Tuesday, February 03, 2009

House, "The Greater Good": The worst period ever

Brief spoilers for last night's "House" coming up just as soon as I get my vision back...

Some TV shows make a big deal out of a milestone episode like the 100th. They bring in big guest stars, or feature life-shattering events, or feature a look back at the significant events of the previous 99.

Other shows, though, take the route "House" did last night, and just try to put out another episode that's very much in keeping with the previous 99. That makes more sense to me: if people have been tuning in for one thing all this time, why would you try to celebrate that by giving them something else?

That said, "The Greater Good" wasn't particularly strong, milestone or no. Outside of a few individual moments, like Kutner standing up to House and Wilson contemplating Amber's mug at the end, I can barely remember any of it, little more than 12 hours after I first watched it.

And because of that, time for the inevitable: what did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I know last night's episode was the worst episode ever, but I expected a few more words from you Alan, what do you think about Cuddy's sadistic side or Thirteen's miraculous recovery?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I was just bored by it. Bored by all of it.

Hyde said...

Clearly, you have been able to erase the even-more-Thirteencentric-than-usual nature of this episode from your memory, for which I congratulate you. I guess I'm supposed to be invested in the ethical quandry Foreman has created for himself, but I can't bring myself to care. And the stuff with Wilson just reminded me that House should have found a way to hang on to Amber.

The only other things that made much of an impact were seeing Taub's wife, and having a patient dig all the way through their skull to the brain, something that I don't think even Florence Griffith-Joyner could have done. Ugh.

Jesse Spencer has had less cumulative screen time 2/3 of the way into the season than the patient of the week gets in the average hour.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Alan. See, it wasn't that difficult, I think boring defines pretty well last night's episode, disgusting too.

Unknown said...

They could have edited every minute of that episode out and only left the scenes with Wilson.

I admit, I teared up when he washed Amber's cup. Without even a word, he just broke my heart.

When is "Wilson" going to premiere, dang it?

Byron Hauck said...

All three of my shows that aired last night (HIMYM, this, and something or another on the CW) were pretty sloppy. I'll just attribute it to midseason duldrums.

Anonymous said...

100 episodes is a milestone and while I don't think doing a special episode is required, I really can't believe Jesse Spencer and Jennifer Morrison weren't included. If I were them I would be incredibly insulted.

As for the episode itself, it was another completely Thirteen-centric episode. I don't even mind her that much, but the disproportionate amount of screentime she gets is absurd. The only thing I can think of is that she's getting lots of time because they plan for her to die and think that if we've really gotten to know her her death will have more impact. I think it's having the reverse effect, though, and most viewers will be happy if she kicks the bucket. I also had to laugh when Thirteen said she and Foreman have only been dating for two weeks. I don't think the Wilson/Amber relationship got many more episodes than they have and they way they talk about Amber you'd think she and Wilson had been together for years.

Anonymous said...

"...having a patient dig all the way through their skull to the brain, something that I don't think even Florence Griffith-Joyner could have done. Ugh."

I was thinking the exact same thing. Is that even possible?

I usually just tune out the medical stuff because you know the first ten diagnoses are going to be wrong. I perked up, however, when House diagnosed endometriosis at the end. I know it can appear in your lungs and even brain. That whole part sounded accurate, and scary.

As for 13, I was severely bummed when she predictably declared "I can see!" OH NO. HERE WE GO AGAIN.

Overall, yeah, fairly dull.

Anonymous said...

""...having a patient dig all the way through their skull to the brain, something that I don't think even Florence Griffith-Joyner could have done. Ugh."

I was thinking the exact same thing. Is that even possible?Is that even possible?"

Yes. The New Yorker had a story about it last summer.

I agree with Alan that I'd rather the 100-episode marker just be treated as a normal episode. To me, this felt like a classic episode, with an interesting philosophical question -- which is more important, personal happiness or sacrificing yourself for some greater good -- which echoed across multiple personal story lines.

I liked the fact that House was invested in every one of those story lines, for the most part, including Thirteen and Foreman's, and liked the fact that despite the promo monkeys, Thirteen's story was really about Foreman and his issues -- not her.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a solid episode dealing with themes that have always been a part of the show. It wasn't brilliant but it was a good showing. I wasn't the least bit bored. POTW was interesting, team development was good, House and Cuddy went somewhere trying to stay in the same place and Foreman and Thirteen were affecting--loved House's involvement.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I thought this episode did a very good job of integrating the Foreman/13 storyline with everything else that was going on in the episode.

I continue to be mystified by the love for Chase and Cameron, singly, in pair, or anything else -- in the first three seasons of the show, I thought neither one evolved so far as running around in circles, and I was thrilled when the show didn't just reset everything at the start of season 4. Mileage, of course, varies.

Anonymous said...

I defy anyone to read that New Yorker article about the lady who scratched through to her brain without feeling an itch. Oof.

Last night's was pretty eh. Eh.

Mac said...

See, this is why we need networks executives to send notes to the producers. Shore has heard all the criticism of making the show Thirteen-centric, and his response, as Alan has reported, is basically that he likes Thirteen and he's going to keep focusing on her, and he's the producer and you can't stop him. If anything, the criticism has led to him making the show becoming even more about Thirteen, to the extent that the POTW in this episode was an afterthought and House and Wilson had about thirty seconds of shared screen time. Somebody has to sit him down and explain that he's let the show get away from what made it successful in the first place.

I don't even hate the character, like some people do. And I actually like Happy Thirteen, and Snarky Thirteen. But she's gotten treatment that no character other than House himself has gotten -- entire episodes, basically, devoted to her background and her health. Flashbacks, even, a conceit the show generally avoids save in "unreliable narrator" situations in "Three Stories" and "The Mistake". It's like one of my favorite shows is hijacked, weekly, by a completely different show for anywhere up to half its running time.

Karen said...

I might not mind the endless agonizing over Foreman's and 13's relationship if Epps and Wilde had even an iota of chemistry together. But they really don't. They don't even seem to look at each other with affection, much less desire.

I found the Cuddy storyline really painful. They've really drained all the interesting qualities out of that character. No wonder Lisa Edelstein looks so tired--she's got to work twice as hard to make Cuddy half as compelling as she used to be. To try to make us believe that she would put a tripwire in a crippled man's doorway, though? That's just GROSS.

I may have to let this show go soon. Now that Mondays at 8 have become such a clusterf*ck of shows, I can't afford nostalgia.

Unknown said...

The old NBC Mystery Theatre used to run three different shows on alternating weeks, McMillan and Wife, Columbo and McCloud. House seems to be doing the same thing, running alternating shows of good medicine and people conflict (last week's Big Baby) and the bad and boring (this episode).

The characters are more caricature than realistic (Cuddy has become a neurotic woman obsessed with getting House's attention), the medicine was bad (Foreman could have avoided everything by declaring Thirteen's data compromised as soon as he found out she was on the placebo and got her officially on the drug) and the ending of the story lines predictable.

The only good parts were Wilson and the patient.

It's too bad that when they finally decided to let the secondary characters characters get some story time, it went to Foreman, Thirteen and Taub. There was lots to mine with Chase and Cameron and they were more entertaining characters.

They keep putting Thirteen in peril for her life and it gets less and less effective. I was rooting for the brain tumor to win even though I know nothing will be able to kill her or get her off the show.

Pamela Jaye said...

something or another on the CW

really? I can see it left an impact.

I had House, Chuck, and TBBT/HIMYM
- I still have to get to those last two. I will spare you the Jon & Kate stuff. I spared myself or I could have wallowed for hours.

I keep watching House because... I don't give up until something reaches 7th Heaven/Dr Quinn/Providence level boredom. And I like Wilson. Were neither Chase nor Cameron on this ep?

I was hating 13 but now that it's all ethical dilemma it's more interesting. House not fighting back against Cuddy was interesting. I had forgotten it was the 100th ep, and really - watchig TV without promos seems to help. I have no expectations and sometimes I don't even recognize the vaunted guest stars (gee, I hope that NBC vaunts Scott - do they do a lot of promo for Chuck or does no one know cause, like me, they've almost totally stopped watching NBC cause there's nothing there to watch?)

Wilson - gee, that cup must have stunk. I knew it was important, as they left the camera on it for so long. I find it odd that Amber seemed to have no family to come and fight her boyfriend over "a crystal vase" (quote stolen from Derek and Addison's divorce... meeting)
I loved that the POtW remembered Wilson. I miss his funny lines and am annoyed he got his hair cut. or brushed. or something.

But really, I agree that the stories balanced out well, except for the POtW's and I guess she was just a metaphor (or whatever) for Wilson. Whatever - it didn't bother me that they barely had time for her.
I think, however, it's getting harder to say the show is a procedural.
I also liked that Taub would choose his wife over kids. (and Jennifer Crystal Foley, who I remember as Sela Ward's boss on Once and Again (Alan, did you watch O&A?)

O&A filled my drought between Ally and Grey's, as best it could.

Trip wires. Really? Okay... Cuddy's hair looked nice and for some reason 13 looked very nice too. It's odd to see her in bed with Wilson after seeing her with random women, but the weirdest was wondering if that was Foreman's bedroom and i it matched the one he last the only other time we saw him have one. Because IIRC - ther was only been one scene in his home and possibly none in Chase's.

Of course, it gets predictable - even to the point where Wilson said it out loud - that some random conversation in act 4 will trip House's memory into putting in at together. I did like it when it happeed to someone else - was it Cuddy?

I should read Polite Dissent I guess.

If it were not for the snippet of promo i did hear, I would not have watched it last night.

And the reset button will forever be annoying. Remember hoe Foreman has brain damage? Yup, neither do the writers.

Bix said...

Does running 2 episodes built around Thirteen possibly being written out (while Olivia Wilde, Peter Jacobsen, and Kal Penn still aren't in the main opening credits) mean that the third time will be the charm and it'll actually happen?

Bix said...

Oh, and is there any site that explains the whole scratching through the skull thing? I don't think the New Yorker article explained how it's possible.

Anonymous said...


Please, stop Foreteen and gives me more Huddy.

I need some new bits about House & Cuddy.

Anonymous said...


are there any shows your not bored of right now?

Alan Sepinwall said...

are there any shows your not bored of right now?

Abso-damn-lutely. How much time you get?

Chuck, and How I Met Your Mother, and The Office, and 30 Rock, and Lost, and Burn Notice, and Battlestar Galactica, and Friday Night Lights (and I've already watched those episodes once before!), and Scrubs, and ER, and Flight of the Conchords, and United States of Tara, and, for that matter, House on the weeks when it doesn't stink.

And that's not even counting shows that are currently on hiatus, like Breaking Bad, and Mad Men, and...

Anonymous said...

...House on the weeks when it doesn't stink.

and Alan is telling the truth, he liked last week's episode or at least said it was a pretty good one (his words not mine)

Anonymous said...

Alan, your review is brilliant. This is the worst period of House ever. 13 is dominating every episode and Olivia Wilde doesn't have the chops to make it work. Cuddy is acting like an idiot. Chase has been completely absent or barely in every episode for the last two years and Cameron has gotten only slightly more. They've given up good medical drama for the sake of soapy ships.

13 is the epitome of everything wrong with this once great show: lack of balance among the supporting cast; creating medical stories to tell the tale of the characters instead of learning about the characters through the medical stories; too much attention to romantic entanglements. They need to kill her off, bring back Chase and Cameron and get back to the intelligence and powerful performances of the first three seasons.

Toby O'B said...

I saw your headline, and I just had to tie it in to "Hot Fuzz" with the refrain, "The Greater Good..."

Yeah, I know it's nothing to do with 'House', but my DVR wouldn't let me record that without sacrificing something else. Lately, 'House' is an easy loss.

Ooh! Cool captcha! "marple"!

fgmerchant said...

I've been bored by a lot of the recent Hose episodes myself. I only just started watching the show, after a friend bought all the seasons of House on DVD. The whole story is still very fresh in my mind, and one thing that I sorely miss is when House used to have to deal with Clinic patients. They should really revisit that aspect of it all.

Plus the whole 13/Foreman thing still feels fake, but it's always nice to see Olivia Wilde. I wish they would take advantage of Kal Penns comedic chops a little more. KUMAR!!!

Anonymous said...

Hate to be a repeating sourpuss, but if the writers have billed this to be a regular House episode, does this mean we should:-

- truly forget about Chase or Cameron getting back into the fold ever again into the show?
- expect House to always be hijacked by Thirteen, who isn't interesting enough to carry a show?
- expect a weak-average sub par patient of the week?

Oh, right. They have been doing it all season and a half already.

I don't understand why the writers won't just let Cameron and/or Chase leave the show for good when they have no intention of writing them back in. They're just pulling that bandaid away as slowly as possible, which isn't fair to people that care about Cameron/Chase for leading them on, or even to people that don't give a rat's ass about them because they're still lurking around in the show for no good reason. (As well as carrying a regular cast credit. It hurts to see the two still in the opening.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, whoops. I didn't mean the patient was weak-average as much as the puzzle of the patient of the week was subpar and average.

Mrglass said...

I have found out how to go through all the Thirteen scenes: treating them as comic relief. In this respect, this episode was great with all kinds of bad things happening to her. Next week I hope she loses an arm, pukes randomly and start speaking in tongues.

House is still one of my favorite shows with this method, without the need to FF at every Foreteen scene.

Pamela Jaye said...

Alan, did you actually say you found ER interesting? You must have screeners cause I've been watchin out of habit for a while (again) now.

Honestly, I've disliked the 13 focus till the ethical dilemmas came. Ordinarily i find the ED's boring (first 4 eps of Chicago Hope) but since I'm already watching...

I find 13/Foreman/ethics more interesting the Tritter.

(and ER had picked up after the Darfur/single guest star patient of the week who is dying/Leguizamo crap) but now we are back to Tony & Sam who I still maintain are in love because they are male and female and on ER. dull. Neela's recent ep was pretty good - I don't like groundhog day but I do like voiceover)

and yes, House has gotten shippy. But I'm a sap, so I don't mind (though really - House/Cuddy *romance*? No! Cuddy vengeance was easier, though all her evil tricks played on his disability. She could have done better.but emptying his office of furniture has been done. Gee, I miss parking spot stealing researcher.)

and at least no one is coming back from the dead cause David Shore has a fixation.

and yes please - more clinic patients!
and yes i miss Chase and Cameron (she was great last week). I like them more now that they are autonomous - have we done a "House steals their patient and they argue with him over what it is" yet?
Though I'm still not buying Chase as a surgeon.

I have found out how to go through all the Thirteen scenes: treating them as comic relief. In this respect, this episode was great with all kinds of bad things happening to her. Next week I hope she loses an arm, pukes randomly and start speaking in tongues.

must try this!
or at least a drinking game.
I'm struggling thru the last few eps of Boston Legal. House is better than those (hopfully the last five will be better)

Matthew said...

Some TV shows make a big deal out of a milestone episode like the 100th.

I did wonder whether House's line about "having a birthday coming up" was a subtle acknowledgement of the milestone.

J.J. said...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think if they don't write Thirteen off the show by the time the season wraps up, this will be my last year watching House. I'll just be done with it.

I can't put up with it anymore, devoting huge chunks of the show to a character I don't care about.

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha Alan...It was incredibly boring...Cuddy's character was horrible...what are they doing to her?

13..Tumor, can't see, can see, miracle..blehhh

I agree with the poster who said they could edit out the whole thing and just leave the Wilson moments.

The POTW would have had potential if the epi even focused on her..or better yet, if it focused on her and how she relates to House like they used to do.

Anonymous said...


I concur...
13 might be interesting if her head spins around and she starts spewing pea soup!...Wait!...lets not give them any ideas.

Karen said...

Could Thirteen and Foreman be farther away from each other and still be in the same bed? Each time they show them together in bed, it's like they can't bear to touch one another or look at one another. Don't know if it's the actors or the way the characters are written or what... but enough of this forced, unbelievable relationship.

The Bgt said...

Ok one of the writers (or maybe more?) have this fetish of watching 13 suffering.
Like if being at House's team wasnt enough suffering:
(th)he(y) gave her an incurable ilnesss (more angst), made her a guinea-pig suffering the side effects of lots of medication during a hostages situation (even more angst), make her suffer even more from the trial medicine and to make this even angstier (!) mated her with Foreman (!).

It also seems some of the network executive(s) share the same fantasy with the writers and in conclusion I dont see any chance this will stop being 13's show any time soon.

I think that 13 getting her own spin off (and taking the rest of the new docs with her) would be a bless for many of us!

One can hope!