The return of Olivia Wilde’s Thirteen on last night’s episode of House could have marked a creative resurgence for the show, but instead, it just highlighted that it’s run its course: Nothing really matters on House. Nothing sticks, and nothing is ever at stake. Once upon a time, House was great. But seven seasons and 150 episodes later, the beating heart of the show has flatlined. House hasn’t been renewed yet, owing to fraught contract negotiations between Fox and NBC Universal, but since it’s Fox’s most popular drama it’s a pretty safe bet that it’ll be back. Alas. Here are five reasons that, ratings be damned, it would be better if the show called it quits.
When you have a lead character whose life motto is that people don’t change … it’s limiting.
House’s cynical narcissism might make him interesting, but it seriously caps the dramatic potential of the series because he doesn’t care about anything. What happens when someone dies? Nothing. What happens when plans go awry? Nothing. What always happens? Just … nothing. It was fun for a few seasons — behold, the immovable object stand up to otherwise unstoppable forces — but after this long, when every conceivable tragedy and crisis has befallen the character, it’s just boring. Spoiler: House will be grumpy, but ultimately fine!
House doesn’t know how to hold onto a good story.
In the early seasons, Cameron’s girlish crush on House helped the audience see him through a slightly different lens, and when she was written off the show, so was her perspective, leaving the series with an overabundance of cold bitterness. Kutner’s shocking suicide didn’t have any lasting effect on the characters as far as we can see. Lydia was introduced and dismissed, and Lin-Manuel Miranda was the best guest star the show ever had — and he only got two nonconsecutive episodes. House’s therapy came and went. Cutthroat Bitch didn’t even last a year. After six years of build-up, House and Cuddy finally got together and it was boring at best, kinda gross at worst. Even on a micro level, the show can’t commit to its plots: Cuddy had kidney cancer for eleven minutes before it turned out that actually, she didn’t. If the show won’t invest in its own stories, how can the audience?
House will never meet his match.
Every season or so, the show introduces a new character who’ll butt heads with House, or maybe teach him a thing or two. But what’s happened over and over (and over!) is that, as in Vegas, (the) House always wins. Thirteen couldn’t win, Amber Tamblyn’s Bones-Lite Lady Spock can’t win, Stacy, Vogler, Tritter, Amber, Dr. Nolan, Lucas — well, maybe the next character will be the one who really gets to him.
There’s no show without Wilson.
Robert Sean Leonard wants out, and a Sherlock Holmes without his Watson isn’t worth watching. Wilson is the only character left with any real heart: Cuddy became a doormat when she and House got together; Foreman is deeply boring; Chase is too glib; and Taub and House just don’t have the right chemistry.
The show is out of juice.
In its first few seasons, House was a fresh, incisive spin on the procedural. Season one’s “Three Stories” exemplifies everything the show does well: It’s funny; it’s surprising; it’s sexually charged without being creepy; and the medical mysteries solved on the episode reflect and influence the characters involved. This season’s “Two Stories,” ostensibly a callback, had none of the verve or momentum that made the 2005 episode so solid. In season one, House delivered a Socratic-style lecture to an auditorium full of uppity medical students; in season seven, he gave a spiel to two precocious elementary-school students. When a show starts ripping itself off, and badly, it’s well past time to start thinking about how to wrap things up.