Resumes a new season tonight on Fox.
I've been worried about spoilers for tonight's season premiere of "House." But the network's promos spoil one good joke, as well as giving away the closing scene of the episode, so there's not a lot left to spoil. And I suspect that tonight's promo for next week's episode will have a spoiler or two. So I'll just press on, albeit after the jump ...
In June, after "House" seemed to let three characters go, I posted this:
Although I liked those characters, the idea of putting "House" with a new team next season is an appealing one. So much of the show depends on House's interaction with other people, and we've seen just about every possible variation in his dealings with Foreman, Chase and Cameron. A new team would force House to operate in a different way (although he would probably start off as his usual bullying self), as well as allowing us to see how other people would deal with the irascible doc.
Still, while cast upheaval can continue a long run ("Law & Order," "Cheers"), it does pose a risk for a series, especially when you're getting rid of a likable character. In "House's" case, you could argue that they're dumping three likable people -- since just about anyone can seem pleasant when dealing with House.
I know, part of the show's appeal is that House is so nasty. But it still requires that such nastiness be balanced by people who know House's behavior is appalling -- not only his associates, but Wilson, Cuddy and the guest actors. And where the show has played with the idea of Foreman as a younger House -- and Foreman's departure is based on his rejection of that role -- how would viewers react to, say, a new, young doctor who is every bit as brilliant, abrasive and obnoxious as House himself? Especially if such a doctor could not be fired?
I ended up voting for a new team. I was probably being wildly optimistic, because Tuesday's season premiere of "House" acknowledges how important his sounding boards are to him -- and does so in a funny way. In fact, "House" is reminding us again that the good doctor is not nearly as brilliant as he thinks he is, at least not without some help.
In making that acknowledgment, the show tips the casting balance in favor of Foreman, Chase and Cameron. Also, the Old Guard appeared on a panel for the show during July's TCA tour. So even if House looks a little bit adrift tonight, don't expect it to last long.
Yes, there will be other, new characters, and that's important, too. House's bullying doesn't really work anymore with the Old Guard; they're used to it, and know a bluff when they hear one. So a New Guard lets House unearth his old tricks.
But the show has also found fresh fodder in the continuing characters' knowing House's tricks -- not only his three sidekicks but Wilson and Cuddy -- and so being cagier with him, and forcing him to new deviousness. And that's good, too, because it gives Hugh Laurie a chance to play some different notes.
All of this is a long way toward saying that tonight's episode is fun as House tries to get by without his team. And it's smart in knowing that he really shouldn't be without one.