Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Things are Hooking Up: In praise of Huddy

So they went there.
Last night on the 7th season premiere of House, the brilliant, iconoclastic, and cantankerous doctor, played to perfection by Hugh Laurie, “hooked up” with Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), his longtime flirting and sparring partner and the hospital’s top administrator.
Almost the entire episode, the aftermath of last season’s emotional finale, was devoted to House and Cuddy exploring each other, both emotionally and physically. They had sex, they bathed, they played word games, and, most importantly, they stayed true to character: House over-analyzed the relationship to near strangulation, and workaholic Cuddy was distracted by hospital pages. It was a sexy, satisfying, cathartic hour of television, with the promise of more to come.
And I want to salute show runners David Shore and Katie Jacobs for having the cojones to take the risk.
The dangers of hooking up two main characters in a TV series have been well documented.
It was the death knell for Moonlighting (although it could be argued that show was on life support anyway) and it threw Cheers so horribly off-course, the lead actress (Shelley Long’s Diane) was forced to leave the show.
The general theory on successful TV shows tends to be this: Sexual tension = good. Actual sex = start looking for a new job.
And so, Mulder and Scully didn’t hook up until The X Files was on its last legs and, elsewhere on Fox, Brennan and Booth continue to pine without formal consummation. (Although, as was the case with House, there was a hookup-by-hallucination—in this case, brought on by Booth’s brain tumor.)
Of course, the other big risk of bringing a couple together is infuriating a huge chunk of the fan base. I’ve discovered that fans of television shows can be as passionate and unyielding as political foes. And through the magic of the Internet, they have many formats to air their grievances. (To see the depth of their ire, I suggest you visit the romance thread of TWOP’s forum on House, but venture with great caution, possibly with body armor.)
When it comes to House, we have the so-called “Huddies” (like me), who see a great, sexy chemistry between the two leads and agree with David Shore that, at some point, the years of verbal foreplay had to lead somewhere. (I also love that fact that the hot romance on the show is not between two strapping young things, but between a 50ish guy and a 40ish woman.)
Then you have the old school fans who fear that putting House in a romance—any romance—will be "jumping the shark" by ruining the essence of the show, which is essentially a medical procedural. (It’s hard for me to relate to those people. The medicine is only interesting to me as it provides a window into the intellect and character of House and the other doctors. If this show were strictly a procedural, I would’ve bailed years ago.)
Then there are those who root for other “ships” (i.e, relationships): In the early seasons, the idealistic doctor Cameron had a crush on House and they did share one kiss. (Fans of this union are chasing futility. The actress who played Cameron, Jennifer Morrison, all but left the show last year.) There are those that House should still be pining for his ex, Stacey (Sela Ward), although that ship sailed several years ago.
Finally, you have the most deluded of the bunch—the Tea Partiers of the “who should House be with?” discussion, if you will—who think that House should be with his best friend, conscience, and sometimes-roomie Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). Except both Wilson and House are straight, and while they have one of the great “bromances” on TV (it is based on the model of Sherlock Holmes and Watson), it is strictly a friendship. Yes, one could argue that almost every great buddy film or TV series has a soupcon on homoerotic tension (and I do), but that doesn’t mean the guys are actually, you know, going to have sex with each other.
If last night’s episode was any indication, Shore and Jacobs know exactly what they are doing with the consummation of Huddy. It’s just another way to explore the inner workings of House, one of the most complex characters on TV. Last night, he was everything House would be in a new relationship—boyishly needy (as if afraid to break the spell, he didn’t want Cuddy to leave his apartment), trying a little too hard to be perfect (he attempted to gallantly slice open a champagne bottle with a sword, with predictably disastrous results), and almost sabotaging the relationship before it began with his self-loathing and doubt.
Next stop, Cuddy and House trying to negotiate the terms of the relationship at work (she's his boss). Should get interesting.
Bottom line: I have faith that Shore, Jacobs, Laurie and co. can succeed where others have failed. And what’s more, I love that they’re trying.