting more screen time, but The Cameron & Chase Hour was only slightly more compelling than The Foreteen Show we got last week (and for much of last season). Jesse Spencer did a good job in the scene where he explained himself to Foreman, but I kept wanting to get back to House vs. David Marciano.

It's been a while since I've seen James Earl Jones play an African ruler, but overall, the season premiere has had the effect I feared when I first watched it: rather than revitalizing my interest in the show in general, it's elevated my interest in House himself and made the other characters and the medical mysteries feel even more superfluous than before. And unless things change soon, I'm not sure how much longer I'll be writing about the show - only so many ways to repeat that point, after all - or maybe even watching it.

What did everybody else think?

38 comments:

Epiphany said...

If anyone ever doubted why this show is called 'House', last night's episode would've convinced them. Despite the long-awaited reunion of the original fellows, for me, the show only moved into a higher gear whenever Hugh Laurie popped up.

His miming during the differential had me crying with laughter and his scenes with David Marciano had me holding my breath. As usual, even a minute of House and Wilson blows away just about every other combination (even House and Cuddy, although they're not too far behind).

Having said all that, I'm glad Jesse Spencer got the opportunity to do more in one episode than he was allowed during the entire run of season five (or should that be season Thirteen?). Omar Epps' Foreman was less flat and more bearable when he was playing off Jennifer Morrison's Cameron and Jesse's Chase. This leads me to the conclusion that sharing so much screen time with Olivia Wilde has affected Epps; he's got whatever it is she's got. Or hasn't got.

Didn't like the African dictator angle: it was a bit 'African dictator writing 101' but that's something few US shows get right so c'est la vie. James Earl Jones is still magnetic - he'll never lose that and one thing that really surprised me was the realisation that I miss Taub.

I know I wouldn't miss Thirteen at all if she died or left for Paris [hint to the writers - cos it's always the place everyone heads to in American TV shows when they're leaving the US] and I'm sick to the back teeth of ForeTeen.

Not a bad episode overall but I hear what you're saying Alan. I do hope you'll continue to write about House though; they might listen to you! Don't give up Alan! Help us Obi-Sepinwall, you're our only hope...

Rhoda said...

It's damned if you do, damned if you don't, in terms of the direction the show takes. I'd also love an all-House-all-the-time series, but at the same time, he has to be surrounded by interesting people and situations to react against. So yes, this does mean that on occasion you're going to get developments on characters who are not House. So reactions tend to be bitching from the side who want more emphasis on their favorite supporting character, or bitching from people who hate that character and never want to see them again because it takes time away from House.

As long as the overriding emphasis is on the character of House and his two-steps-forward, one-step-back progression through life, I have no problem with the series.

Anonymous said...

The mirror thing House used to treat David Marciano's phantom limb pain is real; the doctor that came up with it was recently profiled in the New Yorker. Unfortunately the article is not online, but here's the abstract: link. Well worth reading.

Karen said...

Wonder if the writers listen to WNYC's Radio Lab (or if House does). That's where I first heard about the phantom-hand-pain cure thing. Made guessing what was going to happen in that scene real easy.

Otherwise... still not sure if I'm sticking with House. I'd have to care about at least one character... and right now, I don't.

Yet another anonymous said...

I agree with much of what you're saying, Alan. As much as I like Epps as an actor, I'm kind of tired of him. Out of the non-House/Wilson characters, I think I liked Jesse Spencer the most, which is a far cry from the early years.

I agree that the "despotic African ruler" felt rather trite to me. I admit to paying little attention to the PoW, which can't be a good thing. I remember nothing of the secondary characters in that part of the SL.

I didn't even miss Cuddy! though I do hope that they bring Andre Braugher back. Not only is a he a terrific actor, but I think his occasional inclusion would be a great addition to the show.

I don't know where they go to from here. The issue of House as uber-diagnositician is still an interesting one, but how do you freshen it up? And please, no more new ducklings.

Having said all that, the show is fresher to me now than it was last season, but that's more a reflection on how disappointing last season was (and my continued bitterness that they killed off one of the few 'newish' characters I liked).

It can't be the House/Wilson show 24/7, so going back to an earlier question, what can they do?

belinda said...

I might be completely biased because Spencer is just that cute (:D), but I actually found that part of the story to be the most interesting to watch, even though it was a cliched potw - what with the boredom that is Foreteen, and while I love House, him badgering a guy and then fixing him is pretty much a standard tactic we've seen many many times. Anyway, I'm just glad that Spencer got his much deserved and needed screen time after being absent from the show for so long.

I've always felt that Chase is the most interesting adversary to House out of the three, and I hope we'd get to see more of that in the eps to come.

It was really, really, really great to see the old team back at the helm, and I love that they finally gave Chase the much needed 'showcase'. Better than the bulk of last season and a half, that's for sure.

Brent said...

Interesting assessment. I don't share what seems to be a kind of consensus opinion that everyone other than House is boring. My interest in the show has faded for sure, but more because the plots are always so formulaic. I actually like all the characters.

This particular episode was intriguing to me because it introduced an element for which there will surely be serious consequences for everything that happens subsequently. This is a bit of a departure for the show.

One of the odd things about the show's progression over the years is that no matter how drastic or dramatic the incident - suicide, major ethics violation, House's madness - they manage to always float the story back to the status quo and start over as if none of it ever happened.

I can't believe that is the case here. Chase killed a man. He knowingly acted to end another human being's life. That will have to create serious and reverberating repercussions and we will have to learn something about these characters that we didn't already find out in the pilot. At least, I hope so.

jackie said...

I love the character of House, too, above all the others, but I'm a little puzzled by your reaction of thinking you'll stop watching because the premiere convinced you House's character is your point of interest. Whether at Mayfield or PPTH, he has to have people to play off, and I thought Jesse Spencer did a fantastic job with the ethical dilemma on screen. He held my interest, as did House and Wilson, and I felt for Thirteen as well, as she tries to deal with Foreman. For the first time in a long time, I felt for Foreman, despite his inability to recognise his own issues.

I thought it was a wonderful episode setting up the next arc, which won't be centered on an outside character, but on some of our known characters imploding as House tries to transfer his own realisations from Mayfield to his real life. Should be great House, great Wilson, and I suspect, great Chase. What's not to like?

Kate said...

Count me in the opposition. This episode reminded me why I used to eagerly await the next episode of House. And what I've been missing for the past two years.

The complexities and the ethical dilemmas are back, and kudos to Jesse Spencer's acting. This is the first episode in a long time that I didn't have to park my brain at the door to watch. Even Andre Braugher's character, for all his strength, needs a refresher course in how to do therapy.

For all that HL is a good actor, I found myself fast forwarding through some of his bits. Yadda yadda, snarky House, suffering House, House-the-jerk. I've seen it all and I've seen enough to last me a very long time although the scenes with Wilson are the best of them.

I guess everyone watches House for different reasons. This episode gave me back the reason I watch, the complex situations and the growth of the characters, in this episode Chase, Cameron and House himself. This is what got lost when Shore sidelined Chase and Cameron for Taub and Thirteen. It was a mistake and one I hope he now realizes. Taub and Thirteen simply don't have the depth as characters (or the acting ability in OW's case) to produce an episode like this one.

Kate said...

Just to add, although this was Chase's episode and Jesse Spencer rose to the task, Cameron was necessary to set up his conflict. Without her opposition to the tyrant, the effect of Chase's decision would have fallen much flatter, if he would have made it at all. Both Cameron and Chase were necessary to drive the morality issue here, in contrast to Foreman who yet again was all about his own issues and his sense of self-importance. To me, a metaphor for the show itself these days.

Karen said...

Me? I was just happy to see the Original [Famous?] Ray from Due South.

Mrglass said...

It was a great "normal" episode, and it showed that the old team had a dynamic hard to replicate, however boring they might have seemed at the time. And House spoofing Dexter's M.O. was hilarious, even if the cure for the veteran felt like another miracle.

There may have been too many storylines for one episode, and the shift of tone from one scene to the next was sometimes jarring. But unlike some of last year episodes, it was the opposite of boring; not bad for a show in its 6th season.

Plus, the moral dilemma raised here, and highlighted by Jones' excellent performance (alas too brief, again perhaps too many stories for 42 minutes), are at least as interesting as watching Don Draper having sex in a swimming pool. How often do you see Rwanda discussed on primetime TV?

Anonymous said...

You only prefer House and Wilson while I prefer House/Wilson & House/Cuddy. Sorry without Cuddy, the show doesn't work for me. I found the House/Wilson scenes last night to be boring and some of the same old rhetoric between these two characters. They should have saved their scenes for a future episode.

Bix said...

I agree w/ Mrglass: The stuff with the old team was never close to as boring as the worst episodes of S4 and S5, and last night felt like a much better formula episode than we've been getting. Plus while I'm not OMGTHECHASEANDCAMERONFANS Chase got kinda awesome by the end of S3 and was by far the best diagnostician of the fellows (I never understood why Foreman got all of the good offers unless it was because he has a more glamorous specialty) and Cameron was always interesting enough after the point in S1 where it became clear that the biggest faults with the character were intentional and not bad writing. I liked Taub and Kutner (and Thirteen was fine when she wasn't dominating the show), but for whatever reason, even after 2 seasons without them doing anything of note, it seems like the original cast is a much better fit.

Hatfield said...

Yeah, I disagree too, I thought this was the strongest episode in a while. Part of that was surely nostalgia for the dynamics that made me love the show in the first place, but it was mostly House and Chase. Jesse Spencer has always been great on this show, and interesting in that he got blamed for being a teacher's pet and yet he was the one who sold out to Vogler. Giving him so much heavy lifting was fantastic. JEJ was great too, and having Chase decide to kill him was one of those things that while I saw coming within the framework of the episode, it was unexpected overall.

Foreman has grown tiresome, but I kind of like Thirteen better now that she's trying to show Foreman what a jerk he is.

I dunno, this episode totally had me, and the True Blood joke, Marciano and House mime act all elevated it big time. I'll be sad if you give up.

R said...

Personally I really enjoyed the return to the old team. I found the episode really highlighted both irrelevant Taub really is & how annoying & one-note 13 (& Boreteen, for that matter) is. Meaty ethical issues with CC&F - bring it on. I wish that the writers had taken the time to expand the script & make this a two hour episode - more JEJ is never a bad thing & I'd have liked to see less shorthand for some of Chase & Cameron's thinking.

I'm in the camp that found the premier (Broken) incredibly cliched, Epic Fail a case study in why ever putting Olivia Wilde & Omar Epps on the same screen is recipe for disaster & both episodes a complete waste of time. The writing & required suspension of disbelief in The Tyrant pushed my limits, but it was worth it to see two amazing performances from JEJ & Jesse Spencer. And I think the next few episodes following the fallout for Chase will be very interesting to watch, particularly when House finds out about this (& you know he will).

amyp3 said...

Isn’t firing someone *because* they’re your girlfriend illegal – like some type of reverse sexual harassment? They totally lost me there – it just seemed so heavyhanded and unreal. And then the dull Chase/ Cameron storyline this week, which was handled like something out of a 1970s Dr. Welby or Medical Center episode.

I’m one of those who became bored with House (the character’s) same old same old the past couple of years. But, as others have said, this year the show really is nothing without his presence. However, it’s not that the others have always been so uninteresting –they’ve just become 2-D more recently, it seems to me.

So we’re in kind of a no-win situation.

I keep saying I’m going to stop watching and I may finally do that now. (It took me a similarly long time to wean myself from the maddening mess that was/ is Lost.)

Bix said...

By the way, does anyone (Alan?) know the specifics behind the main credits never changing after Thirteen, Taub, and Kutner officially joined the team?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think that Cameron might be a LITTLE angry when she figures out that the medicine she gave JEJ was the dose that killed him, i.e. that her husband used her as a tool to commit murder?

filmcricket said...

Isn’t firing someone *because* they’re your girlfriend illegal – like some type of reverse sexual harassment?

Yeah, I wondered that last week. Foreman could be on the other end of a major lawsuit.

This show has pretty much always been about Hugh Laurie for me (and a bit about Robert Sean Leonard). This week Laurie was, as usual, awesome, but as happy as I was to have a little less Foreteen in my life, the return of Chase and Cameron didn't do much for me, and Jones did his best with really weak material.

I stopped watching this last year once it went up against Chuck. I'll keep watching it for now, but once the Olympics are over, it'll be bye-bye Princeton Plainsboro, hello Buy More for me.

kimshum said...

This episode starkly showed how much better the show is when Peter Blake writes the episodes. And agreed, House is more interesting than anything else going on and the repeated attempts to give supporting characters something to do just falls flat.

I have negative interest in the Foreman/Thirteen relationship, mostly because even after five years, I don't give a damn about Foreman. I do adore Olivia Wilde, but I just don't buy their relationship or believe they have some sort of connection.

But Hugh Laurie is, as always, brilliant.

Edward Copeland said...

The repercussions of last night's episode will be playing out for awhile and I imagine will play a part in how Jennifer Morrison exits the show in November while Jesse Spencer doesn't. Good thing she saved that dead husband's sperm.

Ariadne said...

amyp3, the whole 'Foreman is dating Thirteen' shows how different the old show was than this version. In season 2 Chase told Cameron she couldn't be in charge of the department because she had asked House for a date and slept with him, and next season Cuddy warned Cameron against dating Chase, someone on the same level as she was.

Season 5, Cuddy had no problem with Foreman being in a relationship with Thirteen who is a fellow in the same department in which he is an attending, and by season 6 she's okay with him being her boss. The show was never truly realistic but now it's not even trying to make sense any more.

On to the show. And this is the show I waited around more than two years to finally get back to.

James Earl Jones turned in a wonderful performance as a despicable man with some logic to his reasoning.

House was snark and brilliant as usual but he also showed some growth. Finally.

Foreman continues to bore me but at least when Chase and Cameron are in the scenes, they can call him on it for real as opposed to the flapping Taub and Thirteen do. (The continuing Foreman/Thirteen drama was the weakest part of the episode. Can't they get rid of Thirteen for even one episode?)

Finally, a decent medical episode for Chase and Cameron. (And it's worth noting that a board I lurk at has revived the 'ethical debates' thread after more than two years of nothing tp say.)

In the episode Cameron told Foreman that he was generally a reasonable person except when he's made a mistake and then he retrenches and refuses to admit to it. That struck me as a metaphor for how Shore has handled replacing the original team with the new one -- a big mistake but instead of fixing it, he retrenched and compounded it.

In this episode, House learned that he didn't have to "double down" as Wilson said, his usual modus operandi, he could address the problem with the neighbour, admit his mistake and reach a solution that made things better for them both.

I hope David Shore can do the same with the fellows old and new, realize where he made the mistake and fix it instead of retrenching and forcing even more Foreman/Thirteen and Taub on us. I think the show badly needs both Chase and Cameron back.

Micha said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who wasn't any more interested in Chase and Cameron all hour than Foreteen. I won't deny that I watch the show for House/Cuddy and House/Wilson scenes but I also know that House needs more characters than just those three. They really need to figure out how to use them better though.

I actually like the old format that Alan finds boring so after last night, I think a team made up of Epic Fail's 13 (I hated last season's 13), Chase, and Taub would be my dream team.

Mainly though I just disliked last night's episode. I didn't like the overtly political nature of it and the House/Wilson storyline grated. House's antics felt stale because he was essentially on his own with them, the House/Wilson wasn't fun since he kicked House out of his apt, there wasn't any House/Cuddy, an overload of C/C doesn't interest me anymore than too much Foreteen, and I still hate Foreman. Definitely my least favorite episode in a long time.

Lori said...

I never really liked Foreman in general, but it seems like he's being a real jerk lately. The only way to save the relationship is to fire your girlfriend? seriously? He used to at least be self-aware enough to know he was being a jerk and becoming more like House, but now he's just doing it and attempting to justify it.

Yeah, he could have quit. Yeah, he could have stopped being a jerk, and thank God Cameron called him on it, because there wasn't anyone else in the show that could have. Coming from House, it would have just made him mad, and coming from Taub or Thirteen wouldn't have sunk in, he'd have brushed it aside.

If I was Thirteen, I'd have dumped him last week. Now she's just coming off as stupid.

Otherwise, I liked this episode for all the reasons everyone else stated. I like the ethical dilemma that might stretch out, I like the focus on Chase for a change, and I like that House appears to be changing. Sure, he'll probably go back to his usual self by the end of the season, but the illusion is working for the moment.

kate said...

I have a question that stemmed from watching this episode. Did we ever find out the real reason why House fired Chase after Foreman quit (and led to Cameron quitting as well, and began the torture that was the 'new' team)? I only remember House saying something like, 'We need change'.

Anonymous said...

This episode showed that they never should have messed with the original cast. The new team can't hold a candle to the old. The new actors aren't in the same league with Jesse Spencer who deserves Emmy consideration. Can you imagine Olivia Wilde trying to measure up to James Earl Jones? I don't think it's an accident that they brought Chase back for this episode. His character can sell the moral dilema and is a sympathetic enough character that the audience just might let him get away with murder. Speaking of Emmys, JEJ deserves one for sure. I'm looking forward to how this plays out for Chase and I'm looking forward to more stellar performances by Jesse Spencer. Let's just hope he doesn't get backburned again so we can find out about such important things 13's favorite pasta instead.

filmcricket said...

Did anyone else, by the way, note House saying something about Thirteen like "It's not like she's the most beautiful woman in the worl--"? A nod, perhaps, to Wilde's recent nomination by some lad mag or other (Maxim, maybe?) as the hottest chick on the planet?

Wes covington said...

Most organizations have a policy where people in a relationship cannot be in a supervisory position.

If Princeton Plainsboro had an HR department, the head would have told Cuddy to reassign Thirteen to a different department.

dez said...

The repercussions of last night's episode will be playing out for awhile and I imagine will play a part in how Jennifer Morrison exits the show in November while Jesse Spencer doesn't.

That's what I was thinking, too. Wish I could unlearn that bit of casting news!

Anonymous said...

mirror therapy is evidence based and of use in post stroke rehabilitation, crps/rsd, and phantom pain see www.mirrorboxtherapy.com

R said...

If Princeton Plainsboro had an HR department, the head would have told Cuddy to reassign Thirteen to a different department.

Bwaaah! PPTH used to have an HR dept - it got conveniently forgotten about when the whole Survivor arc stupidity started, along with the legal department (remember all the lawyers in s1 - 3? Stacy?) & PPTH's Board (you know, the one Cuddy reports to & Wilson was a member of). About 90% of the stupid on House over the last two plus seasons can be directly traced to their convenient jettisoning by the writers.

Pamela Jaye said...

I may not be able to explain why, but after being able to sleep through House last season, suddenly it's more interesting than it's been in a long time. (maybe cause he's not chasing Cuddy? I have no clue).

I'm finding Foreman interesting, 13 pretty and far less annoying, I've probably always liked Cameron (except when she was too righteous for everyone else), and Chase is interesting now too (maybe absence/heart/fonder)

House and the final scene with neighbor was just great. (was the mirror necessary to that? I know the duct tape was!)

And House and Wilson are still nice - though RSL needs to get fewer haircuts. (hey, i'm female and 50 and sorry, HL doesn't do it for me. I've decided to avoid the wounded alpha male we discussed on our House list. of course Wilson can be just as wounded as he likes. I don't know enough about RSL to care.)

This is an arc, right?
Omar is always plugging on Twitter.

Maybe the fact that he *is* on Twitter is affecting my view of his character. But if I were to say "good job," I'd say it to the writers.

Pamela Jaye said...

@anonymous - thanks

Pamela Jaye said...

more on mirror therapy

Anonymous said...

Despite being quite formulaic, this was the best episode since Season 3. A single, non-exceptional episode using the old team shows what an unmitigated disaster the past two years have been. This episode worked because Cuddy was sidelined and used as a hospital administrator instead of us being asked to buy her as interested in House (there's less convincing chemistry there than between Foreman/13 for anything but comedic angles), 13 was mercifully mostly absent, and Foreman was reigned in, crucial to a character whose only interesting element is his adversarial relationship with House. The return of the original team serves as a reminder that you can successfully be formulaic and still make a quality show if your characters actually work together.

Based on the self-congratulatory crowing I've read in interviews with the showrunners over the past two years, and the news that Jennifer Morrison is being forced out of the show, it's clear that they're going to run it immediately back off the rails. These are people who believe that they handled Kutner's exit and the House/Cuddy storyline from last season well. Only Weeds has strayed farther in recent years from what made it compelling than House.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed "The Tyrant" for the way they showed Chase's dilemma and House handling Wilson's downstairs neighbor. That would not have been shown or written in seasons 2 or 3. The differential and medical procedures are finally taking a back seat to the characters.

It seems like this show is in transition. In the first 4 seasons, it was more about the procedures, the strange cases and House as an addict/Dr. Crabbypants. From mid-season 5 until now, it seems like the writers have finally opened their eyes and realized what we fans have known all along....the characters are more important than the plot.


It seems like the writers are taking more risks than before, and they've certainly paid off. The premiere, a 2-hr episode with House + a cast of unknowns, was a huge gamble, and it ranked right up there with 'Three Stories'.

I think people who expect the show to be the same week after week are in for a rude awakening, at least I hope so. One of the things that made "The Shield" my favorite show for so long was how you could never guess where the story was going to go, right up until the very end. Hopefully the writing staff of "House" will keep taking risks and surprising us.

Ariadne said...

The differential and medical procedures are finally taking a back seat to the characters... From mid-season 5 until now, it seems like the writers have finally opened their eyes and realized what we fans have known all along....the characters are more important than the plot.

I disagree, the show always had good characterization with episodes such as Damned if You Do in season 1 which showed up something about every one of the six original characters. The difference is that back then it was subtle and stemmed naturally from the central medical plot. By mid Season 4, the patient was often nothing but a whopping great anvil to set up the soap opera that was what the show became.

An equal problem is what they are doing with the characters. Some people love House/Cuddy (although I find it so unrealitistic and painfully bad I can't wait for it to end, which it won't) but does anyone at all care about Foreman and Thirteen's relationship and whether they will survive the crushing idiocy of his ego? Their never-ending plots are a waste of mine limited TV watching time and I'm starting to resent that very much.

One of the things that made "The Shield" my favorite show for so long was how you could never guess where the story was going to go, right up until the very end.

Sadly, I can tell you exactly where House is going to go. House and Cuddy will continue to be teased going nowhere until the last episode because to actually do it would kill the relationship; Foreman and Thirteen will continue to suck monstrous amounts of screentime to very few people caring; Wilson will be used only enough to keep people watching the show; Taub will continue to have occasional crises very few care about, and Cameron will be backburnered again because she is more popular than Thirteen and a threat to House/Cuddy fantasies.

And whatever progress House makes in either his relationsips or pain relief will be reset to baseline after the next sweeps period.

The problem with this show is that it has become all too predictable. And not in a good way.