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'House': A season finale without suspense

May 30, 2007 | 11:28 am

Housetp It’s so hard for a medical drama to construct the cliff-hanger that has become the season finale standard. You can’t just leave some poor patient hovering between life and death for the entire summer -- so the writers must turn to the personal lives of their characters to leave viewers in the necessary suspense. On “House,” however, personal lives are in short supply, so somehow staffing issues must be made fascinating.

On Tuesday night’s season finale, the strange and tentative romance between Drs. Cameron and Chase was dutifully given the possibility of a last-minute reprieve but mostly the show concentrated on the state of the team.

Oh sure, there was a medical case—a woman and her husband braved the stormy seas from Cuba to seek House’s expertise, which he eventually provided—but many more people were obsessed with Foreman. Would he really go? Could House get him to stay? Would House admit he cared either way?

In the middle of it all, House decided he was not, as Wilson suggested, a calcified curmudgeon, fired Chase, accepted Cameron’s resignation (“What do you expect me to do?” says he; “I expect you to be just fine,” says she) and got a brand new guitar (to replace the one he’d had played apparently since infancy.)

So there he was, final shot, strumming away, a look of rare hope in his eyes. Aaaaannnnnddd cut. Thank you Hugh Laurie, great work, see you in a few months.

Problem is, it doesn’t really matter if any of these folks come back. I mean, it would be fine, they’re fine, viewers are fond of them. But it’s a fondness born of familiarity rather than true excitement. “House” thus far has been pretty much a one-man show, with the secondary characters sacrificed on a weekly basis to whims of plot and House development. Everyone else is a reactionary character, though Drs. Cuddy and Wilson have this season seemed more solid, real people. So they’re definitely staying.

The team, however -- well loosely put, House’s team resembles “Charlie’s Angels”—there’s the smart one (Foreman), the nice one (Cameron), and the pretty one (Chase). They all had some business to do during the season—Chase and Cameron explored workplace romance, Foreman killed a patient—and they did this well enough. But the driving point of the Foreman story in the past few episodes—he is leaving because he doesn’t want to become like House—was ridiculous. He isn’t, none of them are, even moderately close to being House. They lack his comedic timing for one thing, they lack the character’s layers for another.

That is not the fault of the actors or even the writers. It’s the nature of the show, which is all about House. So Cameron is right, whether they come back or not, House, the man and the show, will be just fine.

-- Mary McNamara

(Photo courtesy Fox)