Most long-running TV shows get caught between two opposite forces. The first is the need to maintain what made them successful in the first place - be it the setting, or the characters, or stories, and the second is a need to avoid stagnation, a need to move forward. Like all tension, this can be intensely creative, or intensely destructive - most soap operas recycle plots with new faces every few years quite successfully, most procedural shows hit the same beats every episode, and your enjoyment of these shows largely depends on your tolerance for that style of repetition.
I use these examples because House has always had an element of soap opera, and an element of procedural, and has always gone back to the same big themes in different guises, throwing up big events in every season that really, ultimately, don't change very much. Early on, House was watchable because underneath the medical procedural drama was a fairly dark and interesting question around the main character - is his bitter cynicism because he's a lonely and broken man or because, actually, is he world view objectively valid? And after a couple of seasons of batting that idea around for a bit, the show eventually came down on the side of the former and House became a sort of lovable roguish Grinch in need of curative hugs.
I think the show lost something back then but its a few seasons ago, and the fact that I'm still watching means that the show it became is still something pretty watchable. Season Seven finds then trying to resolve the long-unresolved House-Cuddy romance "thing" - something I don't think they could have avoided much longer - and the results, both in and out of the show, are mixed. The problem really is that although it's fun for a few episodes it really highlights the worse of both characters - it makes Cuddy look weak and neurotic, and House look self-sabotaging and mean-spirited. Which may be true of both, but isn't fun to watch. It's not to say they don't have some good moments with the concept, which they do, it's just that at times it feels like something the show is doing because it has to, not because it wants to.
|I have to go now, the Token Woman slot is being|
filled by someone else next week.
So where does this leave me? Well seven seasons in House isn't going to change and at least in terms of plot the show is recognising that. It has settled into a mostly-fun, entertaining procedural with the odd flash of brilliance and the odd quiver of awfulness, and as a feet-up-on-the-sofa show it's ideal. Hugh Laurie is of course excellent, as is Robert Sean Leonard, and the rest of the case do their best with what is often badly underwritten or inconsistent parts. I know it sounds like I'm damning House with faint praise, and maybe I am, but I enjoy it, I look forward to the next series, I'm just resigned to enjoying the familiarity, not the thrill of anything new.