Tuesday, February 09, 2010

House, "5 to 9": Cuddy class

As I've said previously, I've largely given up on writing about "House" because there's no point in my repeating the same complaints week after week after week, but last night's Cuddy-centric episode - like the Wilson-centric one that was the last one I previously wrote about - was of an order of magnitude so much better than most of this season that I felt it deserved mention. Some quick thoughts coming up just as soon as I get a prescription for breast milk...

The basic idea was the same as in "Wilson," which was to show the huge part of this character's life that's unrelated to House, and to show what typical House stories must look like from the perspective of someone not on the team. And even though it was coming relatively close on the heels of "Wilson," I thought the execution was really effective, in part because Lisa Edelstein is really talented (and only occasionally gets to show off that talent), in part because the day-in-the-life structure gave "5 to 9" its own distinct vibe. We got a great sense of just how overburdened Cuddy is as both single mom (even with a nanny and a helpful boyfriend) and administrator at PPTH, let alone how exponentially harder House makes her life just because he can. And I loved the use of two songs by tough female singers of a certain age (The Pretenders' "Break Up the Concrete" and Mary Chapin-Carpenter's "Passionate Kisses") to bookend Cuddy's story.

What episodes like this one, and "Wilson," and "Broken" show is that there are still really strong elements to this series. I'm just tired of the formula, and too much of this season has been hardcore formula.

I'll still watch it (or have it on in the background) most weeks, but until they go off-format again, or find some way to do a transcendent formula episode, it's back to not writing about the show again. But kudos on a job very well done last night.

What did everybody else think?

26 comments:

srpad said...

I was a little worried when they did this so close on the heels of the Wilson episode but I also loved it. My only complaint was I really really wanted the last shot to be the clock showing 9:00 pm to book end the opening shot and play off the title. But that is just my OCD talking (also ask me how much it enrages me that they don't say "Silent Lucidity" one last time at the end of that song).

Matt said...

At least for me, since I don't get screeners, House has been a casualty of the 8 PM pileup on Mondays. The dual tuner is already full with HIMYM and Chuck, which take priority.

And the problem isn't the formula--while predictable, the formula still generally works as long as the writing is sharp--it's been the shunting of certain characters (Cuddy and Wilson) aside in favor of endless rounds of Foreman/Thirteen, who the writers find much more interesting than the viewers do.

Karen said...

We stopped watching House weeks ago, so I didn't see the episode, but I'm vicariously disappointed that they used Mary Chapin Carpenter's version of "Passionate Kisses" instead of Lucinda Williams' own version.

Sort of vaguely interested in what this episode was like, but not enough to tune in. Which, a couple of years ago, I never expected to feel.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Glad you liked it and I agree, Lisa Edelstein can act. Now only if they would start utilizing her more and dump Lucas, all would be good.

Lisa said...

I have relegated "House" to something I'll watch in reruns. I adore Laurie, Leonard and Edelstein, but the disciples save for Omar Epps have been a drag. The show's been stuck in a corner for the last three years. They need to start promoting their last season NOW.

Tony said...

Their are three levels of viewership at our house:

1.Live Viewing - reserved for NFL, Maryland Men's Basketball, Lost.

2.DVR - all regular shows watched.

3.Accidental Viewing - very, very irregular. Usually there is something on the DVR.


House has been pulled off the DVR schedule. Last night it showed up for accidental viewing, and I turned it off in favor of Outliers book by Malcolm Gladwell. The show bores me to tears now.

Matt W said...

I've seen the word "formula" mentioned many times, and it brings to mind the "Mad TV" skit with Michael McDonald as House. Frank Caeti, who played the patient, stated something along the lineso f this: "Let me get this straight. I get sick, I come to the hospital, you give me something, then I get worse. Then I get better, you give me something different, I get even worse than before. Then you give me something different again and I'm cured, and I'm grateful you saved my life even though you treat your patients like garbage."

I agree with other statements that the formula is the same for every episode. I'm also disappointed when they stray away from House, as I was annoyed with the Foreman/Thirteen relationship and didn't care too much for the Cuddy / baby storyline. However, this episode was, in my opinion, great.

The viewer never gets to see exactly what pressures Cuddy has to deal with on top of the usual "House being House." I thought Lisa Edelstein did a fine acting job in this episode, and it was great not only because we saw things from someone else's perspective, but also because it was a deviation from the norm.

It reminded me of the early "Scrubs" episodes where someone other than JD would narrate (Turk, Carla, etc.). They were different in format, but they worked. In those episodes, we got to see the hospital through the eyes of someone other than the main character.

Kudos to Lisa Edelstein and the "House" writers for thinking outside the box and coming up with a great episode.

P.S. Loved the bit with Cuddy getting the bugged flower from Lucas and framing that snob of a pill-stealer.

shara says said...

I thought this episode was awesome. I agree with the class that House/Cuddy/Wilson are awesome and that the rest of the cast tends to be a drag. I am so freaking sick of Foreteen and all their back and forth stuff, that relationship was a terrible idea from day one. I do like Lucas, a lot, and I like how he is a good balance for Cuddy. That said, I don't keep up with the show religiously anymore. I'll catch up on Hulu periodically but its not appointment viewing. This episode I actually watched live because I have been looking forward to it for a long time, and I was glad I did. Seeing things from Cuddy's perspective was a very welcome change, and seeing House drop in and out of her day was pretty funny. Plus the little bits about betting on treating patients with malaria was bizarre and so cool to see her angle on things. Her conflict with the insurance company was interesting and the tension was very effective.

Well done, show!

AndyW said...

This was the first "House" I've watched in a couple months and I was hoping you'd post on it.

It was a fun departure and gave Lisa Edelstein a nice showcase. I thought the deus ex machina ending was stupid and unnecessary - it's OK if the practical character on the show makes practical decisions that result in practical outcomes. Really it is.

I guess that circles back to the problems with "House." Talented cast, talented writers, but a very poor sense of direction.

njames said...

I thought the episode was brilliant. showing what she has to go through, other than waiting in her office for House to come in and bug her. And she was brilliant in it as well. Glad it only took 6 seasons to show how great an actress she is.

Peter said...

Was a great episode up until the ending when everything wrapped up and worked out at the end all in a span of about 2 minutes. House continues to be a good show that never gets to great levels because they're just too afraid to move away from the formula.

Jake said...

Here's my thing with House, which used to be my favorite tv show until it fell by the wayside in season 4.In the first three seasons, nearly every episode revolved around the mystery and House solving it. It worked for me because Hugh Laurie is amazing in that role and a lot of fun to watch. I'm not a medical drama fan, but it was truly compelling television.

So, maybe I'm in the minority, but I've always felt the show was formulaic, they just changed the formula. And it obviously does not work now. I agree with my fellow commentors on their criticism. I kid you not, I watch every episode now begging for Thirteen to be fired. I really do. Olivia Wilde is a decent actress but her character brings little to the table for me and that's BEFORE I consider her ridiculous relationship with Foreman. The fact that she's probably not going anywhere just makes me less excited.

I don't know if they necessarily need to end it, I would just love for them to go back to the same format that they had in seasons 1-3. Bring the show back to Hugh Laurie and make everyone else sit on the bench. And I agree, I don't mind the occasional episode centered around Wilson or Cuddy. But they need to find a way to keep the focus on House.

M.A.Peel said...

I thought the most interesting bits were the glimpses of how the staff sees Cuddy/House. The surgeon told her to stop doing things for House "and do your job," and the creepy drug stealer had to work into the conversation that Cuddy and House have sex.

PY said...

Great episode.

I'm still a House viewer, though I feel betrayed that this season did not capitalize on the promise of "Broken" AT ALL. They could have reinvented the show in some interesting ways, but House is basically who he was in all previous seasons, only he's without the VIcodin and is living with Wilson. There's so much more they could have done this year ... but didn't. And, given all the effort they seemed to put into "Broken," I'm not sure why.

London_Parks said...

House lost me as a viewer weeks ago too. I think 'Known Unknowns' was the last episode I watched. I just can't stick around to watch a show I loved deteriorate into such drivel.

I have given up on the writing completely. It used to be a smart procedural. All procedurals are somewhat predictable, sure, but the writing made it both compelling and a lot of fun.
House and his team solved cool mysteries together and we gave a damn as to whether the patient of the week lived or died. Now, I don't remember the last time I cared; because the show isn't about that anymore, is it? Now the formula is unlikeable patients and narcissistic doctors as a vehicle for House sexually harass his boss and generally be a vindictive arsehole to everyone. If I were fourteen I'd probably love it but as a grown up, it's not for me anymore.

Caroline/Cam said...

I think this episode was PERFECT for the new (well, not really 'new' any more, if you know what I mean...) season!
I'm writing a House-and-Cuddy (or, 'Huddy) fanfiction, and this episode was perfect for helping me understand what Cuddy's day is like!
I thought the part where Cuddy walked in on House's massage was HILARIOUS, was it not! Lol
My story: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5707587/1/How_To_Save_A_Life

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I am always amazed that Alan's occasional House writeups always seem to coincide with people who haven't watched the show in weeks/months/seasons accidentally catching the very same episode Alan's writing about and coming here to talk about it.

Anonymous said...

I still find it shocking that House gets dissed as formulaic and old hat here all the time while everyone bends over backward to defend the travesty of AfterScrubs. If everyone had stayed tune, characters on House have been developing even if the case of the week has lost some of its luster while the Scrubs is full of lame new characters, characters who haven't changed and others who went backward.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the episode, but I'm sorry; I cannot get past the cleavage Cuddy shows. Do professional women really dress this way in the workplace? Got a kick out of seeing Andrea's 90210 husband in the cast!

LA said...

I dunno. I wanted to like it more than I actually did.

Kimmy said...

Thank you! I know you have been trying to get away from House. I loved the idea of showing how a woman gets in that all powerful role, and what she need to accomplish in order to keep it. I wasn't seeing how it would end, and that was a bonus for me!

CarolMR said...

Matt W: MadTV has spoofed House several times. Michael McDonald was incredible - the first time I saw him play House I thought it was actually Hugh Laurie. I loved the one where it was a parody of Grey's Anatomy/House. House and the Kate Walsh character are arguing in the hallway and she yells at House that "Grey's Anatomy is written by women for women." House replied, "And House is written by men for women who love abusive men."

Anna said...

Caroline/Cam said: "...
I'm writing a House-and-Cuddy (or, 'Huddy) fanfiction, and this episode was perfect for helping me understand what Cuddy's day is like!
I thought the part where Cuddy walked in on House's massage was HILARIOUS, was it not!"

With all due respect to Caroline, the above is why I dislike the writing for House/Cuddy so much these days. It all comes across to me as something a House/Cuddy shipper would write in fanfic, and that includes the infamous, cringe-worthy scene where House and Cuddy are happily reminiscing while slow dancing together. I can't believe these are the same writers who gave us such gems as "Autopsy" and "Merry Little Christmas."

Again, no offense to you, Caroline. I'm sure you write great fanfic, but I don't want to see the House writers go that route.

compain87 said...

Well I'm still watching House, Even if It's the same House as older seasons I'll still watch it. I still don't know what to think of Lucas back, he still gets along with House but I feel they shouldn't. House and Wilson should have said screw it we are going to war with Lucas, comedy ensues.

How has Cuddy still not found out about Wilson buying the new place?

Kirian said...

Really? People liked this?

Okay. I was bored. There was no drama. I knew Cuddy wasn't leaving, therefore I knew she'd get the 12% she wanted. I was kind of hoping we'd get see bits of the strong woman Cuddy was a few years ago, but this episode just portrayed her as even more neurotic than she'd been before.

I can see the complaints about the show following a formula. You either get tired of that or you don't. I haven't. I liked the show better when it was half procedural and half character exploration than I do now that it's half procedural and half soap opera, but I don't mind the boy/girl hijinks all that much.

There are things about the show that bother me, sometimes a lot. But for me, Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard make it worth watching every week.

Woozle Wazzle said...

I loved this episode, first, because it reduced House (the main character of the show!) to a small fraction of the story and a distraction, but also made it clear why Cuddy wants him around -- he is, in his weird, often terrible way, the most reliable person in her life. Second, how often do you get to see as (relatively) complicated a portrayal of a system as battered between ethics and business as the hospital as shown in this episode?