Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do


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.


10 thoughts on “Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do

  1. I can’t think of any American programs with that ability to stay fresh. Across the pond, however, I am a fan of Doctor Who (speaking of doctors). The writers were at least smart enough to build in a renewal premise. I very much liked David Tennant’s Doctor, yet have no guilt in saying that I enjoyed seeing Matt Smith step into the role.

  2. Anything British has to be better than where House is going these days. At one point, on the past Monday night you’re referring to, I turned to Vince and said, “this is THE stupidest episode they’ve ever had” and began to list all the problems. It seems that’s what I do most now with House, just list all the things that don’t make sense. Maybe I should break up with him too but I am much more connected to TV than you and think I always like to keep one foot in there, just in case something good happens. Wouldn’t want to miss that. There has never been anything close to great since that brilliant moment at the end of Season 5 when Dead Amber leaned in and whispered in his ear. Perfect! End.

  3. Doctor Who is kind of a different series every time. However, I do have a problem with the regeneration thing, because I got so attached to and absorbed in Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, I found it hard to invest in David Tennant. And I haven’t even SEEN the new guy …

    Tina, maybe your loyalty to House will pay off. I just wish they had ended the show when it was still good, so I’d have great memories of it. Maybe I just need to choose a cut-off point after which I can pretend it ended, like I do with some shows. In my world, Friends had four seasons, and the West Wing had three.

  4. Yup, I gave up on House two years ago. Didn’t realise ER was still airing for the last – I dunno – 5 years? Even Dexter fails to grab my attention anymore.
    I watched the first 2 or 3 episodes of Republic of Doyle and decided it wasn’t worth getting “into” a show again. It’s just so stressful having a date with the TV once a week. I can’t handle it. And since we gave up cable, I find most shows don’t hold my attention anymore. Instead, when I really feel like watching something I either rent, buy, or borrow the season of a potentially good show on dvd, or I watch streaming video online. Last night I watched SVU and CSI on ctv.ca and it was nice, but I couldn’t watch them every week!
    This tendancy they have to drag the shows on and on and on is foolish. Anymore than 4 or 5 seasons max and it just gets boring.

  5. You know, Cameron, I was thinking of M*A*S*H as the one exception to the rule … and I think it might be. That series changed a LOT between the early seasons and the later ones — but I think it was a change for the better, with a lot more depth in the storylines and characterization in the later seasons. Not everyone agrees; there are fans who prefer the most “light-comedy” tone of the earlier seasons and think the show became too broody and self-important as Alan Alda got more star power and creative control.

    I still think it’s kind of crazy that the show lasted eight years longer than the actual Korean War, though.

  6. I quit ER after Dr. Green died. I never got into House as much as you did and was about to quit even putting it on my Hulu list when they put in the young med student. But even a couple of episodes with her and I am thinking that they aren’t willing to do anything fun with her so I may be done with that.

  7. I never did get into ER — I don’t have much stomach for medical shows, except House.

  8. My household broke up with House a couple of years ago – after the return from rehab – when (to us) it was too much like a soap opera and not enough like a medical mystery drama with comedic aspects to it.

    I’m sorry you’ve stopped enjoying it, but I’m glad you can walk away and do something else with the time.

  9. Yep, a nine-year relationship with pixelpeople is about long enough.

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