Monday, January 22, 2018
TV and Media

Is it life or death for Gregory House in Fox series finale?

For fans of quality television, it may be the most important question of all.

How do you know when it's time for a long-running TV series to call it a day, already?

The question arises as Fox's House prepares to ride into the sunset tonight after nearly eight years on air, concluding its story of a tortured, misanthropic doctor who tackles cases like a medical Sherlock Holmes with a two-hour finale.

The final episode's title, "Everybody Dies," calls back to the premiere episode "Everybody Lies," while also serving as a perfect summation of lead character Gregory House's sunny attitude.

Producers won't say much about what happens in tonight's finale, beyond noting the return of Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), Remy "Thirteen" Hadley (Olivia Wilde) and the doctor who killed himself, Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn). The first hour, "Swan Song," is a retrospective on the past eight seasons, with "Everybody Dies" as the hourlong final finale.

Count me among those former fans who felt this show should have shuffled off the schedule a few years ago.

I once incensed a friend (okay, he was former Tampa Bay Times metro columnist Howard Troxler) by showing him how, years ago, the medical stories on House were so formulaic you could set your watch by the symptoms patients endured (a seizure by 15 minutes in; bloody vomit by 30 minutes in; a life-threatening cure that won't work by 40 to 45 minutes in; actual cure by 10 minutes before the episode's end).

Thankfully, the show has gotten better. Still, as the most compelling part of the series also got outlandish — consummating House's long-standing flirtation with rigid boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) in an awkward romance which ended when cost-cutting forced the show to eliminate her character — there were fewer reasons to tune in each week.

Series star Hugh Laurie, who earns a reported $700,000 per episode molding his British tones into House's angular American bark, gave a different reason for the show's ending on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

"The character is so inherently self-destructive to the point of being virtually suicidal, that a fictional character cannot sustain that suicidal tension indefinitely," Laurie told Gross. "You can't have a man on a window ledge threatening to jump forever. At some point, he's got to jump or get back into the building, because the crowd below — who are either urging him to jump or not jump — eventually will lose interest."

Laurie has a point. House is such an extreme antihero, even in a TV universe filled with them, that keeping him entertaining while pushing the boundaries of his pathology for 177 episodes was nothing short of a miracle.

U.S. television could take a hint from the Brits, who often limit their most popular series to bursts of three, four or five seasons, walking away from even popular series such as the original version of The Office after three seasons.

Instead, American television milks a popular show until one of three things brings it down: a lack of creative ideas, a drop in the ratings, or escalating costs. Or, sometimes, all three at once.

That, for example, is what killed ABC's Desperate Housewives, a show that started as a cultural phenomenon and finished its run last week with so little buzz some critics were asking in finale stories, "Who still watches Desperate Housewives?"

But Laurie promised the Associated Press that House's finale would have no such saving graces. "Is he gonna step forward or step back?" said the actor of the episode, which features House treating a drug-addicted patient. "Is it life or is it death? I can say no more than that."

The only thing it really can't be, given Gregory House's acerbic legacy, is boring or sentimental.

Comments
Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best coverageThe best football broadcast I’ve ever seen was Super Bowl XLIII. That was NBC’s coverage of the Steelers’ last-minute victory over th...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballNorth Carolina at Virginia Tech7 p.m.ESPNOhio State at Maryland7 p.m.ESPN2Iowa State at Texas7 p.m.ESPNUMaryland at Indiana7 p.m.FS1Holy Cross at American7 p.m.CBSSNWomen: LSU at Texas A&M7 p.m.SECNebraska at Ohio State8 p.m.Bi...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMiami at N.C. StatenoonCh. 44Rutgers at MichigannoonBig TenWomen: South Carolina at KentuckynoonESPNUWomen: Marquette at VillanovanoonFS1Women: George Washington at DaytonnoonCBSSNWomen: Virginia Tech at Virginia12:30 p.m.Fox S...
Published: 01/20/18

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: La Salle at Rhode Island11 a.m.CBSSNPurdue at IowanoonESPNFlorida State at Virginia TechnoonESPN2; 1010-AMWichita State at HoustonnoonESPNUVillanova at ConnecticutnoonCBSSt. John’s at GeorgetownnoonFS1Ohio State at Minne...
Published: 01/19/18
This week’s pop culture winners and losers

This week’s pop culture winners and losers

WinnersTimothée ChalametOscar darling Timothée Chalamet, whose breakout performances include Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, has pledged to donate his salary from his role in Woody Allen's A Rainy Day in New York to charities fighting s...
Published: 01/19/18
Review: ‘The Alienist’ is a grisly tale of murder, madness and class division

Review: ‘The Alienist’ is a grisly tale of murder, madness and class division

A doctor, an illustrator and a police department secretary are tasked by a young Theodore Roosevelt to conduct a secret investigation into a series of murders in 19th century New York City.The macabre tale is the focus of the new TNT series The Alien...
Published: 01/19/18
What to watch this weekend: ‘The Open House’ on Netflix, ‘The Alienist,’ ‘The Resident’

What to watch this weekend: ‘The Open House’ on Netflix, ‘The Alienist,’ ‘The Resident’

19th century serial killers: The AlienistIn the late 19th century, a doctor who studied and treated the mind (a modern-day criminal psychologist) was called an alienist because their patients were believed to be "alienated from their mind." Dr. Laszl...
Published: 01/19/18

Friday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosNASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony8 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballBuffalo at Western Michigan7 p.m.ESPNUSt. Bonaventure at Davidson7 p.m.ESPN2Canisius at Manhattan9 p.m.ESPNUIllinois at Wisconsin9 p.m.FS1College gymnasticsFlorida at Kentuc...
Published: 01/18/18
'American Pickers' is coming to Florida, and wants to pick through your stuff

'American Pickers' is coming to Florida, and wants to pick through your stuff

Know someone with a cool collection of antiques, collectibles or dust-covered old “junk” they’ve been holding onto for years in the hopes of someday cashing in? The time may be now. American Pickers, the A&E reality series fol...
Published: 01/18/18
Nancy Pelosi is going to be a guest judge on 'RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars'

Nancy Pelosi is going to be a guest judge on 'RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars'

She might be more familiar with democracy, but top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi is soon going to show her expertise on a certain kind of monarchy: The California congresswoman is slated to appear as a guest judge on RuPaul’s drag-queen competiti...
Published: 01/18/18