The Husband:

In last week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, the cover story was on the return of House to the Fox airwaves. It gave us a good idea of what to expect for the fifth season – which started last night – and gave us about the same level of insight into the show as we’ve already received in many different magazines and websites in the past. That is, not very much. We know Hugh Laurie is a perfectionist when it comes to his acting, we know that the show creators/writers/producers are always putting it out there that Dr. Gregory House is no real hero, and we know that House himself will have his decisions challenged to the breaking point, both in life and in the hospital.

But the EW article also brought something to my attention, an item of which I was completely unaware – viewers apparently didn’t like the most recent season. They felt the near-removal of Dr. Chase and Dr. Cameron from the show’s focus – due to the devastating dissolution of House’s team at the end of season 3 – was a major flaw, and the introduction of several major characters stalled the show almost to unwatchability.

If you don’t know, season 4 dealt with House trying to recreate his think tank by bringing on 40 medical interns and various doctors with enigmatic pasts, then spent every pre-writer’s strike episode whittling them down to three in what too many writers refer to as a Survivor-style elimination process. As the selection pool shrank in size, the drama upped considerably, as the prospective fellows tried to outwit, outplay and outlast each other. (Hmmm…I guess it is kind of like Survivor.) After several weeks, we were left with three doctors to enter the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital Department of Diagnostic Medicine: “Thirteen” (Olivia Wilde), Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn) and Chris “Mini-Stud” Taub (Peter Jacobson). Amber “Cutthroat Bitch” Volakis (Anne Dudek) was the only elimination I disliked as a viewer, but if you’re a fan of the show, you know she came back into the main stories in a big fucking way.

It was my favorite season of House by a long shot. I respect the show and consider its weekly mysteries quite fascinating, but each week is almost the exact same. Untreated disease comes into Princeton-Plainsboro. Fellows get confused. Fellows try a bunch of tests that don’t work. House makes one or two mistakes. In the last five minutes, House suddenly realizes what’s wrong and says it in a very disarming way.

That pattern didn’t really inspire a “must see!” reaction from me during the show’s first three seasons. I liked serialized stories. Honestly. True, I dig something like Numb3rs or Criminal Minds or Bones for their self-contained stories, but cop/FBI/CIA shows have something that House doesn’t: a series of different locations. Each week on those shows is like a travelogue, so if anything gets a little boring visually or storywise, you know that in five minutes everyone will be elsewhere. On House – and pretty much any medical show – has only one location, which in my mind tends to blur the lines between scenes, rendering them almost unimportant at times.

Season 4 of House didn’t fix the location problem, because really how would that even go down, but it did get me to tune in each week, to look forward to the next episode, instead of just presenting a DOTW (Disease Of The Week).

And, honestly, do you really care about Dr. Chase and Dr. Cameron? Really? I think they are two of the most boring characters on television. The producers were right to realize their story arcs had bottomed, and by sidelining them while introducing three new characters – ones that are, let’s face it, far more interesting – it gave the showrunners a chance to find new life in them while breathing new life into others.

Last night’s premiere had a good balance between House’s personal problems, the New Fellows and their Socratic method, Chase and Cameron, Wilson’s resignation and the case itself. There were jokes about leprosy, which is always a plus in my book. It was structured very nicely, especially with Thirteen’s own crisis of faith due to her impending doom as a result of Huntington’s disease. I don’t feel like I simply can’t wait to see the next episode, but with the introduction of Michael Weston as a private investigator House hires to spy on the New Fellows, maybe we can get a good serialized story again, one that will inspire more viewer loyalty out of me. (And not bullshit like Sela Ward’s arc in season 2.)

Robert Sean Leonard writes himself out of yet another episode.

Robert Sean Leonard writes himself out of yet another episode.

The Wife:

I was always a casual House viewer, in the pre-DVR days. Like my husband mentioned, it’s pretty much the same show every week, but I never really minded that because I will watch any television show that involves massive amounts of blood, guts and other abjecta. I had to give up my casual House viewing during the third season, as it conflicted with the much-more-important Veronica Mars‘ final season. But I, when married and in possession of a DVR unit, found myself watching the entirety of the fourth season. And it was good.

Like my husband, I was a big fan of the format change for the fourth season, but I’m equally happy to return to the old format, and with new, more interesting characters. I never cared much cared for Foreman, Chase and Cameron, and I sure as hell didn’t care about Chase and Cameron’s romance, although it seems many viewers did because the actors were engaged in real life at the time. (They’ve since broken up.) Thirteen, Kutner and Taub are much more interesting characters, and I think that really showed itself with Thirteen as a central focus this week, projecting her feelings about her life in context with her fatal diagnosis of Huntington’s Chorea onto her patient, a woman who is perfectly happy to not live an exceptional life. It will be interesting to see how Kutner and Taub deal with this as the season progresses, and if Olivia Wilde will get to do some physical acting as her symptoms begin to appear.

House shows Thirteen how a misplaced baby can sometimes cause anal bleeding. Just like Olestra.

House shows Thirteen how a misplaced baby can sometimes cause anal bleeding. Just like Olestra.

I liked this episode as a follow-up to the tragic events of the two-part season finale last year, but not much as a season opener. I expect more out of a season opener. I mean, Bones took us to another country for a two-part mystery and the Fringe premiere was basically a mini-movie. That’s the kind of season opener I need.

As far as the blood and guts bits are concerned, we got to see some anal bleeding last night, and that was definitely satisfying. I hope that next week’s episode (with Felicia Day from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog!) has some interestingly weird crap go down.

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