I’m sorry, darling. We’ve had a wonderful six-plus years together, but it’s over.
I arrived for our usual Monday night date the other night, sat down to enjoy an hour of gazing into your endless blue eyes and laughing at your acerbic wit. And then, suddenly, I realized … the magic was gone. It was over. I’ve hung in there through ups and downs; I’ve tried to keep on loving you despite the one-sided nature of our relationship. Some people say you’ve changed, but I don’t really think you have. I’ve just gotten … bored. We need to go our separate ways, and since you clearly don’t recognize that it’s time to leave, I guess I’ll have to be the one to make the move.
Goodbye, Dr. Greg House. It’s over. I’ll always remember you fondly.
I’ve blogged before about my love for Dr. House (way back when the relationship was new and I was just discovering Season 1 on DVD) and how he was the latest of my many, many intense crushes on TV characters. I’ve stuck with him through the ups and downs, but in the end, he’s fallen victim to the curse of American television, and its inability to ever let a show end gracefully.
Every time I start liking a show on American TV, whether it’s drama or comedy, I know that long before it’s cancelled, I’ll have lost interest. The same characters, the same formula, the same problems that made the show fresh and engaging when it started, will either have changed beyond all recognition, or simply grown stale and tired from endless repetition.
This Monday night, the moment finally came for me and Dr. House. I got up in the middle of the episode to go over and check on Aunt Gertie and lock her doors for her — a visit I make every night, but on Monday nights I’ve always been careful to make sure I do it either before or after House. This week, in the middle of House and Cuddy’s shenanigans over House treating Cuddy’s mom, I realized I didn’t care. That nothing was going to come out of House’s mouth (gorgeous as it is) that was going to make me laugh, cry, or care.
People blame the decline of a TV show on a lot of things — the writers getting lazy; introducing new plotlines or failing to develop old ones; dropping beloved characters and bringing in new ones who aren’t as popular with the audience. In House’s case, I’ve loved Hugh Laurie’s acting enough to stick with the show through the firing of the original team of doctors, the rehiring of new ones, House’s stint in rehab, House’s romance with Cuddy — and honestly, I don’t think my lack of interest in the show can be blamed on any of these things. Certainly there was nothing in this week’s episode that was a “jump the shark” moment. I just realized I wasn’t interested anymore.
Serial TV tries to do the same things that movies and novels do — create compelling characters and make us keep coming back to find out what happens to them. But rather than building to a climax and ending with a resolution as a movie or novel can do, a TV series has to give us conflict, climax, and resolution, over and over and over, week after week, with no over-arching storyline to be resolved unless (like Battlestar Galactica) the series actually plans to end at some point. While stringing us along week after week with no end in sight, the writers have to keep characters changing enough to be dynamic, yet consistent enough to be recognizable — which often means allowing a character to take two steps forward and then quickly reversing it with two steps back.
You can keep this up for awhile. But twenty-odd episodes a year, over seven or eight or ten years? There’s no way to keep that fresh, and I can think of hardly any show that have done so. (Feel free to bombard me with counterexamples).
So, I’m breaking up with House. On Monday night I told Jason, “I don’t care how this ends. When I come back from Aunt Gertie’s, let’s put on a Jonathan Creek.“
I know, it’s kind of like I’m cheating on Hugh Laurie with Alan Davies (ironically, Hugh Laurie was initially considered for the role of Jonathan Creek, but rejected it). When we first started watching this older British mystery series, I was sorry to learn there were only four seasons of six episodes each. But you’ve gotta hand it to our British friends — they know how to leave viewers wanting more. And that’s something American networks will simply never learn.