Television

Fox's 'House' Demonstrates How Not To Draw Attention To Yourself

Hugh Laurie of 'House'

House: Last night's episode demonstrated that this heart isn't the only thing that's a little disoriented. Fox hide caption

itoggle caption Fox

House is a show with problems, and they are looking increasingly severe.

At its best, it was a funny, addictive, engrossing medical mystery show, modeled on Sherlock Holmes, that combined a great personal story (centered around Hugh Laurie's Dr. House) with stories about baffling patient ailments. But now House is totally adrift, and proved it last night.

Gigantic spoilers for last night's episode, which you should not read if you do not want to know what happened, after the jump ...

At the end of the third season, a creative decision was made to cut loose two of the three young doctors who had been on Dr. House's team. The once-central Cameron and Chase went off to become rarely seen nonentities, while Foreman remained to work with House and a new crop of doctors.

One of the new doctors was Kutner, played by Kal Penn, star of the Harold and Kumar movies, who was recently interviewed for this Morning Edition piece. On last night's episode, with no warning, Kutner committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Now, there are sometimes good reasons to kill a character without any apparent buildup, and in the case of suicide, the show tried to stress that suicide in real life can happen without warning.

But does an apparently unmotivated suicide of a character nobody knows very well make for especially effective dramatic writing? Kutner was a fairly laid-back guy, smart, and often used at least in part for comic relief. There hasn't been much of a story about his character at all, let alone one in which his death might be an effective element.

The show has been struggling creatively ever since House replaced his team, with the brief exception of a lovely arc at the end of last season — which also involved a sudden death.

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