Wednesday, September 24, 2008

House:” Not Cancer” Not That Interesting

Last night’s episode of House, “Not Cancer” did not start like the usual episode. Instead of just having one patient, we had 5 people, four of which were dead or dying. The fifth was a math teacher who had a corneal transplant who wasn’t ill…yet. In fact, the common thread with the patients is that they all got something transplanted that originated from one person.

The handling of the case itself was usual. House (Hugh Laurie) and his team guess on various diagnoses, they argue with themselves, they argue with House, House argues with them…the dance continues. In fact, in respect to the medical storylines, if you’ve seen one House episode, you’ve seen them all. In this episode, House seems to think that cancer is at the cause of the illness, and when it seems he’s proven right, he now thinks the diagnosis is wrong. He was part right and part wrong, as House realized that cancer stem cells from the original donor had mutated to look as if they belonged there, attaching themselves to other organs in the patient’s body. This made them hard to spot and also made those areas of the body under attack very weak.

But this episode seemed different in that House seems a little more lost than usual. He doesn’t have Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) to kick around at will. But, to see what Wilson is up to, House enlisted the help of a private investigator, Lucas (Michael Weston). House got the PI initially to help him with medical cases where his doctors couldn’t (like breaking into homes, something I’ve always had a problem with), and he also taps him to keep tabs on Wilson. But what House doesn’t realize is that the PI is also observing House, just because that's what he does.

A little humor is interjected when House mooches paying for his lunch off another colleague (a doctor). House proceeds to join the doctor for lunch, testing the waters for how good this guy would be as House’s replacement whipping boy since he didn’t have Wilson to kick around any more. House also asks, "Do you have some ethical problem with what I'm doing that you could express in a unique way that would actually make me think that I'm wrong even though I'll never admit it?" After the doctor asks House if House knows he’s not gay, the little scenario runs its course and the gag is over.

House’s original diagnostic team seems for the most part to have been relegated to window dressing. Foreman (Omar Epps) is the only exception with more screen time than Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) and Chase (Jesse Spencer), the latter two almost completely disappearing from any significant storyline. Meanwhile, we get more of the new team, who is just like the old team. Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) is just another Cameron-type, and Taub (Peter Jacobson) and Kutner (Kal Penn) go through similar disagreements with each other and with House as their predecessors did.

It’s as if it’s the same show as always, with just some new faces. Yes, House’s drug problem has taken a back seat, which is a good thing, but they need something more compelling that House’s inability to cope without Wilson to make the show seem interesting. And they also need more than just a new set of faces to make the medical cases seem different.

In some aspects, the edginess of the show and the drama seems to have disappeared. House almost seems too…nice. Yes, he’s still cranky. Yes, he’s still annoying. But what made House great is his intensity and single mindedness for his cases. His “pining” for Wilson, much to the glee of the House/Wilson shippers I am sure, is just not the answer. Don’t get me wrong; this is still a good show. But the bar was set very high in the show’s first year or so, and it seems evident that it peaked and now has reached some sort of plateau.

Maybe the writers need to hire a private investigator to find out where the real drama has gone, because it certainly seems to be missing from the show.

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