Tag Archives: television review

Review: House, MD: “Not Cancer”

Over the course of four seasons of House, MD, we have observed its central character (played to perfection by newly-minted executive producer Hugh Laurie) go through a lot. We’ve seen him battered and bruised (emotionally and physically); we have watched him cynical, sarcastic, sappily romantic, desperately ill and in the throes of withdrawal. He’s been depressed and even occasionally happy.

In “Not Cancer,” the second episode of season five, we find House desperate, less and less able to hide his panic and his feelings about the loss of Wilson. They seep into the differential diagnosis sessions and his conversations with the patient; in front of his hired private investigator, they become transparent, as even this hired hand feels House’s agony at having lost Wilson’s friendship.

“What do I get from Wilson?” House inquires absently (and almost to himself) during the first differential diagnosis session. His fellows argue about what might and might not have made six transplant victims ill (and fatally so in several cases). But House’s mind is elsewhere, almost in a parallel scene, ignored as the medical debate continues.

Kutner finally bites: “He paid for your lunch, liked monster trucks and was your conscience.” Of course the question was rhetorical, and House (able to mentally multi-task better than anyone), who appears to not have been paying attention concludes that “it’s cancer.”

So, armed with Kutner’s insights on his “Wilson” problem, and leaving the surviving two patients to the team, House (rather pathetically and awkwardly) goes deep into the wilds of the Princeton Plainsboro cafeteria to seek out a new friend. Passing the “Kutner test” of monster trucks and paying for House’s lunch, the poor victim of House’s friend-lorn attention, Dr. O’Shea, seems not to care that House downs three Vicodin, and better still, like Wilson, has a moralizing opinion of House’s ethics. (Although I have to say that House’s decision not to remove the blind patient’s only functioning eye is more compassionate and certainly more responsible than Foreman’s desire to remove it.) House’s reaction to this potential Wilson-replacement is, “I think I’m falling in love.”

House has also hired Lucas (Michael Weston) a private investigator, who I really thought I would dislike as yet another character in an already too-crowded cast. But I like him. And evidently, so does House, who sees beneath the guy’s slightly dippy exterior to the very sharp-minded man beneath — despite wearing argyle socks with construction boots (and Vans). He has hired the PI to supplement the investigative duties of the fellows, and he appears to be good at his job. But he’s also pretty good at House-reading, and probably has more potential as a Wilson surrogate than O’Shea. He’s a bit of a con man, charging randomly large amounts of money for his information (and doesn’t take checks).

Story continues here….http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/09/24/231436.php


Interview with House MD writers Friend and Lerner

When we last we saw Dr. Gregory House at the end of “House’s Head” (part one the House season finale), he was barely alive, lying on the floor of a bus. The entire episode was a weird and emotionally powerful rollercoaster ride, as we follow House (played to perfection by Hugh Laurie), while he tries to reassemble bits and pieces of his memory after being involved in a bus accident.

Using flashbacks, hallucinatory visions, and dreams to make sense of his foggy and fractured memories, House risks his life to identify a possibly fatally ill fellow passenger, knowing that the clock may be running out. A final and extremely risky attempt to recreate the scene just prior to the crash, which House enhances by using a dangerous Alzheimer’s drug, causes his memories to flood back, but also sends him into cardiac arrest. Cuddy and Wilson revive him and, in a very tense moment, House manages to croak out the words. “It was Amber. Amber was on the bus with me.” Part two which airs this Monday evening on FOX is sure to leave us with more questions than answers — and a whole summer to discuss and analyze what it all means for House and his colleagues.

I had the opportunity to speak with two of the finale’s writers, Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend (who are also series executive producers), to get their thoughts on the season finale, the character of House, and the future for the series, which is heading into its fifth season this September.

The season finale originated with a story idea from the creative mind of Doris Egan. “House wakes up in a coffee shop and doesn’t know how he got there,” they explained. “He knows that something bad has happened: he’s seen a fatal symptom in somebody, but can’t access his brain.” 

Everyone on the staff, said Lerner, thought it was a great story idea, and plans were made to craft it into a blockbuster two-part story. Part one was intended to get the coveted post-Super Bowl slot, taking advantage of the huge audience (and justify the equally huge cost). “People would then tune in Tuesday (the series regular time slot)” and hopefully continue to tune in weekly.

But Egan was already working on episode 12 (“Don’t Ever Change”) and was too busy to work on the two-parter. So Lerner and Friend along with David Foster and Peter Blake sat in a room and thrashed out the script. But, with the WGA strike looming, it became clear that there would be no time to ready it for the Super Bowl, so “Frozen” was substituted.

Designed to be a big-budget project and very expensive for series television, they were not certain that the network would be willing to pay the incredibly expensive production costs when the episode was moved from the post-Super Bowl slot. “We thought the episode would never see the light of day,” admitted the Lerner and Friend. “But to their credit,” Friend acknowledged, the network approved the expenses and it became a two-part season finale.     Continued at Blogcritics…..

No More Mr. Nice Guy on House last night!

Originally published this morning on Blogcritics

Have you ever known someone who was too nice to be true? They annoy you when you realize that you haven’t a prayer to ever be quite that good, until you discover that their niceness makes you a better person. At least that’s what the wife of this week’s “nice” patient believes. Is this a key to why House seems almost desperate to hang onto his friendship with Wilson? Wilson is House’s tie to humanity and if he’s lost then so is House’s humanity — completely. Or maybe I’m reaching for something not there in this played-for-fun episode of House, “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

“No More Mr. Nice Guy” was a lot of fun, but slightly disappointing (to me anyway) after such a long, long dry spell — and with only three more episodes to go for the season. I’m not blaming the writers or the other powers that be. Maybe my expectations were way too high after a season already peppered with fun and hi-jinks, and without one episode to provide a real emotional punch in the gut. As a friend pointed out to me this morning after watching the House marathon on USA Network yesterday, there is a stark contrast between the ethical questions and emotional explorations of the marathon episodes (“Detox,” “Control,” “Role Model,” and “Babies and Bathwater,” for example) and the lighter, more humorous tone of this season. She asked me whether had I not already been so invested in the series and in the character of House the series would have taken such a hold on me. And I’m not sure. Then again, I’m all about the angst and torment. (Sick, huh?)

Maybe the lightness is intentional; maybe House torn from his usual symbiotic relationship with Wilson is a House of ennui; of just simply being an ass. The House of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” really doesn’t care. Not about the patient, or really even about the diagnosis. He really only cares about playing mind games with his team and playing territorial games with Amber and Wilson. He’s not the troubled intellectual (who was apparent even in the hilarious season two episode “Distractions”), nor the reluctant healer (despite being in withdrawal and desperately in pain) of season three’s “Merry Little Christmas.” Nor the deeply compassionate (despite himself) man who wants to help a patient live a “normal” life (season three’s “Half-Wit”).

On the other hand, maybe House’s territorial games are his desperate bid to hold onto his only human tie, and the prospect of losing it frightens him a bit. His territorial games weren’t nasty, and his willingness to compromise regarding Wilson was interesting in a guy who (almost) never does. Is House really trying to be “nice” about Amber?

I have to admit that I was momentarily taken in by House’s devastated expression when his team told him that he had neurosyphilis. I thought he really had it — and that he was stunned by the news of it. (Although I knew it couldn’t be that straightforward.) That’s an expression that we had only (as viewers) witnessed at moments of anguish or great pain — when House is really hurting or worried. And here it was simply a manipulation; an act.

I felt a bit cheated because of that. House’s humanity is so hidden, so concealed, that we need those to find clues of it within House’s (and Hugh Laurie’s) expressive eyes. If they are not telling the truth (or not reliably so), House’s humanity is then even more suspect. (Again, on the other hand, as another friend pointed out, maybe there was truth in his reaction to the “news” of his syphilis. Was House, indeed, hurt that his team would invade his privacy, picking him apart like a lab rat? Have to think about that one.)

The other thing that bothered me about this episode is that a year ago, we learned that House doesn’t have syphilis. In “Half-Wit,” he switched blood vials to qualify for a drug trial. The team, in trying to help House, analyzed what they thought was his blood only to discover that it tested positive for syphilis. So, at the very least, Cameron, Chase, and Foreman should have known that he does not have syphilis. I’m not usually one to nitpick, but (to me) it was an unnecessary re-tread.

If I sound like I didn’t like the episode, that’s not really true. There was much to enjoy in “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” I liked seeing House try to reach out to others to compensate for Wilson. That he grabbed onto that socialization through a bowling date with Chase was quite delightful. (And watching Chase try to have a “normal” guy conversation with House was very, very funny and well done.) And despite the fact that I miss the quieter, more reflective House, he has come a long way since “Half-Wit,” when he so tentatively put his hand on the pub’s door handle, contemplating the mere act of entering.

I also very much liked the way they handled the House-Wilson-Amber triangle; Wilson seems pleased at all the fuss being made over his affections. In his own way, Wilson is far from being “nice,” letting House and Amber fight like divorced parents over visitation rights.

House is clearly trying to work out and to accept Wilson’s relationship with Amber. He may not be successful, but at least he’s trying. That he has brought Cuddy in as an arbitrator was a stroke of genius — and that he allows her to make the rulings and try (sort of ) to adhere to them is a testament to House’s respect for Cuddy’s skills. Nice touch, too, with House getting Wilson drunk while he drinks only coffee to cause trouble with Amber. Wilson is such a cheap drunk!

There is a moment in the episode when House is playing some blues on his piano, waiting anxiously for Wilson. He is clearly on edge and when there is a knock on his door, House fairly jumps out of his seat and lunges (as much as he can) to the door, only to find the Jehovah’s Witness guy there — much to House’s disappointment. That, more than any other moment in the episode, signaled just how much, despite the snark and silliness, House misses his old relationship with Wilson. And maybe how much he needs it. It’s a brief moment, but it’s telling.

And what is House telling Cuddy in his performance review? I think we need to listen closely to House’s performance review of his boss — beyond the snark — to what he actually said. “You want to have someone jump you and tell you ‘I love you;’ you run away from what you need, you have no idea of what you want. Your accomplishments make you proud; but you are still miserable.” What do we take away from that? What clues? In my humble opinion, House is baring his own feelings to Cuddy; telling her that she needs him, and doesn’t (yet) realize that she wants him. House made two suggestions in casual conversation that Cuddy is in his thoughts. Has Wilson’s new-found relationship spurred something in House? Time will tell. (Okay, fine. I confess to being a bit of a Cuddy-House “shipper.” There. I’ve said it.)

I am really looking forward to next week and then the big two-part finale (which looks awesome!). And remember coming up mid-May, just before the season finale — my interview with House executive producers/writers Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend. I suppose if any two writers will plow the depths of House’s emotional life, it is those two writers, who have given us “Skin Deep,” “Cane and Able,” and “Fetal Position.” So, feel free to contribute questions for them in the comment section!