‘House’ can’t cure formulaic structure

TV Review | 2 out of 5 stars

By Alexander Hanno

Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hugh Laurie

Scott Garfield / Fox

Though Hugh Laurie still offers an excellent performance, ‘House’ is foundering in its eighth season.

Hugh Laurie first graced TV screens as Dr. Gregory House in November 2004, and the good news is that he's as crude and sarcastic as ever. Unfortunately, this constant is not enough to salvage the "House" audiences have come to know and love as it continues to erode in quality.

In case you are unfamiliar with the show, it chronicles the life of Dr. House, a brilliant, painkiller−addicted doctor who solves mysterious cases of illness with his team of diagnostic physicians at the Princeton−Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey.

Episodes revolve around each new case, while larger story arcs progress in the background. Through it all, House delivers quips and manipulates patients and team members for one reason or another, tying up the episode with a revelation that solves the case at hand.

Serving as House's longtime friend is Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), the reasonable, grounded half of the pair and the sly protagonist's only confidante.

This season, one of House's past team members, Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), perhaps the only doctor who tests his mentor's authority and judgment on a regular basis, was hired as the dean of medicine, ironically serving as his former boss' superior.

Other long−time regulars include the suave Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) and the trouble−ridden Dr. Chris Taub (Peter Jacobson), both members of House's team.

It is truly impressive when a show can last eight seasons, especially if said program can last eight seasons and maintain the quality it had at the start.

Unfortunately, "House" is not a rare example success; it has declined steadily over time.

This season not only boasts the lowest ratings the show has ever seen, but may just mark its worst in terms of quality as well.

Much of the show's recent failing has to do with a lack of former regular cast members.

Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), the past dean of medicine at the hospital and House's long−time love interest, no longer remains part of the cast.

Providing a strong, authoritative female presence and an enjoyable platform for banter and drama with House, Cuddy's presence was fundamental to the show.

Furthermore, "House's" only other regular female character, Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), departed this season as well, leaving audiences with a pair of unfamiliar and seemingly inexperienced actresses to fill the void.

Here lies "House's" main problem. Odetta Yustman and Charlyne Yi serve as the two new doctors, and although neither is particularly moving in their performances, Yi is quite possibly one of the worst actors in the business.

Her awkward character is overplayed, and when she isn't spitting out her dialogue in an inaudible manner, she is unnecessarily shouting her lines angrily, as if reading a script on a high school stage.

Their foreign presence seems to have an effect on the remainder of the cast, who seem uncomfortable and unable to act well with either of them.

Because of this, the overall energy is quite low compared to past seasons.

Moreover, there simply doesn't seem to be much at stake for the characters. There is little to no conflict amongst the doctors and what conflict there is seems trivial.

Luckily, Laurie is still fantastic. After winning two Golden Globes — out of a whopping six nominations — for his role as House, Laurie certainly knows who House is.

Despite the show's recent decline, House remains the same cantankerous ass audiences grew to love, reinvigorated due to the presence of new doctors to manipulate and rear. He's clever, ironic and as difficult to deal with as always.

The relationship between House and Wilson has been maintained as well. The pair's back and forth retorts and petty competitions are as humorous as ever, providing the show's much−needed comic component.

The show's episode structure is intact, too.

Though some audiences may have become bored with the same old "mystery disease" plot that each episode possesses, "House" has flourished for eight years following this pattern and doesn't seem to have plans of stopping.

In all, though, as past season regulars have dropped off and have been replaced by new, rushed and altogether inappropriate additions to the cast, "House" has begun to erode from the witty yet intense drama it once was to something far less impressive.

While loyal fans may still be appeased by House's antics and his competitive relationship with Wilson, TV's most sarcastic doctor seems to be on his deathbed.

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