People Don’t Change*, A Farewell to House

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The final episode has aired of Fox’s House, M.D. (known simply as House) on Monday May 21st, 2012.  As with most non-wine or cheese related things, House’s final seasons weren’t its best.  Between a mental institution, finally answering the “will they/won’t they” question with his boss (they did, it ended poorly), and being incarcerated there wasn’t any cranny left unexplored or creaky stair left undiscovered (yes here come the incredibly lazy metaphor comparing the show to an actual house).  After eight seasons, House was all too familiar and it was finally time to admit that I had outgrown it but not before it had felt like a home (youch this is getting to be too much).

It was my first year of college and by design I had chosen the school as far away as I could from my hometown.  I knew most of my high school friends would be attending colleges within a two hour radius (or even ten minute drive) from my house and I knew that I needed to make sure I wasn’t close enough to be able to go back every weekend; I needed to rely on myself.  Seven states and roughly 1000 miles later I found myself at the University of Iowa.  Needless to say I had gotten just what I had wanted.  I won’t pretend that I was homesick every night, that I yearned to be back home.  Sure, I had pangs of doubt about being so far away from home but it ended up being for the best, regardless of whether or not I had never spent more than a week sleeping away from my family and friends.

Of course it didn’t help my transition that my freshman roommate was a “know-it-all” pissant.  Don’t worry, he didn’t actually know it all, but his interest in becoming a medical student led him to watch every medical drama on TV – from ER (yes, still going strong) to the new Grey’s Anatomy.  He also decided to give House a chance.  The pilot aired and after sifting through the absolutely crazy camera filters and color correction I decided that House might be for me.

Marking the first step in becoming an adult, I called my parents (which I did and still do probably a little too frequently) and told them that this new Fox drama had potential.  Whether they trusted my critical judgment or just wanted to make sure they stayed connected with me they decided to give it a try.  The only problem was that my roommate liked it too.  By this stage I was getting fed up with his “holier-than-thou” shtick – he took his studies rather seriously while I, due to an idiotic scheduling decision (all classes before 12:30 PM, for a late riser) ended up developing a crazy sleep pattern and missed a bunch of my classes.  Of course he was all-in on House. 

I tried to hate it.  I tried to get annoyed, “God ANOTHER medical show?!”  I even tried to bad mouth it but I always came back.  The writing was too taut, the mysteries too intriguing, the House too House-y.  After every episode I’d call my parents and we’d discuss the goings on, the House-isms and the general assholeish nature of our favorite TV leading man (my mom moreso than my dad).  Eventually my roommate started going on websites that graded the viability of the medical mysteries and the procedures used to cure them (surprise, surprise the grades were not very high for real world diagnostics).  He decided to call the medicine bunk (although kept watching Grey’s Anatomy…) and decided to condemn House – I’ll always think it was because it was the one medical show I actually liked.

When Chi McBride became a semi-regular actor on the show (Vogler) I was worried.  The track record for shows featuring Mr. McBride is not a pretty one.  But House endured.   When they brought House’s ex-wife and a cutesy little romance into the picture I fretted.  But House endured.  When Tritter became more than a thorn in House’s side (many of his policing practices seemed to be illegal or not quite real) my suspension of disbelief wavered.  But House endured.  Whether it was exposing the fake nature of reality TV, multiple drug-induced hallucinations, or the trading of pranks between Dr. House and his best friend James Wilson I watched every episode (I didn’t have a DVR by the by) and without fail would call my parents to recap each one (no matter how many times Fox decided to change the air time).

My roommate could not see the forest for the trees.  Even though the medicine was probably bogus it all made sense to us medical laymen but that didn’t even matter.  It was always about the exception acting of Hugh Laurie and his on screen chemistry between he and all the actors (I still hate Taub).  The witty dialogue and the once-every-season episode that broke the formula (and yes House was almost as formulaic as they come).  Very rarely does a show allow you to grow with the characters, especially one on basic cable.  They did so successfully while also, somehow, proving one of Dr. House’s core beliefs that, “People don’t change.”  House almost always made sure to keep it clever, to keep it witty, and was perhaps the best instance of straddling the line between comedy and tragedy.

I graduated from the University of Iowa in four years, right on time, so of course there were four more seasons of House yet to be aired.  After I moved back home for a year and a half I got to watch House with my family, always appointment television.  When I moved to Austin, Texas (even farther away from my family than Iowa was) we still kept up our critiques of House.  By then, though, House was losing his fastball.  Eventually, my parents lost interest.  But I couldn’t let House go, not yet.  There was something inside me that needed to see it finish out.  Maybe even a little bit of myself still grasping onto those nights my freshman year settling into House.  Much like my childhood houses, I was so familiar with the show that it could be pitch black and I’d know exactly how to get where I needed to go without the help of running my fingers along the walls.

And now there is no more House.  Whether I want to or not I have to let it go.  There won’t be anymore calls with my parents discussing the latest crazy stunt Dr. House pulled, or how bored we were with the budding office romances.  The House finale – and in fact the final few episodes – deal with the same old issue of being able to change yourself but this time it does something different.  It almost amends Dr. House’s old adage, putting an asterisk on the end of, “People don’t change*.”

*Unless they have to.

And now that I’ve been evicted, maybe it is time to finally realize that I have outgrown House, and that there is nothing else to do but change.