Tuesday, September 23, 2008

House, "Not Cancer": A low-down dirty shamus

Spoilers for tonight's "House" coming up just as soon as I buy some argyle socks...

I talked a lot in last week's column about the "House" tradition of bringing in a very special guest star to shake up House's life for part of each season, and while some people liked, say, Sela Ward better than others, I can't imagine that any of the previous instigators combined were as polarizing as Michael Weston's going to be as quirky private eye Lucas. My guess is either you loved him or can't wait until he's off the show, whether to the hoped-for spin-off or just to oblivion.

To my surprise, I find myself in the "loved" group. Usually, I can't stand characters who are a collection of colorful tics -- see virtually every David E. Kelley show going back at least to "Ally McBeal" -- and I also have bad memories of Weston from his brief "Six Feet Under" stint, yet his underplaying of the quirk really endeared Lucas to me. I'm kind of flummoxed by this, and would not be surprised at all if I want to throw a shoe at the TV by his next appearance, but I liked him here. The biggest problem I've had by far with the previous Special Guests is that they weren't funny (the cop in particular), which made any interaction with House a lopsided fight. Lucas and House aren't antagonists, but he's still not a regular presence in House's life, and the fact that Weston has various amusing things to do makes him click with Hugh Laurie far better than the previous visitors.

(The real shame of it is the Chi McBride character. As anyone who watches "Pushing Daisies" knows, McBride can be insanely funny if allowed to. But he had to clench for his entire stint as the rich guy who wanted House to cure cancer, or else.)

"Not Cancer" was notable not only for having House actually hire a professional (at great expense to someone, if not himself) to do the break-ins for once, but also for having such a complicated case -- or, at least, such an overpopulated one. Sure, Felicia Day(*) was the only surviving patient by the time we were halfway through the episode, but there were still so many moving parts, and so many facts to be considered about the various dead patients, that it started to feel as tough to follow as certain "Shield" plots.

(*) Will anyone who watched "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" be able to look at Day and not think of Penny? Also, please be careful with the "Dr. Horrible" spoilers in the comments, for the benefit of anyone who might be waiting for the DVD.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever seen a more annoying introduction of character than I did for Lucas. I knew he wasn't fixing the coffee machine and he was still incredibly awkward. Maybe he'll grow on me but for now I want Wilson back.

J said...

I'll join you in the "liked" camp, but (a) he'll never be an adequate substitute for Wilson and (b) I'll probably tire of the contrivances the show goes through to bring the guy in.

I like how Kal Penn has become the go-to bizarre theory guy. Also: BLOWOUT. This episode was less about argyle socks and more about what Foreman was wearing.

(Isn't Dr. Horrible still available on Hulu?)

J said...

Oh, and nitpick: I hate it when POV shots (like they one at the end when the bandages were removed) cut to shots of characters with their eyes closed.

Anonymous said...

I agree that I enjoyed Michael Weston here, a very welcome surprise. I don't think they're grooming him to be a Wilson replacement, so I'm not worried about that. But of course I do want Wilson back, and I wouldn't mind Cutty getting more screen-time either.

Stef said...

I liked Weston, too. I'm sure Wilson will be back relatively soon, but for now Weston will do just fine filling in the sidekick role. And I also am really enjoying Kal Penn -- the line where he said something like "he buys your lunch, he likes monster trucks, and he's your conscience" that he tossed off before returning to crazy theories slayed me.

And, oh yeah.... Penny!!!!!! (Anything more I'd want to say would be a spoiler, so that's all I've got.)

Austin said...

I really liked him and didn't find him annoying at all. Of course he's not going to be another Wilson, but I don't think they're trying to make him like that.

I'm most familiar with Weston from Scrubs when he was Private Dancer, the amnesiac Iraq veteran.

I would probably watch a show with him in it.

Mrglass said...

Count me in the "liked" camp. A good episode, especially the pre-credit sequence with all those deaths (a shout-out to "Six Feet Under"?). And it is no surprise that House gets along well with a PI, after all the cranky doc was inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

Mrglass said...

Though I got lost in the medical gibberish even more than usual, so it wasn't a perfect episode for me. What exactly was the problem with the donor cells?

Mac said...

I'm pro-Weston. I mostly know him from "Scrubs" (plus I saw him on "SVU", but I only half-pay attention to that show, for sanity's sake) and maybe I have fonder memories. But he fitted in a lot better than the other drop-ins ever did. At any rate, he amused me.

Supposedly, we were supposed to see more of Cameron and Chase this season. So far, that's not the case. I'm not complaining, and it would probably be better for the show if they weren't around.

Mo Ryan said...

I don't think I've ever seen a more annoying introduction of character than I did for Lucas.

How about Niki and Paulo on Lost?

I think you sort of got at something that really just occurred to me now -- they could have had that case, and they could have introduced Weston's character. They should have not done both in the same episode.

The case started out great. I thought the opening of all those folks dying was great -- outstanding premise for a House ep.

By the middle and definitely toward the end, I had zero idea what was going on with the case, which started out so promisingly. It was a complicated medical situation, and the episode needed fewer moving parts, not more.

So anyway. I also don't necessarily think the Weston character is a bad idea, or that House is a show that should not launch a spinoff. I think they should have sorted out the cast sprawl and THEN brought Quirky McShamus into the picture.

Just my 2 cents. They seem to have used up a perfectly good plot on an episode that just had too much else going on. And I am not a fan of them casting that guy as the detective. He just didn't work for me.

But... Penny! Yay!

Anonymous said...

New Character made me laugh out loud. Several times. Great lines, great timing. Can't complain about that. And the little bit that Wilson did have was really bittersweet in a very satisfying way.

I didn't understand the case at all.

Anonymous said...

Well, count me in the loathed camp. I already thought Michael Weston was one of the most annoying actors on the planet and his character here just compounded his annoying-ness.

Pamela Jaye said...

somewhere along the way, I got confused too. Whose child was that?

Saw Penny, and had to read the credits that were going by underneath her til I saw her name and knew where I knew her from.

Odd to have House on so early that I can come here later on and not be half asleep...

Weston - I know him from one of Zach Braff's movies. I"m going to guess Last Kiss (although I'd love to see the one with Justine Bateman's brother again - and while I'm here let me add that Justine is an amazing actress. Almost the only thing i have ever seen her in is Family Ties, so when she started spouting facts and stock prices with regard to the WGA strike, I was stunned. She really *wasn't* an airhead like Mallory (and one of my co-workers way back then named her child Mallory, and another named hers Elyse))

Free associate? Me?

The Private Dancer thing on Scrubs really annoyed me - it was "relevant" and that show never is (unless commenting on House and Grey's Anatomy is relevant)

On this show? He was okay. I don't have an opinion yet.

What I did notice was the picture was getting lighter and darker on my screen (perhaps I have some of "Penny"s stem cells?)

I also loved Kutner tossing in what Wilson does for House in the middle of tossing Differentials.
It was like Buffy trying to kill the demon Indian spirit while making Thanksgiving dinner (Quarter cup of brandy and let it simmer...)

Also, the security guards at PPTH? not good. They know to keep House out but they don't check anyone else? Maybe it's Cuddy not catching that House would find a way, but still... not good.

I did like it when the PI guy finally said something to make House "get it" (a part of the show where my brother and I yell "calluses!" - after the first House parody on MadTV)

Mrglass said...

Pamela, that child was the (illegetimate) daughter of the organ donor, whose illness is still a mystery to me.

Chris Lawrence said...

The disease: the organ donor had cancer stem cells (presumably due to some sort of early-stage cancer that wasn't detectable) floating around in his bloodstream; the transplanted organs included the stem cells, which then went merrily off into the bodies of the folks who got the donated organs and caused "cancer but not cancer" (growths that were malignant like ordinary cancer but not detectable as cancer cells due to looking like ordinary cells).

Bruce Reid said...

Lucas's character works fine for me so far; he's the right mix of House/Not House for a conceived spinoff: acerbic and arrogant, but gentler and far more ingratiating in his quirks. I agree, though, that this episode was overstuffed; nothing, even House's pining for Wilson (beautifully played, of course), was given enough room to breathe.

I did enjoy the patient of the week lying about her motherhood status to the wife of the other victim, and the wife in turning ripping into her upon realizing the deception. One of my favorite elements of House that has nothing to do with Laurie or Leonard is this nonjudgmental acceptance of how prickly and abrasive people can get when their life or loved ones are in jeopardy.

Anonymous said...

Put me in the "love" category...or at least the "like, with potential" category. I enjoyed him a great deal. His roles on "Scrubs" and "Psych" probably conditioned me to like the actor in any role (and he was great on SVU, too), but I thought he was perfect here. Yeah, awkward intro and yeah, there are going to be angry Wilson fangirls and House/Wilson shippers most likely already had their hate letters written and were just waiting to put the proper timestamp on them, but I thought he was fine. And so many "House" fans are angry about every little thing anyway that he's bound to be hated, regardless of what he does.

My real problem with the character is that I wish I didn't know that he was created specifically for spin off potential. At least with someone like Sela Ward, even if you knew she was only going to be around for a certain amount of episodes, you didn't feel like you were being wooed by her. She was what she was and everything Stacy did was related to House. New guy is trying to get me to follow him somewhere else and while I probably would (see above: I like Weston), it's still kind of annoying. Still, he's a good actor playing a nicely quirky character and has decent chemistry with Hugh/House. I think it'll work.

Stef said...

I think I missed something important when I stepped away for a second -- when House went to visit Wilson, was there a woman there? I heard something about Amber's sister??? What did I miss?

Stef said...

Also, Alan, are you going to keep blogging about "Fringe" ? I'm actually starting to like it...????

Pamela Jaye said...

Pamela, that child was the (illegetimate) daughter of the organ donor

Oh, the *donor*!
I thought she was the kid of one of the recipients, and the one I saw seemed rather old to have... or at least his wife did.


Pamela Jaye said...

there are going to be angry Wilson fangirls and House/Wilson shippers most likely already had their hate letters written

the corollary to your other comment - he's not staying, and we all know it, whether we want to or not (and I agree, that does take something away from us) should keep the Wilson team from overreacting, I would think, but... they are fans. I've never actually seen them (thoughI love their taste!) Perhaps they are afraid RSL will just be so thrilled with working *even less* that... well, he does have a contract. Good thing!
Overall, he hasn't worked very much, except in rare episodes. (less rare lately)

I'd agree that he's cute and his character is just awesomely funny (and even more yummy when vulnerable - but that's me. Scott has (hopefully) a TNT series next year - I may be having withdrawal)

Anonymous said...

I don't want to lump all RSL and Wilson fans into a big bunch and call them all crazy (because of course they're not and of course every subgroup of fans has their own brand of crazy) but there are loud and vocal ones that make it unpleasant to try to discuss the show and, really, are the reason I stopped doing that in any "House" forums. It's tedious. Everything's not a conspiracy against the House/Wilson shippers and there actually *are* occasions on the show where something that doesn't involve Wilson (or whoever their fave character is) is interesting.

I would think that this new guy would be met with open arms because it's clear that he's involved in bringing House and Wilson back together in some way, whenever that finally happens, but all of the previous "so and so is stealing screentime for my favorite!!!" hand wringing is what makes me assume that Lucas will be hated just like the rest of them.

I have my own issues with Vogler, Tritter and Stacy, but good things did come out of those arcs and there was a point to it all. I'm hoping good things will come out of this as well and Lucas already entertains me more than any of those characters did. I enjoyed almost every moment he was on screen.

Anonymous said...

LOVE Weston for me- the fact that he just up and put the doctors in their place on presumptions, gold! Also I love that he's obviously really good and really brilliant in some ways, and yet so completely not in others- and he's AWARE and completely accepting of those ways!

I know Felicia as a potential on Buffy first, so I don't have Penny permanently burned in. Plus the hair was way darker.

Anonymous said...

House is getting more contrived than ever. There are far too many characters for the audience to develop much emotional attachment. The dialogue has become unnaturally glib. Are real people able to come up with bon mots as quickly and as often as the characters on House? The cleverness of the dialogue is taking away from character interaction. It’s a game of verbal one-upmanship. The theme of every episode recently is who can analyze House best. The question is if House will ever analyze House.

Also, I didn’t find the timing of the fecal explosion very original or very funny. You’ve seen the same gag played that way countless times. When the audience knows the joke ahead of time, it might have been better not to pay it off on cue.

Still, I liked the Lucas character as someone House can talk to and someone who seems able to be another friend. Apparently, Lucas has a personal concern for House, much like Cameron had. No doubt, he’d like to be House’s second friend but will eventually sacrifice his interests to bring House and Wilson back together.

Karen said...

I don't think I've ever seen a more annoying introduction of character than I did for Lucas.

Oh, please. I assume you don't watch Heroes? If so, can you say, "Maya"? Blech. Hate at first sight.

Unlike Lucas, whom I loved. He totally gets House, and is utterly unafraid of him. His own quirks seem to give him immunity from House-frustration. It was beautiful to watch House's curiosity with a guy who understood him perhaps better than he understands himself, but with absolutely no stake in his explanations.

I was happy to see Penny, but the case bored me. I couldn't follow it. In fairness, I couldn't care less about the case: I watch the show for the characters, not the plot. But for those who like the story, I'm betting this wasn't a great time, and may have colored how they felt about Lucas.


Pamela Jaye said...

so it's not just me! when I first saw Felicia, I though "Potential" but then that was long ago, and "Amanda" was on Grey's (also long ago) and it wasn't her, so I read the credits...

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I don't feel either "love" or "please leave" for Lucas. I liked him fine - and his presence led to the best moment of the episode: House asking whether or not there was anything he could do to get Wilson back. Damn, but Hugh Laurie is talented. There were, like, six emotions on his face within the space of about 3 seconds.

I agree that the cast is getting crowded. I really wonder how much longer Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer will be willing to collect cheques for no screentime, unless they're the laziest, least ambitious actors in the world.

Also, was it just this year that Laurie was made an exec producer?

Anonymous said...

I saw the episode and immediately went, "She looks familiar." Lo and behold, the guest credits come on and I see Felicia Day and immediately thought, "Penny! Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog!" I probably won't see her as anything else. Also with Michael Weston and associating him with the movie The Last Kiss. I haven't seen his stint on Six Feet Under.

Anonymous said...

(*) Will anyone who watched "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" be able to look at Day and not think of Penny?

Er, yeah, me. I didn't recognize her at all.

I liked Weston, surprisingly (probably good will from his Private Dancer stint overriding my loathing for his 6FU character), and think Lucas makes a good Wilson-lite for now.

barbra said...

Whenever I see Weston in anything, I get a panic attack of PTSD from that "Six Feet Under" episode. It is like the ER episode when Dr. Crane's arm was severed by the helicopter (that's the last ER episode I ever watched). I will never get over it.

BUT, I actually liked him on House this week! I agree with you that it should last because his character has lots of interesting things to do outside of PPTH.

And in my house, we were delighted to see Penny.

Pamela Jaye said...

actually, it was Dr Romano(though the actor's name was McCrane)

i think the frustrating thing about it was that by the time it aired, I had seen the "graphic nature" warning so much that i ignored it (and this was before House premiered - and House just has a warning by default, which makes it meaningless)

back to Romano- they needed to put the graphic warning followed by - No, Really!

or, as House said, it's like the boy that cried wolf, but in this case, it's the expected reaction rather than the you have no choice but to respond even if you no longer believe it reaction which pressing the Code button gets

Dani In NC said...

I don't necessarily think "Penny" when I see Felicia Day, but that role has upped her recognition quotient in my house. Now when I see her in something, I know her name instead of just thinking of her as "that character actress I like".