Fall ’08 Season TV Blitz, Day 4: Return of House and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 19, 2008
(Tuesday Night, 8:00-9:00 PM, FOX)
New Cast: None yet, supposedly Michael Weston is coming on to play a PI
Where We’re At Now: Wilson has returned to the hospital from his bereavement period, after his girlfriend Amber perished in the season four finale. House, guilty about his part in Amber’s death (he had called Wilson drunk to pick him up, Amber ended up escorting him home on the bus that crashed), and scared to confront his friend, avoids him at first, and then tries to play it off like nothing happened. When Wilson tells him that he’s leaving Princeton, he tries to browbeat, and then blackmail him into staying. Meanwhile, there’s a new patient with some wacky confluence of disease and bad circumstance, and No. 13 copes with her imminent mortality due to being diagnosed with Huntington’s.
Thoughts?: I had mentally relegated House to “catch re-runs when you can if nothing better’s on” status sometime during the third season, but somehow during season four, it became a must-watch (or at least, a should-watch) all over again. David Shore and company were brilliant to minimize Cameron and Chase’s involvement, to cast Foreman as the very conflicted House In Training, to create a new cadre of assistants for him to play with over the season, and to ultimately narrow them to Olivia Wilde, Kal Penn and That Baldy Jewish Guy. More recently, they were brilliant to create this tension between House and Wilson, despite the fact that the latter’s suddenly extremely significant relationship with Amber (nee Cutthroat Bitch) was never particularly believable.
Of course, House is still House, and most of the episode is as paint-by-numbers as can be expected. It’s obvious that at first House is going to ignore his feelings of guilt and regret about Wilson and Amber, and that afterwards he’s going to attempt a mixture of displacement tactics, guerilla warfare, and cold, unfeeling, scientific logic to try to get Wilson to stay. And then of course, you’ve got the final moment when House, after badgering from Cuddy and guilt-tripping from Cameron and Chase, finally sublimates his ego and admits his mistakes. It’s at that point, however, that the House season premiere does something legitimately unexpected–a scene as emotionally jarring as anything I’ve seen in ages, and one which comes close to making the season premiere essential viewing. I’m not going to say what it involves, of course, since I’d like to think most of my readers have DV-Rs and lives, but suffice to say, I’m not really sure how House can stay the same as he ever was after this episode. And for a show whose reliance on formula has been its veritable calling card for so long, it should make for an interesting development.
Still Hot / Worth Watching?: Maybe now more than ever. Or maybe not–this is a critical turning point for both House and House, and to see whether both character and show manage to adapt will be the ultimate test of the show’s longevity. To go back to same is it ever was after this episode might be the safer option, but it’ll ultimately be the final nail in the coffin of the show’s suddenly resurgent relevance.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
(Two episodes, 10:00-11:00 Thursday Night, FX)
New Cast: Nope.
Where We’re At Now: Still Philadelphia, still sunny.
Thoughts: There’s so little actual advancement of plot on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that it makes Entourage look like The Wire by comparison. And that’s cool–Sunny has basically taken the torch from Seinfeld for TV comedy’s best approximation of a Samuel Beckett play (or as Larry David would put it, “No crying, no learning”). Frankly, it’s a pretty good sitcom model, as every season, spending time with the Philadelphia crew feels more and more like hanging with your group of friends from high school–funny, comfortable, and repetitive to the point of maddening redundancy. And that’s essentially what the gang at Paddy’s is, just a group of High School friends that doesn’t seem to realize that they’re all in their 30s (or in DeVito’s case, 60s) now. Good times.
Anyway, these two new episodes, one in which Mac and Dennis decide to hunt Rickety Cricket and Frank tricks Dee and Charlie into being cannibals, and one in which Dee and Frank try to steal Bruce’s inheritance and Mac, Dennis and Charlie decide to make money selling gas…well, they’re certainly It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes. I wouldn’t rank either among my favorites, but it doesn’t really matter–by the time I get to the show’s lilting theme song and beautiful montage of the city of Brotherly Love, I’m hooked for the next hour, no matter what’s to come. There were some extremely funny moments in both–Mac gorilla masking Dennis, and Charlie jumping out of the van screaming “WILD CARD, BITCHES!!” among them–but for now, just having the show back would’ve been enough.
Still Hot / Worth Sticking With: Please. You think Scrubs is still going to save your soul? You need this show in your life.