HOUSE: The Softer Side - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HOUSE: The Softer Side

February 24, 2009 by  

Last week, I asked whether the producers of House had thrown down the gauntlet regarding Foreman & Thirteen’s increased roles on the show. With the entire television world struggling to accurately calculate ratings, there is no empirical evidence to suggest that Omar Epps & Olivia Wilde’s added screen time is turning away scores of loyal “House-holds.” On the other hand, the feedback that we read on GMMR, along with the opinions offered at other respected blogs & entertainment sites, have crystallized the disconnect between longtime fans, who long for a return to the House-driven plots of Seasons One through Three, and newer viewers who find the soap-driven elements of the Foreteen saga to be tantalizing and compelling.

This week’s chapter brought the two competing camps into direct conflict, with both Dr. House and the new couple sharing the spotlight. If you are drawn to the show because of Hugh Laurie’s aptitude for all things thespian, I would assume that the roller coaster that House rode this week was to your liking. At the same time, if you enjoy a little romance with your misdiagnoses, Foreteen’s efforts to hide their relationship while helping the young patient provided enough light moments to satisfy your romantic comedy quota.

The most significant development of this episode was House’s confession of taking methadone to alleviate his pain. After fueling speculation of heroin use from his colleagues, due in no small part by a remarkably good mood, House admitted to Wilson that he had added the drug, known primarily for treating narcotic addiction, despite a number of potentially fatal consequences. For all of the medical mysteries that the House team has solved in an hour, I was hoping that this story would take at least two episodes to play itself out. While the tie-in to the young patient’s health was a clever hook to bring House back to Cuddy’s office at episode’s end, I was not satisfied to see a man riddled with pain make a profound decision between his own health and the legacy of his work in such a compressed period of time.

House’s journey through Season Five has left him in close proximity to a number of patients who have weighed the pros and cons of making life or death decisions. From the father who attempted suicide in order to escape the debilitating pain of his everyday existence to the gunman who put lives at risk for the comfort of an accurate diagnosis, House has betrayed his inner most thoughts when he connects with those who have also lived in pain. The humanity of a character who often appears to have no capacity for empathy is only available to us for moments at a time. Those fleeting seconds are why many of us watch House, because they help us understand the distance he keeps from his inner circle. Far from being an erratic teacher driven by ego, House has shown a capacity for healing and mentoring, as shown through his patient care and the development of doctors like Foreman and Thirteen.

Cuddy fans may be troubled by this next statement, so hang on to your venom until you get to the comments section. There is no rational explanation to continue the House and Cuddy romantic storyline. That certainly does not mean that we have seen the last twist and turn in their twisted love story. However, House’s admission to Cuddy that he cannot be the happy guy on Methadone, just hours after he offered a gracious, “Thank you,” to the Chief of Staff for offering an alternative that would allow him to continue at Princeton-Plainsboro under the influence, should have been the final chapter in the Huddy fairy tale. When two people cannot extract happiness from one another, the central argument for their coupling dissolves into thin air. If it were up to me, Season Six will generate a new suitor for Dr. Cuddy and Baby Rachel, along with a harem of convenient company for Dr. House.

I confess to not having much of a pulse regarding Foreteen’s impact on this episode. Despite the best efforts of writer Liz Friedman and director Deren Sarafian, I judged Foreman and Thirteen’s contributions to the story as 100% adequate, yet remarkably forgettable. As the weeks pass, I find myself siding with the old school House fans, with one caveat. Barring some unforeseen casting change, I enjoy both Epps and Wilde in their roles. They are professionals who execute the material that is put in front of them. Their misfortune is in the appearance of overshadowing the titular character, whose limitless talents are something to behold.

Speaking of titular characters, can we get the “Wilson” spinoff rolling now? Robert Sean Leonard is simply The Man.

With two weeks until the next new episode, how do you feel about the show’s direction? Did House’s final decision change your view about his character? Where does Cuddy fit in to House’s life without methadone? Did you miss seeing Taub & Kutner together? Would you pay to watch House & Wilson bicker for an hour each week? Who would trade less Foreteen for more Chase & Cameron? I cannot wait to read your comments!

How does Erik combat writer’s block? He indulges in Adam Carolla’s new daily podcast at and reads Bill Simmons’ columns on The GMMR House scribe is an active participant in the economic recession, and is working on a pamphlet outlining the etiquette of handling Facebook requests from old boyfriends/girlfriends.


14 Responses to “HOUSE: The Softer Side”

  1. Bonnie on February 24th, 2009 3:40 pm

    Have to say, I really enjoyed Pleasant House. The duality had me searching the screen for a glimpse of the Grumpy House – re-watching scene after scene to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. In contrast, I watched the Fourteen scenes while doing all sorts of other stuff. Their delivery is fine and the characters themselves are good. But the lines, the plot, the romance are all just half-interesting at most.

    I would spend a bundle to watch Wilson/House and a little Cuddy each week. They don’t have to do anything but go out for a sandwich. And have Kutner come in and do the clueless piece for a scene or two.

    And Cameron and Chase have been reduced to zilch? Not even a cameo? I find that odd, really odd.

  2. John on February 24th, 2009 4:45 pm

    I can’t fathom the interest in a House/Cuddy relationship. I like both characters, but I really can’t see House in any relationshp deeper than his occasional hooker hook-ups.

    I like 13 and Foreman and have no problem with ForeTeen, but I miss Cameron and Chase.

    Taub and Kutner are best in small doses.

    Wilson is great, but I really can’t see his character spun off (I realize your suggestion was in jest). He acts as a great counter point to House, but is too passive on his own.

  3. Erik on February 25th, 2009 1:50 pm

    Bonnie: My attention span was certainly running parallel to yours, as I perked up each time that House showed up under the influence. In fact, one downside of Foreteen’s prominence was less time spent with House in the clinic. As we found out before the holidays, there is comedy gold when Hugh Laurie helps average patients. As for House & Wilson, have we seen a more satisfying batch of diner scenes since Seinfeld? I don’t think so…

    John: Thanks for continuing to read the recaps. Your feedback is always thought-provoking, and this week’s offering is no exception. The shelf life for House & Cuddy to remain a couple that people want to see has expired. At this point, it would be antithetical to both of their characters to get together. There does not appear to be an end in sight from the producers’ perspective, but I agree with you that it is time to play that card and be done with it.

  4. robertas on February 25th, 2009 2:29 pm

    Hm a happy House 🙂

    I am trying to think when was the last time House was pain-free, wasn’t it season 3? Just after he got shot and had that ketamine thingy?
    Anyhow if my memory serves me correctly he was perhaps less brash then usual, but I don’t remember him being happy/normal as he was in this last episode. Correct me if I’m wrong by all means, it has been a while I have seen season 3 so my memory is patchy.
    Maybe it was the methadone. Then again I have met a few people who were on methadone therapy (for heroine use) and they were nowhere near as coherent or polite more out-of-sorts. It might be it has different effects on different people, but it strikes me as funny how doctors in these TV shows talk about taking meds, its like popping M&Ms to them… or that is just my impression 🙂
    But I do agree with you Erik I would have thought the writers would at least give it a few episodes with the methadone thing. If for nothing else to explore the possibility of a happy House.
    Which brings me to my point – is there a point to House if he is a happy House? 🙂 I still haven’t decided on that one.

    Foreteen – honestly that was a meh if I have ever seen one. When they were discussing if people know they are still together I was like – but who cares?

    As for Cuddy – I thought that last scene was telling. You know when she was holding methadone for him to drink. The impression I got was that she would be happy for him to be on methadone if that would mean a happy House. House that could be in a functional, normal relationship.
    As far as I’m concerned that horse has died and left the building. Just get it over with as soon as possible, it completely pointless.

    Which brings me to my point – is there a point to House if he is a happy House? 🙂 I still haven’t decided on that one.

  5. Emma on February 25th, 2009 6:12 pm

    For me, I though that episode was extremely poor. I guess you would call me one of the original housians, and I am not too big a fan of the new team as a whole.

    But seriousl?! No Cameron or Chase at all? This really is 13’s show, and it is turning into such a soap opera between her and Foreman. I am not against their relationship at all, but when it turns into the focus of the episode, then I have issues.

    That said, I probably wouldn’t mind too much if Chase/Cameron had that much time or better still, House/Cameron.

    Anyway, I thought the whole idea of seeing the “softer side” of House was good, but something just felt so pointless to the episode at the end when he decided not to take the drugs anymore. There was no progression at all. It felt extremely average to me.

    I’m still rooting for the old team to come back. What I would really like to see is some kind of war between the new team and the old team – both of them competing for House. Now that would be good.

    But if the writers keep spewing out these dull episodes, then I don’t know if there’s any hope for any of us true House fans.

  6. Alex on February 26th, 2009 12:25 am

    Foreman can bore you to death. Even if the caracter was created with this in mind, they have outdone themeselves. 13/14 is the weakest of the cast change – during the last episode I read the news on line during the scenes with her…Season 5 is strong but really lacks the hard core house driven story lines od season 3, say. They separated Wilson too much from the main action and let’s not forget he is the second strongest character that defines House in most ways. Chase and Cameron (even she’s a typical american-bitch type woman – so-so and not so-so in every department) used to bring the real essence of the original feel. If writers and producers were scared to continue with the successful formula the are just another people who try too hard to fix something that ain’t broken…Even with some faint attemts to put house in different shoes he obviously doesn’t fit, he stil is The Doctor!

  7. geebs on February 26th, 2009 1:19 am

    Old House and New House?
    Honestly, if it were the so called Old House, I am quite sure many of those die-hard fans would have dropped out long time ago.
    The beauty of the series has been the progression into the life of House and the people around him. From the egoistical grumpy genius to everything else human has only endeared the character. Without the change in people around him or the “progression”, it would have been a stale medical drama.
    To me, House is like a guy whom I have come to know over so long a time (honestly I started in 2007), and my interest wouldn’t have sustained if there was no such transition.

    Now it would be interesting to see how House deals with the “lovebirds” now that he realized what’s going on.

    This has been the best episode of the season for me, going back to a shade of House, centered around his pain and implications on people around him.

    But I agree with people ahead of me, they should have got this to at least one more episode.

    And why the break in between?? We already missed couple of episodes due to various reasons!!!

  8. Erik on February 27th, 2009 4:19 pm

    robertas: I always enjoy reading your thoughts, as I know you have watched House intently over the past few seasons. The abrupt end to the methadone storyline was disappointing for all the reasons you offered. If, as I surmise, the Foreteen drama remains a “co-headliner” of sorts to our favorite physician, then I would have expected a major shift in House’s attitude to be pondered for more than a handful of scenes. You are 100% right about Cuddy’s reaction to House’s decision, and Lisa Edelstein’s non-verbal acting in that scene was instructive. Sometimes, you can say more with a look than a speech. We are in agreement that House’s decision to remain himself, for better or worse, should doom the House/Cuddy pairing forever. If only the producers shared that view…

  9. Erik on February 27th, 2009 4:35 pm

    Emma: Your negative reaction to this week’s episode is justified. For the first time this season, I found myself waiting for the show to be over, instead of looking forward to each segment. The absence of Chase & Cameron continues to generate consternation amongst the faithful, and I was disappointed that Cameron, in particular, was not brought into the loop on House’s condition and subsequent resignation. The efforts seen earlier in Season Five to reach a dramatic equilibrium on the show have been unnoticeable over the past two weeks. I hope you stick around to see how the season plays out, and that you continue to share your views with the GMMR community.

    Alex: I hope you do not give up on the show because of the Foreteen storyline. If it makes any difference, all the reading I have done about the planning of Seasons Four and Five hints that the producers wanted to keep the key staff members (Wilson, Chase, Cameron) in place, and made some concessions to the actors themselves for a less intense schedule. For Robert Sean Leonard, that meant a few intense shoots at the end of Season Four, then his cameo-like appearances in several Season Five episodes. On the other hand, Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer have expressed personal concern over the difficulty in working them “back into the rotation,” to use a baseball term, and their absence does appear to be a creative shift in favor of more Olivia Wilde and Omar Epps. I would welcome more opportunities to watch Cameron spar with her mentor, then return home to explore the Chase/Cameron relationship in more depth. Keep your fingers crossed!

  10. Erik on February 27th, 2009 4:44 pm

    geebs: I agree with your central premise. House is a deeply textured character who should evolve over the course of 100 episodes. By opening Pandora’s Box to expose the deeper issues that House has regarding his health, there was ample space to flesh that conflict out for a number of episodes. That is the reason why I was disappointed with The Softer Side. The miles of great footage that could have come from House weighing the pros and cons of methadone, both personally and professionally, would have reestablished Hugh Laurie as the heart and soul of the show. I would not expect that House would remain the same guy, but it seems that the writers made that decision for him.

    As for the repeats, Natasha left a comment in Thursday’s TV Spotlight that some of the networks planned reruns for this week because of the planned Digital TV switch. Though that turnover was delayed until June, it does explain why we will see new episodes into March for some of our familiar favorites.

  11. geebs on February 28th, 2009 1:16 am

    All the shows skip/skipped a week… Fringe, Lie to Me and House. Great!

    I just saw the red carpet for House’s 100 and I can’t believe Laurie’s original accent is that different (British) from his on-screen. Thats just awesome!!

    I think beyond season 2, I started watching House less for the medical drama and more for the characters. I hope they just maintain it that way.

  12. Zina on March 3rd, 2009 6:10 am

    Look, if anything, if it weren’t for Olivia Wilde especially my prediction would be that ‘House’ wouldn’t so much as register as a blip on anybody’s radar anymore. Sure, the criticism she and her character draws can be pretty harsh but it has seemed to generate more publicity for the show IMHO

  13. Erik on March 4th, 2009 11:03 am

    Geebs: With the mystery patient of the week usually functioning as a backdrop, I think your wish of a character-driven story arc is continuing to come true. For now, it appears that your enjoyment of the show will be impacted by which particular characters you appreciate most!

    Zina: There is no question that Olivia Wilde’s presence on House has been a boost in attracting younger viewers. Look no further than the online fuss over the same-sex scenes from the “Lucky Thirteen” episode to substantiate that claim. In addition, I would guess that the debate over Wilde’s role has increaed the number of times House is mentioned by television reporters like Kristin Dos Santos and Michael Ausiello. If any publicity is good publicity, the Thirteen story has been a success.

  14. geebs on March 5th, 2009 7:45 pm

    I would pay to have more of House and Wilson on screen, with the older staff but right now, I will take uninterrupted episodes 🙂