Once upon a time, Gregory House was a lovable, eccentric genius. Maybe he didn’t always follow the rules, but he got the job done. He was brash, sure. Sometimes he was downright ornery, but he was never just 100% mean: until now. These days I can barely stand to watch as he berates his lackluster costars, wallows in his tiresome self-pity and barely gives a second thought to the dying patients under his care. These days, House is a real a-hole.
An abusive father, busted up leg, and Vicodin addiction twanged my heartstrings aplenty in seasons 1-5. Constant pain can really humanize a character, and when that character also happens to be a handsome medical mastermind who saves lives, well, he can really get away with a lot of nastiness. But every mean-spirited action had to be counterbalanced with an adequately sympathetic moment of remorse, or at least some decent self-destructive alone time. Like when he almost drank himself to death and was saved by Wilson at the last second. Or when, after convincing Cuddy and the hospital attorney to allow one baby to die in order to save another, he performs the baby autopsy himself, sparing his dispirited team the gruesome task.
In the early seasons, House’s redeeming moments often came at the bedside of a particularly difficult patient. These are moments when House’s desire to save a life seems to trump his desire to be a d*ck and are often punctuated by an insightful commentary on the nature of life and death, i.e.: “We can only live with dignity, we cannot die with it.” The trouble is, as House has become less likeable, his motivations for saving lives seem more like attempts to prove the metal of his diagnoses than to help people.
It wouldn’t take much. Just a few intense, season 1 close-ups on two tortured baby blues.
It pains me to feel this way about House. I used to harbor a passionate love for the kooky, motorcycle-riding, sneaker-wearing, prostitute-employing, sarcasm-wielding, pill-popping, atheist doctor. I still admire the classic one-liners, the great quotes that continue to pop up on Facebook every five seconds. For example, “I only became a doctor because of the movie Patch Adams.” Or, “Where would junior high be without our ability to judge people on aesthetics?”
A significant part of the problem I’m having is that I’ve also lost interest in House’s diagnostic team. Ever since Cuddy left, Princeton-Plainsboro has seemed more like Plainston-Lamesboro. Park is cute and quirky but Adams is the flattest, most vapid excuse for a diagnostician since, well, since ever. She sucks. I never thought I’d say it, but Chase is now my favorite character. I used to love Wilson but now he’s just a sad sack oncologist with no fight left in him. Foreman’s predictable haughtiness is so boring it hurts.
I can’t say I’ll stop watching House. I still find some slim satisfaction in the formula: case that doesn’t respond to treatment, patient gets worse as House does a variety of annoying prankish stuff, team scurries around blabbing about what House might be up to, everybody lies or something, House comes up with diagnosis while bouncing a ball on his cane.