HOUSE Season Premiere: Now What?
September 21, 2010 by Erik Wilkinson
David Letterman was supposed to follow Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show. Despite a penchant for tweeking NBC executives, Letterman had built a loyal, young audience for his 12:30 Late Night program. As an experienced broadcaster with legitimate comedy chops, the Indiana native never imagined losing out on TV’s most prestigious franchise to Jay Leno. As the battle for Johnny’s chair intensified, Letterman made a final pitch to NBC, addressing their concerns that he did not understand the ramifications of moving to 11:30pm. Changes would have to be made for a larger audience, Letterman agreed. He understood that his persona would have to mature, lest the viewers reject him immediately. With over a decade of experience on their airwaves, Letterman could not fathom why the powers that be could not trust him to make that change in a professional manner.
HOUSE may be an 8pm scripted drama, but the schism between the pro-Huddy and anti-Huddy factions is reminiscent of the late night battles of the early 1990′s. The Season 7 Premiere pulled the trigger on Hugh Laurie & Lisa Edelstein’s onscreen romance, with no immediate end in sight. Director Greg Yaitanes and writer Doris Egan crafted a story to introduce House & Cuddy as a mature, communicative couple. There were demonstrations of passion, affection, and old-fashioned chivalry. Unfortunately, the premiere will do little to retain long-term viewers who have spoken out loudly against the Huddy storyline.
From my perspective, I believe that House’s producers and writers thought carefully about how to present House & Cuddy’s romance to a wider audience. Just as David Letterman and his team put together a plan for the demands of 11:30, I saw compromises being made to appease both pro and anti-Huddy fans. By retaining House’s acerbic wit and Cuddy’s type-A tendencies, mixing in a broken champagne bottle and an uncomfortably warm bath, they drew a line in the sand. This is the show WE want to make. These are characters that YOU love. Please TRUST us.
Were there tough moments to watch? Absolutely! As an outspoken critic of the immature and inconsistent paces of their romance in the past, I was not moved by the provocative decision to show House’s scar in the cold open. In fact, Lisa Edelstein’s delivery of the line, “It’s ok. I love you,” as House grew uncomfortable with the intimacy of the moment, was a low point of the three seasons I have written about the show.
On balance, both Hugh Laurie & Lisa Edelstein delivered performances that should reassure fans that this show will continue to be a medical drama first, not a soap opera. Their scenes together were wrought with adult conversations and authentic second-guessing. House & Cuddy may be fooling themselves with the long-term potential of their romance, and that point will be debated all season. However, I enjoyed their scenes together more than others in recent memory.
I will be back later with thoughts on Thirteen’s disappearance, Chase’s indecent proposal, and Wilson’s skills as a cat burglar. Until then, feel free to get the conversation started!
What did you think of the premiere? Were you pro-Huddy or anti-Huddy entering the season? Did the episode change your mind about how to present this romance? What about Thirteen? How will her absence impact the dynamic on House’s team? Please comment early and often!