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The Biggest Unsolved Mystery on House
2007-01-09 22:23
by Jon Weisman

Is Dr. Cuddy really lame?

The chief medical administrator of House not evil or malevolent, not by a long shot. But she's not a leader. She's not particularly clever or shrewd. As a medical practitioner, it's been made clear she is nothing special. Her triumphs are depicted as almost accidental ... surprising, one could say. And most of all, there's no consistency in her actions or responses - she comes across as a cipher, serving whatever purpose the writers need in a given scene. Nothing defines Cuddy except that she's a wall for House to bounce off of.

Spoilers from tonight's episode follow.

Now, given the fact that the House writers have my respect, am I just wrong about this? Is Cuddy just brilliantly human? She did, after all, engineer House's escape from prison tonight - though she did so in a method that was either unbelievable or nonsensical. Does she have the pedigree of street smarts for us to really think she could effectively lie about the drugs House took that were prescribed to a dead man? Did it make sense that she would not confide her actions in anyone, not even Wilson?

I don't know. All I know is that when Cuddy appears in a scene, it's even money that she'll say or do something very dim.

Though tonight's episode was the least satisfying of the season (Unlike others, I enjoyed the David Morse arc in its entirety except for the ending), and though House is structurally a formula show, it's one of the best in its genre in television history. Is Cuddy the program's big flaw, or a subtle sign of its genius? I'm still leaning toward the former.

2007-01-09 22:49:49
1.   Ken Arneson
I haven't seen the episode yet, and I may not watch it at all. I almost didn't watch the last one. House is losing me.

I wasn't sure why, but I don't think Cuddy is the problem. The other day, I happened to stumble across a first-season episode with Stacy in it, and it struck me how nice it was to have a character that brought out just a touch of tenderness in Dr. House. But without her, and now this season with the addition of the cop character, House has just grown more and more nasty and unredeemable each week. I'm almost hoping he does end up in jail so the show could just finally be over, and the whole thing can be resolved one way or another.

2007-01-09 22:56:32
2.   Jon Weisman
I feel that House, the show, redeems itself virtually every week. That's what makes the show so compelling and its formula so tolerable - the way it takes you to the edge of acceptibility/civility/what have you ... sometimes beyond that edge ... but finds a legitimate way back.
2007-01-10 12:00:30
3.   kylepetterson
I've been watching House since day one and agree that it's a great show. It's ranked right after 24 in my book (which is available for purchase) which means that I try very hard to catch. I don't miss 24. This is the first time I've felt this way about a TV show. I'm thinking about asking it to go steady.

I agree w/ you about Cuddy. At times I love the character, other times I could care less. As for Dr. House, he's the greatest. I've been told "he's such a jackass, how can you watch it?" to which I say "are you serious? He's one of, if not the funniest character on TV right now. And he's not even on a sitcom." To quote Homestar Runner: Seriously.

2007-01-11 09:13:55
4.   John Siv
The Vogler arc, back in season 1, showed Cuddy to be clever and shrewd and a tough, intelligent administrator. She played political hardball with him in getting him to retain her, was pragmatic enough to chase his money until it was clear it would destroy the hospital, and took a daring stand when it mattered. That we don't see this side of her very often is due to the fact that the show is about how people relate to House, not about how they do their own jobs. Similarly, we only have anecdotal evidence that Wilson is a world-class oncologist, and this doesn't make his character any less compelling.

Her reactions to House add richness to the show. There is something there, something we as an audience don't know about yet. Why does she tolerate him? What is the extent of their previous relationship? Wilson is easy to write--he is tolerate of House's abuse and loyal, to the end, to House's wellbeing. He's proven his willingness to sacrifice everything that matters to him to help House. As the judge pointed out, House has better friends than he deserves.

Cuddy is more complex. She was willing to fire house to keep Vogler's millions. But she also brings out the human side of House. Note his decidedly non-sarcastic handling of her attempts at pregnancy. He cares for her in a way that is different from how he cares for Wilson.

Without Cuddy the show would have less conflict and would fall apart (or degenerate into CSI.) There is no conflict with Wilson. He is there for House unconditionally. The exploration of this is fascinating and adds to the power of the show, but is inherently one dimensional. House's battles with Cuddy over procedures and the extent to which we see that he can hurt her feelings, too (with the snide remark about her mothering abilities), add a dimension of tension to the show. She has shown a willingness to fire House and his continual pushing of that particular boundry is almost martyr-like. As the extent of their friendship unfolds in the future, I think some of her past actions may prove more cohesive. She is there as a Wall for House to bounce against, but so are Wilson and Cameron.

The show can go on without Chase or Foreman. But Wilson, Cuddy, and Cameron's reactions to House ARE the show.

The procedural part of the show--the medical mystery part--is a framework in which to show how House's abrasiveness affects three key friendships. It allows for a stylistic dramatic presentation, something that would not be possible if the show were just a soap opera. But, to think House is a show about diagnosing illness is to think Lost is a show about a plane crash.

The Tritter arc brought the show to a darker place than ever before, and I think they are going to lighten it back up again. This arc explored the Wilson-House focus more deeply than had been possible without external pressure. I think the House-Cuddy focus will be developed more throughout the rest of the season. It may turn out to be that she IS lame, but the writers have earned my faith that such is not going to be the case. We'll see!

2007-01-11 17:00:05
5.   DXMachina
I agree with 1 that the show was at its best when Stacy was there. Cuddy has always seemed to me as though she's playing Margaret Dumont to House's Groucho. Maybe the writers just don't know what to do with her.

I've been having problems watching the Tritter arc because I keep flashing back to when David Morse was young Dr. Morrison on St. Elsewhere. There's a heckuva disconnect there.

2007-01-11 17:35:06
6.   Jon Weisman
5 - That is indeed an evolution :)
2007-01-11 18:49:57
7.   Bob Timmermann
Dr. Morrrison of "St. Elsewhere" was, without a doubt, the unluckiest man on the face of the earth. He might have been given some bad breaks and he didn't really have a lot to live for.

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