Monday, November 30, 2009

House, "Wilson": The Zeppo

Just when I thought I was out... Robert Sean Leonard pulls me back in! Some thoughts on the Wilson-errific "House" coming up just as soon as I stop thinking about German porn...
"I can handle it when things go wrong. You can't. And things can go very, very wrong." -House
I doubt "Wilson" is going to get me writing about "House" again full-time, because the things that made it so strong were (like "Broken") not something the show can do every week, or even ever again, period. But for one night, at least, "House" was compelling, and touching, and funny, and not really annoying at all.

"Wilson" was good because it showed us House's world through someone else's eyes - not in a gimmicky, Hey, look at our Very Special Episode! way like the Mos Def episode last year, but in a more thoughtful, organic way. We got to see what the cases we've grown so used to must look like when only seen in Wilson-sized bites (the overweight tennis pro on the popcorn diet, House appearing soaking wet), and we got to see what it's like for the sensitive, empathic to a fault Wilson to try to play House's game.

And, for that matter, we got to see what it's like for House to be the one on the other end of the differentials and the wrong turns and insane treatments.

And we got to see Robert Sean Leonard, who has said he likes the easy workload (and accompanying fat paycheck) of being in a couple of brief scenes a week, rise to the challenge of carrying the show for once, with Hugh Laurie gracefully, beautifully working in support of him.

An ongoing Wilson-centric series obviously wouldn't work. It was the contrast to what we've come to expect from "House" that made this hour so interesting, and, again, you can't go to that well more than once before it starts to feel as formulaic as the regular show.

But after being so frustrated with the last batch of episodes, "Wilson" at least reminded me why I keep watching this damn show even when I'm struggling to remember that I used to love it.

"Chuck" is back in this timeslot in January, and that's going to get my top viewing/blogging priority for the time being. But if this is going to be the last time I write about "House" for a long time, at least we're going out on a much higher note than "Ignorance Is Bliss."

What did everybody else think?


TV Obsessed said...

It was a nice episode and the change of pace was really welcome, but it wasn't spectacular. There were some fun moments, but nothing stuck out.

mackenzi said...

The Zeppo was exactly where my mind went as soon as the episode started. I thought maybe it was a recent Buffy overdose, but I wonder to what extent that was intentional.

This episode showcased all of the good things about the show (House, Wilson, ethical and moral dilemmas) with none of the bad (Cameron, 13 & Foreman.) It is a welcome reminder of what the show is capable of being and why I stick it out. There have been some major clunkers, but when an episode works, it works really well.

Bob said...

I enjoyed this episode immensely. One of the things I liked is that the writers are aware of how formulaic they have become and how trapped they are with House the character.

In several of the episodes this year, they turn their formula on its head with some strange results. Chase kills a patient, House manipulates a sickness to draw two back, and this one, of course. this time, of course, House doesn't guess wrong on the Cancer and he doesn't toy with Wilson over it.

House, the character, is trying to open up more than in the past. He is not the magnificent triumphant bastard of the past. Instead, he softens a touch here and there. Going with Wilson for the transplant woman and failing shows a twist.

Of more concern is that the writers are setting up Chase and Wilson to be House Lite. Forman is already there. Since they don't have the well of talent and skill that Holmes has, these Baker Street Irregulars are in for some trouble

alynch said...

I always like these episodes that mess with the point of view, and this was no exception. My favorite all time episode of this type is probably "The Gas Man," the Homicide episode done (almost) entirely from a not very bright perp's point of view.

Anonymous said...

Been a fan of Robert Sean Leonard since Dead Poet Society and Swing Kids and was gassed to see a strong Wilson episode. It reminded me how under estimated RSL is as an actor.

He has been the only reason I have kept watching House since his scene or two is a pallet cleanser for the show.

Pamela Jaye said...

oh good, no one has yet mentioned "is this the room for an argument" or if they did, they spelled it wrong.

I loved Wilson having his "House" moment. (we call it callouses and Polite Dissent calls it Eureka)

Pamela Jaye said...

and House coming in sopping wet, oddly reminds me of Todd's view of JD's fantasies
(someone please tell me that that is on youtube)

Pamela Jaye said...

thank you youtube!

Anonymous said...

I don't get that "German Porn" reference. Could somebody please explain that to me? I certainly feel ashamed for asking this. But being a German adult actor, I feel somewhat emotionally involved.

wjm said...

I nearly lost it when House said, "That's Room 12A, down the hall." Sorry Pamela Jaye. My husband, bless his heart, had no idea why I was cackling like a hyena. Or at least a penguin on a television.

I really enjoyed this ep. I've read the interviews, so I know how much RSL loves to not carry a show. But when he's asked to, he steps up to the plate in most admirable fashion.

If I were to win a lottery and the prize was "dinner with anyone you want, either living or dead," Robert & Hugh would be neck and neck for the "living" crown.

["Dead" must always go to Christopher Marlowe. Damn, but he was fine.]

But back to the task at hand...the hardest part of this ep for me was the part where everyone was looking at Wilson like he was off his nut to want to give Will Bailey his liver. Were I in his shoes, it would have been even less a question than it was for Wilson. I guess it's a good thing I never had to take the Hippocratic oath.

dez said...

The only German porn I've seen is in a Rammstein video, which I doubt counts, but damn if that wasn't super-funny because it came from Wilson.

Nice ep. I keep forgetting Wilson has a first name. Like how he stated what it was to the chippie, too.

BigTed said...

I liked this episode too, till the end. Why does the show itself seem to take House's point of view that the opposite of being a doormat is being a jerk? (Or that Cuddy actually deserves some kind of revenge for choosing to date someone other than House?)

On the other hand, it'll be nice to get Wilson out of that cramped apartment, and to know that the odd couple will be living together for the foreseeable future.

(By the way, I enjoyed the shout-out to "the Pigeon sisters" upstairs -- which was, of course, an actual "Odd Couple" reference.)

Chuck said...

Can someone explain why Wilson bought the loft to spite Cuddy? I missed that somewhere. What did Cuddy do to deserve Wilson's meek wrath?

Jill said...

I think David Foster is the best writer the show has these days and I'm glad he was the one to write the Wilson episode and give Robert Sean Leonard some really good substantive material to work with.

I really missed Cameron though. The show for me isn't the same without her. This would have been her kind of episode too.

P "N" K said...

I'm pretty sure Wilson said he bought the loft because Cuddy hurt his friend - meaning House. Essentially, he was throwing a bone House's way.

Myranda said...

House was the first show I really started intentionally watching, but after seasons one and two I've spent the last few years wondering why I had ever been so enamored with it in the first place.

Then an episode like "Wilson" comes along that reminds me of the heart, fun, and drama this show can pull of so well when they're not simply trying to out-clever and out-psychobable themselves again. It's almost a shame that they can only pull it off this one time - that the only way they're able to go back to those essential, human bits, is by making the show, in a way, 'new' once more through a different perspective.

I must admit, it'll be a shame when we're back to the same old generic episodes again... *sigh*

Kimmy said...

As the show was ending last night, I had such a huge grin. Not only do I love Wilson's character, but the manner in which the episode was laid out worked for all.

My second thought was, I bet Alan just loves this too!

AnnaN said...

I would like to go all Pollyanna on you and hold firm to my belief (fool though may I be) that this Wilson-centric episode may act as a seque toward a new path for the series.

The writers have backtracked in a couple of episodes regarding House's new lease on life (less ass, more curmudgeon) but over all this season have written House as a character in search of change.

This show's most interesting relationship has never involved the patients, Cuddy, ex-loves, Cameron/House, Cameron/Chase, or Thirteen/gag. It has always been the sometimes inconceivable relationship between house and Wilson. This episode seemed to set up a new direction for the show which will center more upon that and less upon the diagnostics, the team, or Cuddy. Many of the little scenes seem to bear this out.

Wilson bought a condo for House. Wilson made an enemy of Cuddy for House. House declared his bro love for Wilson.

So, over the next few episodes, I'm shutting my eyes tight and hoping against hope that this episode signifies an irreversible and rejuvenating change for the show.

There is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home.

Kirian said...

I didn't get several of the references, including the German porn one. I loved it anyway. It was wonderful to get the outsider's view of House's insanity, and to see through Wilson's eyes. I didn't really buy the transplant, but lately if there is only one thing in a House episode that I don't buy, it's been a good show.

I agree with Mackenzi that this episode showcased everything good about the show and left out everything bad.

Robert Sean Leonard is always wonderful, and I was overjoyed to get so much of him this week. I liked the admittedly heavy handed contrast between Wilson and Molina's POTW's life choices (sorry, I can't recall the character's name). I liked House failing to get the liver from the sister. It's good to see him fail sometimes. I liked their conversation through the car door, too--it's the most open we've seen House in several episodes.

The loft confused me. I thought the point of a loft was that it was one big open space--so why are there bedrooms?

While I can't pretend to speak for the writers, who seem to live in a very different reality from ours, I can suggest that Wilson feels Cuddy lead House on by flirting with him even while she was dating Lucas.

Unknown said...

An excellent episode all around, and "Wilson" reminded me that in S1, the rabies episode dropped a hint that Wilson's brother is out there somewhere, a homeless drunk who hasn't been in contact with Wilson for years. I'd be really eager to see them take it up again, five seasons later.

Anonymous said...

No thoughts on Joshua Malina as the POTW?

Anonymous said...

amy, they did revisit that, just last season. POTW was Dutch from The Shield as a guy who says everything he thinks.

House gets suspicious about Wilson not wanting to go to a monster truck rally. House discovers Wilson has plans, which he says is him playing racquetball with Taub. House badgers Taub, admits it was a ruse, House digs further, and finds out that Wilson's discovered his brother in a psych ward.

House goes with Wilson to see his brother, but gets an epiphany about POTW just as Wilson's called in to see his brother, so Wilson goes without him.

Licia said...

This was a pleasant episode, but I don't for a minute think it was anything but a one-off respite. It was successful not because it was brilliant, but because it ditched all the crap House has been dishing out this (& last season) i.e. no perils of 13, no Boreteen, no silly hiring & re-hiring of team members. Unfortunately they still made Cuddy look like a vindictive idiot, trying to stir up trouble with House by dragging Wilson into the mess (seriously, we know she already owns a large house with a yard, perfect for a toddler & Lucas & she's considering buying a loft? & Chuck, Wilson called her on it & that's why he bought the apartment). Shame the writers couldn't ditch Cuddy too for at least one episode. Problem is, it'll be back to same old, same old next episode.

jackie said...

I loved this episode--RSL always delivers and Hugh Laurie knows how to be as effective a supporting star as lead. The team was a hoot, racing by yelling cryptic phrases only Wilson can understand.

Alan, I hope you find your way back to reviewing House again. Even though the writers took House one step back the last two eps, they took him two steps forward in this one. It's shaky but it's progress.

Anonymous said...

I caved and watched this episode, and while it was good, I'm still done with House (save these very special episodes). This episode will NOT suck me back in to the vortex that is House like the premiere episode did this season, because, oh, look what happened there.

But, really good episode. See, this is something believable and organic of how someone like Wilson and House would act and do under the circumstances they place them in. Wow, it felt genuine AND made sense! Why can't they extend the same amount of consideration to the rest of the cast/episodes?

Craig Ranapia said...

And we got to see Robert Sean Leonard, who has said he likes the easy workload (and accompanying fat paycheck) of being in a couple of brief scenes a week...

Well, as the man said, ain't that a shame because before I checked out those "couple of brief scenes" were the only interesting thing going on. So, I guess we're not going to see RSL headlining a show worthy of his talent in this lifetime?

Anonymous said...

Even if it hadn't been a nicely written/directed/paced episode of television, getting to see RSL and Josh Malina act together would have been enough for me. They brought it. And Malina made me care about a guy who was behaving like a douche even if my loyalties went 100% with Wilson in the end.

Ignoring RSL's frequent "I really don't like to work, so don't ask me to" quotes, I've been wondering since the early days why they didn't do an episode like this one. I always thought that that nice ep of "St. Elsewhere" where they broke it down into several independent acts would have been a nice model for them to try once.

JanieJones said...

I always enjoy seeing RSL as a centerpiece rather than a table dressing. I know he has said that that he will return to theatre and never work on a full time tv show again because of the long hours, etc when it's over. I would love to see RSL in his own show, perhaps a comedy? I am sucker for a good drama, however, a comedy very rarely catches my attention. I think RSL would do well and be able to showcase all of his talent. Amysa, I do not think (judging from comments) that RSL enjoys LA and would like to showcase his talents on stage. His heart seems to be in NYC.
I enjoyed last night's show but it's not enough to drag me back in to watching it on a regular basis. It's on my dvr program. If I feel I enjoy an ep. I'll watch it, if not, it gets deleted.
It was a strong episode but a show alone cannot survive on several powerful showings over a course of a 22 episode season. If, as one suggested, the show is evolving into a more organic piece, I would definitely watch.

Kirian, I own a loft in NYC. I think "loft" describes several different types of living space. My own has an open floor plan with the kitchen, dining room, living room and one of the bedrooms up a staircase in wide space. However, the other 2 rooms along with the bathrooms are closed spaces. I have seen many lofts that are complete open spaces though.

Anonymous said...

Was I the only one who let out a disappointed "Jeremy..." when Joshua Malina was shown hunting? I bet Aaron Sorkin won't ever work with him again.

Karen said...

Throughout the entire episode I kept wondering if you were watching it, Alan, because I felt certain that you would enjoy it as much as I did. I am particularly fond of the time they spend on the Wilson/House relationship and this episode was blissfully light on the Cottages (geez, I just realized I basically hate everyone on the team with the possible parttime exception of Chase). It was also blissfully light on the Cuddy/House relationship, with the exception of well-played moments like House exclaiming how not OK with Cuddy/Lucas he was in the car outside the motorcycle-crash victim's family's house.

That final scene in the loft apartment was just beautifully played, and a great close. I like the notion that House and Wilson each need to be juuuuust a little bit more like each other.

Oh, and "Great! Another person killed by religion!" was AWESOME.
But this episode

Edward Copeland said...

I thought it was by far the 2nd best episode this season and did more (even in the background) showing House trying to keep his progress going. My heart broke a little when he said he wouldn't watch Wilson's surgery because if he died, then he'd be alone. I also liked that Wilson outbid Cuddy because she hurt House when he was progressing and vulnerable and she didn't have to go through Wilson to get to his ex-wife. I wonder how the Cuddy-centric episode in February will be. However, no 13-centric episode, I beg you.

Waterland said...

I thought this episode was a real return to form, in no small part because RSL is the heart of the show. The writers obviously know this ("House's Head", "Wilson's Heart"). The team screeching by with patients in distress was so hilarious that I turned to my husband at one point and said "I want to see THAT episode, too!)

Hate to see fans give up on House. No really good show has ever escaped the creative slump, and sometimes those slumps can last awhile. It's the spark of episodes like these that keep me hooked when things are a seeming dark.

Mapeel said...

Anon, having Josh Malina hunt was a lovely touch

It was great just seeing the team in snippets.

Kate said...

The House creative staff can still do it when they choose to. They just choose to spend more of their time on the ridiculous and the boring.

David Foster, who wrote this episode, is the M.D. on the writing staff and has written some of the best explorations of ethics (e.g. Joel Grey's doctor who didn't get consent for his research irridiating babies; TB doctor) and all around medical stuff (the Esther and the poker game in All In). He wrote a lot for Cameron but now that she's off the show, it's interesting that he's moved on to Wilson who is the next closest thing to a realistic doctor the show has got.

I like Wilson so I was happy to see him doing something other than babysit House or push Huddy. I would be so up for a web series with Wilson, Cameron, Chase, and Taub so I never have to see Cuddy, Thirteen, Foreman or juvenile House again.

J said...

Thank you for highlighting this episode. A really beautiful hour about the nature of friendship. I've let the show drop off my schedule because the show has turned into a show, and really appreciate it when you alert us to the exceptions that rule.