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That Damn Ball Torments House Fans

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There’s no House today, and I’ll miss next week, too, so here’s a silly substitute for a Tuesday review.

A friend sent me a present:

It’s a dog toy from Target. I have no dog. So why this particular gift? Because I asked That Damn Question of House writer Lawrence Kaplow.

DK: Have you seen on the Television Without Pity site that people are obsessed with the ball on House’s desk?
LK: Yes.
DK: Would you reveal what the ball is?
LK: No.

I swear, I’d never had the slightest interest in That Damn Ball.

Affectionately known as the BOUO (Ball Of Unknown Origin) to those who aren’t bitter towards it, on TWoP, the ball became almost as famous as Hugh Laurie. Before the site embraced House and gave the show its own overwhelming forum, there was a single discussion thread with a smallish group of discussers. During a lull between episodes, someone who has since become an offline friend — in fact, the friend who gave me the ball — posed an innocent question, expecting a simple answer: what is that ball on House’s desk?

Too big to be a tennis ball, too wrong to be a lacrosse ball, too unlike any other sports ball anyone could identify. There were claims it was a practice tennis ball, a therapy squeeze ball, a dog toy. The discussion got intense, with speculation that House and the as-yet-unseen Stacy had owned a dog together, and he kept the (miraculously unslobbered-on) ball as a memento. I wasn’t a participant in this debate; I was an amused observer. I didn’t care what the ball was. It was just another House toy. A new episode aired, and the discussion moved on.

But then the BOUO became a running joke. You could say we embraced it as an ironic symbol of our obsession with a TV show, if you wanted to get pretentious. We laughed at what the writers would think if they knew we were discussing a prop with the same fervour as the themes of the show.

Then it turned out they did know. So I asked That Damn Question as a shout-out to the TWoPers, but the shout-out got shot down. At least I didn’t ask what kind of tree he would be.

Now, it’s personal. Now, it’s a challenge. Now, I care. In some episodes, That Damn Ball seems to have more screen time than the much more noteworthy Robert Sean Leonard and Lisa Edelstein. In “Failure to Communicate,” House steals a substitute when he’s in Baltimore, while Chase plays with the original. In “Distractions,” the camera lingers on it when House cradles it during his migraine. In last week’s “Skin Deep,” it gets a closeup when he squeezes it in pain. Is it a coincidence the ball gets such prominence? Call me paranoid, but I think not. They’re mocking us.

My friend’s theory is that the writers don’t know what it is either, and there’s a props person snickering at them the same way the writers are snickering at us. I’m starting to hope so.

A new episode of House returns March 7 at 9 p.m. on Fox. Watch for the ball.


Edited: [1–GH–]

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About Diane Kristine Wild

Diane travels. She doesn't tan.
  • Awhile back I commented, on another forum, that the episode discussions on TWOP were pretty much the best on the ‘net. I didn’t suggest that *all* discussions were superior (though, c’mon…), just that post-episode analysis in that forum was more impressive than the post-episode “analysis” on other forums. I got a response that went something to the effect of this:

    The people at TWOP take themselves entirely too seriously…evident by the fact that they have an entire thread devoted to discussing the hidden meaning and significance of a dog toy.

    Yeah…people think we take ourselves too seriously because *they* took that discussion wayyyy too seriously.

    My point? I don’t know. The ball is evil?

  • Diane Kristine

    That seems to be my point, too. Or that the writers/directors/props people are evil.

    I was expecting to have to justify this post to the humour impaired, like the person who responded to you. No, I don’t think the ball has hidden meaning and significance. Yes, I realize this post will not be a candidate for the Pulitzer. No, I’m not really bitter towards the ball or Kaplow. I don’t even regret asking the question … much. I’m OK with losing a little dignity for the sake of a joke.

  • Carol

    Diane: Always insightful, always on target! I am not ashamed to admit that I purchased a BOUO from Target last fall along with the iconic Red Mug from Bed,Bath,and Beyond. I like to think that these House totems on my desk make me think faster, sharper, and deeper. I am sure that they make me way cool! And I gave a Chick Webb poster (just like House’s) to my jazz-lover brother for his birthday.

    Now if only the powers-that-be would publish a thick coffee-table book of House scripts and photos with an introduction by David Shore, notes by Hugh Laurie, and an extended essay by Lawrence Kaplow, I would be in heaven. Sorry to have to miss your review for next week!

  • Hilarious Diane !

  • me

    Hmmm – being a University of Michigan alumna and fan – I can’t help but thinking the ball is nothing but another “in your face-ism” from an Ohio State fan who happens to work on the show… (afterall the ball is scarlet and grey) Ohio State fans are notorious for this!

  • Just wondering?

    anyone have a link to buy one just like this? i want one. because duh, its evil.

  • here it is

    That is the actual ball that is seen on the show. It is just a dog toy.

  • Eric

    I went to Target but no luck on finding a ball :(.

  • Grace

    You can buy the BOUO at NBC.COM

  • fernando

    so how is that ball that they sell on NBC.COM? there is only one review on there… and, well it’s not very promising. I tried target, no luck, and ebay is retarded.

    so if you guys have bought it, please give some feedback. I’ll try petco next.