Watching this past week's episode of House, MD, I realized something that I've been trying to avoid thinking about: One of my absolute favorite shows is in the tubes. It's gone downhill so much that it no longer has the appeal and interest that was there when the show began five years ago, before exploding into a hit show that has gained incredible ratings. Far from this being a case of not having enough viewers to keep it going - this show has too much going for it, and it is essentially getting bogged down in its own popularity and storyline. The creative team behind the show needs to really rework the entire thing, or it will continue to sink, quality and story-wise.
There are a couple of things that can be changed that can help bring the show back into line with its former quality. The first is the stories and medical mysteries that the team follows. From day one, there has largely been a formula that most of the episodes follow. Cue patient, misdirect from a nearby person, patient collapses. House doesn't want to take case, argues with Cuddy, takes case to team, is sarcastic, thinks they find the cure, don't, House has revelation then it's discovered that there is a rather simple illness presenting in an odd form. While this can certainly continue, they need to shake things up more - a lot more. Some of the best episodes have been the ones that don't follow this formula, such as Grey Room, where House talks with a rape victim, as well as a handful of others. What we should see more of is a better focus on the actual medical mysteries and the cure, rather than the bickering of the team.
At the end of Season 3, House fired one member of his team, and had two others leave. This was a bold thing for a television show, to ditch most of its cast, but they didn't follow through. For the first half of Season 4 had a bloated cast, with 40 people starting out on House's team, which was fine, until we settled on the remaining three team members and Amber, who was still around through to the end of Season 4 as Wilson's girlfriend. This worked, to a point, but the main problem was that the creative team kept the original cast, bringing in old dramas from the old team members, and generally crowding everything. As a result, there haven't been any clinic visits to speak of, which was a great part of the first couple seasons.
With the new team, we have new dramas and problems, and much of what I really liked about the first three seasons has largely been forgotten or ignored. There isn't as much medical information as it's spewed out as team members work to try and overcome their counterparts, while House and everyone else attempt to try and figure out what everyone's motives are. In my mind, it's largely irrelevant as to what everyone is trying to do - it's shallow, trite and insulting to the viewer. This isn't good television.
House himself needs a lot of work. For the first couple of seasons, it was fairly easy to get away with the sarcastic, bitter doctor, but over the course of those three seasons, House has been through a board transition that almost left him without friends and a team, a gunshot wound, and Wilson turning his back on him, not to mention the various storylines with Vicoden. All of these storylines should have worked to improve and bring along some character development. This hasn't happened - House essentially resets back to normal. After five seasons, it's beginning to wear thin. All of the characters in the show are smart enough to figure out and prioritize exactly what matters in any given situation. House honestly should know, or be able to figure out what people's motives are, and people should just be able to tell him motives aren't going to matter, as long as the end result is achived - generally saving the patient or figuring out what's killing them. Repeated snarky comments every time just doesn't work too well, especially over five years.