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TV Preview: House, M.D. Returns Monday “Larger than Life”

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It is wonderful to have House, M.D. back after a long winter hiatus. Monday night, “Larger than Life,” the ninth episode of season seven, marks the return of new episodes, and don’t forget to tune into the Golden Globe Awards Sunday evening on NBC. Hugh Laurie is nominated for Best Actor in a Television Drama series.  (Once again he is the only star of a network show to grab a nomination.)

Caveat emptor to my favorite spoiler-phobes: if you want to
remain completely spoiler-free for “Larger than Life,” do not read further.

On to Monday night’s episode!

Courtesy Fox Programming

“Larger than Life” airs Monday night: the first new episode in many weeks. It’s a great episode: funny (there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments), but also digging deeper to explore some of the show’s pivotal relationships. The episode begins with a seemingly heroic act: a decidedly not-too-noble rock band bass player (Matthew Lillard) throws himself onto the subway tracks, saving the life of an epileptic woman. He’s a hero. Or is he?

He performs this heroic task almost instinctively, but in front of his horrified young daughter. And why, with a platform full of other potenial heroes, does this guy put his life in danger? Maintaining his fall back position, House (Laurie) assumes that the patient’s heroism is (of course) a symptom, setting out to identify a likely brain issue. 

The episode is a lot about self-perception: how we see ourselves and how others see us within our most important relationships. A billboard hospital ad campaign featuring a “larger than life” Chris Taub (Peter Jacobson) as the symbol caring medicine is an apt metaphor for the entire episode—and the opportunity for Taub to examine his relationship with wife Rachel (Jennifer Crystal Foley).

Courtesy Fox ProgrammingThe patient’s relationship with his wife also share the spotlight with the series’ regular relationships: House and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein); House and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). The episode also deftly (and amusingly) delves into the conflict within House himself: who he is and who he needs—and wants—to be. 

At the heart of the episode is Candice Bergan’s guest appearance as Cuddy’s mom Arlene. Visiting Princeton to celebrate her daughter’s birthday, needless to say she and House clash. Arlene’s visit helps illuminate House and Cuddy’s relationship at this point in the season, and sets up an interesting dynamic between House and the tough, overbearing and (somewhat) larger-than-life Arlene. 

My only quibble with the episode is that Arlene is just a bit too much the stereotypical overbearing Jewish mother—but perhaps that’s the point. Candice Bergen described her character in an interview with TV Guide, Arlene Cuddy is a “gentile who would prefer to be a Jew.” So maybe her “larger-than-life” presence is over-compensating (she converted to Judaism, explains Cuddy, when her parents married). And maybe it’s for effect: to intimidate—or annoy—her daughter’s new boyfriend.

 “Larger than Life” is a great step back into House’s universe. It airs Monday night at 8:00 p.m. on FOX. And I’ll have much more to say about the episode after it airs.

Note: If you happen to be in the Chicago area, please join me for a bit of House talk at Barbara’s Bookstore January 20, 6-8 p.m.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • DebbieJ.

    Count me among the spoiler phobes, but because of such a long hiatus, I needed my fix, so watched the three clips.

    Might I say Hugh Laurie looks mighty fine in this episode, more so than normal. Don’t know why. Don’t care. I’m just enjoying that he does :)

    Also, kudos on the casting. I love Matthew Lillard and can’t wait to see his as the POTW.

    And I am so glad to hear House mention that he does still, in fact, have leg pain. I thought the writers forgot that for awhile!

  • Janine

    I’m so excited for this episode. I didn’t watch all three clips, just the last one that I saw months ago, but based on the previous post, I too am glad to hear the leg pain is back. It would have been completely unrealistic to ignore that all season. I’m so excited, IMO the best episodes are those that are funny but deep as well. Great Review!

  • Jen

    This ep looks hilarious! I have not stopped laughing since watching these clips, especially, the second one.

    Counting down the days until Monday!

  • Orange450

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    I’m SO excited for Monday! Your preview did a great job of whetting my appetite and putting me at the edge of my seat. Thanks for the clips, too. After such a long hiatus, I almost forgot how much I love the show :( Sacrilege, I know.

    But now I’m all happy and anticipatory again. It feels good :)

  • susan

    I did not read further than “Do not read further”, so I will wait until 9:01 on Monday to read this. Can’t wait for the new episode.

  • Sera G

    I’m with Susan.
    Can’t wait until Monday. It’s been a loooooong break between.
    Not that it is being discussed here, but did you read that House is ranked #3 with Facebook fans; 17.7 million! Pretty good for a seven year old series!

  • Flo

    @Sera, I’m on FB, I’m one of the fans but I didn’t know that! Not bad indeed!!

    There are 83 members on the page dedicated to this show that I co-created. What a gap loooool.

    About the preview, I saw the three extracts. Fun! What a great feeling to see that the hiatus is finally almost over. :-)

  • The Other Barnett

    The preview only bothers me more that Tamblyn is not coming back for next season. 13 better come back or there better be something planned for Cameron to come back. Of course, I could be wrong….maybe the producers have someone who would be the perfect chick in the mix……..maybe Maura Tierney…..bring in someone mature, hip to House’s crap, and also a challenge to Cuddy, too…..and maybe Wilson’s new love, too. Anyone, anyone, anyone? OK, maybe over-reaching.

  • onecoolwoman

    Greetings Barbara!! Always love your book.

    The ‘woman’ issue on “House” is in dire need to be dealt with asap – Masters was a pathetic, 20-year-old/Disney character type, and she is a wimp that does not have the smarts to stand up to Dr. House. 13 is OK but they always give her a crappy/uninteresting storyline, and basically, in real life, she’s a beautiful future movie star, so she’s just biding her young time on “House”.

    Concerning 7×09, meh, after waiting 2 months, it was a so-so episode – nothing great, except when HL Knocked out both Candice and RSL _ that was a CLASSIC House move in order to get out of a stressful situation!! My only regret is that they did not do something wild and crazy while these 2 where knocked out, you know – like HAVE SEX for once!!! It was her BIRTHDAY, after all!! The lack of physical romance has taken a definite downturn in their relationship – I’m not just talking about sex, It makes me very, very sad – it’s obvious they love and care for each other, but normal couples show it more – I mean, the only time really heard an “I Love you” was on 7×01 “Now What” (and at the end of season 6) ——Im sorry, that’s just not enough for a real relationship, I really do care if they have to conceal it at their jobs all the time, if one has passion, life is too short not to let it show!!!!

  • DebbieJ.

    @9 onecoolwoman – Couldn’t disagree with you more regarding Masters. She not only has the smarts to stand up to House, but she has the courage; more so than Chase ever had. I also think 13 has the cojones to stand up to House, too. I resisted her in Season 4, but she eventually grew on me and I cheer for her and miss her.

    I thought the episode was one of the funniest ones we’ve seen in a long time. Also, I couldn’t disagree with you more regarding the lack of romance, physical or otherwise. We only get to see them once a week for an hour. I feel what’s implied when we don’t see them shows through and that they have a solid and very physical relationship. I am glad they don’t grope each other at every opportunity. It would take up too much of the show. That they took advantage of her Mom and Wilson being knocked out to wash the dishes instead of having sex, to me, was more romantic. I love the comfortable way they are around each other, which to me, says they have a very active physical relationship.

  • Derdriui

    … You know what, I’m actually really looking forward to the blogcritics review of this week’s episode.

    The writing was terrible, the plotlines were obvious (especially with Shaggy. Almost dying changes nothing? No way! Not like the last few times they’ve made that point! And Taub. And the hilarious caricature mother-in-law.), Huddy was domesticated hell, and Grey’s Anatomy looks like a beacon of light after this.

    And yet, and I hope you don’t mind me saying it, I’m sure this site will post a positive review. And I’m really, really curious how it’s going to be spun.

  • Annie

    @Derdriui I disagree with you on most of what you said. Especially the part about Grey’s Anatomy: if you’re afraid of terrible writing and obvious plotlines, that show is not the one to turn to. I also don’t see anything wrong with Huddy being domesticated. These two characters have known each other for so long, and know each other so well, that with a little time their relationship would inevitably settle into something less exciting and novel than in previous episodes. Personally, I like this break in the drama of their relationship. I’m sure that it’ll be back, but for now the fact that Huddy has a little time to be happy is fine with me.

    But I guess if what you’re looking for is an exciting, dramatic relationship, Grey’s Anatomy would be your type of show. It certainly never forgets that it’s a medical DRAMA. I suppose that I, personally, just don’t like the way they have to insert unnecessary drama into every single episode–all the on-and-off relationships get really tiresome. I like how the writers are developing Huddy because it’s a lot more realistic.

  • Derdriui

    @Annie

    It’s realistic for a character that isn’t House. It’s like they think ‘okay, this guy has to say nasty things.’ So they have him say nasty things. But they also want him to be domesticated. So instead of getting a sense that he’s changed for the better, there’s more of this trade-off, good behavior for sex. With random reassurances in words that they love each other. I’m sorry, but that’s ham-fisted. Everybody’s saying everything: CB goes ‘you love her, right?’ and House gets all shy. Wilson goes, ‘I miss Sam, we were going to go to the Poconos.’ Cuddy goes, ‘We are people in a relationship, and relationships mean averaging pain.’ Like I said, bad writing. More on that later.

    However, the sex relationship makes sense. This emotional dependency puts Cuddy’s character in such a bad light. So the guy called her incompetent for years, reserving his compliments only for her ass, and undermined her in front of her whole hospital. Now, instead of having a love/hate relationship (lovin’ the skillz, hating the bastard), she is emotionally dependent on him (especially evident before and during the Meet the Parents scenes). And somehow, in this ‘verse, her authority figures are all cool with her flaunting her relationship with her co-worker everywhere. Seriously, in Unplanned Parenthood they were shouting across the lobby of the hospital about not wanting to go to some higher-up’s wedding rehearsal dinner.

    Anyway, if you like Cuddy’s character then that’s up to you. To compare with Grey’s for just a moment: Richard was an alcoholic, but at least he admitted it was a problem. House has been hurting Cuddy for years, but instead of keeping him out of her and her daughter’s lives, she’s drawn him completely in and is dependant on him not being who he used to be.

    About the writing in general: House was written so badly. Hugh Laurie went straight back into Fry and Laurie mode with the Faces of Shock and the Reaction Shots. And he had lines like ‘every hero has his kryptonite’, intermixed with the stupid face shots. And the dialog with the patient! ‘You’re not a hero.’ ‘Neither are you.’ AMAZING. Compelling stuff.

    And the patient! How do they have Shaggy on there and make him boring? That plot was so predictable. Oh, really, he was dying and tried to do the right thing and then when he stopped dying quite so fast it turns out nothing had changed? Almost dying changes nothing? Oh, that’s SUCH A NOVEL IDEA. Especially when they used in Euphoria! And 6×10 Wilson!

    And mother-in-law! Come on, at least Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents had some charm! I love Candice Bergen but they wrote her character so obviously, without any originality or SUBTLETY. The HILARIOUS yiddish phrases she had converted to use, the jibing at Cuddy that made her OH SO MEAN. They went as far as to get her to call Cuddy a slut! How are we supposed to take that seriously? Oh, I guess we aren’t! She’s a caricature for Great Comic Effect! Hilarious, how original.

    And Taub. Oh, Taub. ‘I think we should get a divorce.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘Are you happy?’ ‘No.’ … That’s worse than Grey’s Anatomy on a bad day. Seriously, what is wrong with these writers?!

    Oh and! The epiphany?

    CB said something about kids. AND THEN HOUSE HAD A EUREKA MOMENT THAT IT COULD HAVE BEEN SOMETHING FROM THE KID.

    Subtle AND brilliant, no?

    As for Grey’s, I’m not saying I want House to be DRAMATIC all the time, and fair point about relationships progressing slowly, but I think it’s fair enough to expect SOME good writing on this show. Tell me one thing about this week’s episode that was well written.

  • ruthinor

    Derdriui: Hi there! Here’s the way I see it. Since season 1 House has ALWAYS had “eureka” moments. It’s part of the show. You either accept that as a given or not. It is no sillier or incomprehensible now than it has ever been.

    House treats everyone like crap. He has from season 1. Again, either you accept that about him or you don’t. He has always disparaged his fellows, other doctors, the nurses, clinic patients etc., and has been particularly hurtful to those who mean the most to him, i.e. Wilson and Cuddy. It’s his way of keeping them at arms’ length in spite of the fact that he cares deeply for both of them. They understand this and still wish to be in his orbit and when push comes to shove, House is actually quite protective of both. One could argue that while Taub does not “disparage” his wife, his ACTIONS have actually been far more hurtful than the words that House utters. House actually seems to believe in fidelity.

    I agree that Candace Bergen’s character could be seen as pretty much a caricature, but converts sometimes are “more Catholic than the Pope”. She is certainly not like any “Jewish mother” I’ve ever known. In fact, she reminds me of House. She loves her daughter and wants her to be happy, but only on her terms. They deserve each other!

    I’ve never thought of House as a realistic view of life and so I just enjoy it on its own terms. I thought the dinner scene was very funny, and I enjoyed all the reaction shots.

  • Derdriui

    hey ruthinor :)

    Yes, he has usually had eureka moments. But this week it was just ham-fisted and crap. ‘I hate kids.’ ‘Kids?! EUREKA!’

    House believing in fidelity is great. But so what? Unless people make other arragnements with their partners, they should only sleep with their partners. Obviously.

    As for him being an ass, he used to be an ass that made a point once in a while. This episode was just recycled, with domesticity thrown in. It’s good to see House needing some time off from it, but he still didn’t do anything interesting.

    Remember a few seasons back when he spent the whole episode talking about going on vacation to so many different cool place? And then in the end he just locked the doors, turned off the phone and tripped on pain meds? That was interesting. This week was ham-fisted.

    Look, I just expected a better level of humor. And a far better level of dialog and commentary. Caricatures and reaction shots, that’s worse than quite a few sitcoms. Recycled plotlines lite mixed in with heteronormative ideas of domestic life? That’s bad writing.

    Television has moved on.

  • Sera G

    Hello, Barbara and the rest of the House community.
    I anxiously await Barbara’s full review of Monday’s episodes, so just a few quick comments:
    1. I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was very funny.
    2. I would love to see more passion between House and Cuddy,too, (but imo, I think the writers are leery of that.) However, I loved the dishwashing scene. It was cozy, familiar and kind of sexy in its own way. These two are at peace and content. It was almost an “us against them” moment. You know they will argue and clash about something soon, but for now, all is right with the world.
    3. I thought it was GREAT that House did what Cuddy and Wilson needed him to do, for once!
    4. I could agree with House wanting one night to himself; he has been solitary so long, the adjustments to a partner and child are enormous. I think he is entitled to some time alone. I just hope it doesn’t become too frequent.
    5. Arlene’s pokes, intrusions and interferences didn’t have to just be a Jewish mother; that is any mother who loves and worries about her daughter. (Okay, it was a but much, but that was for humors sake. I enjoyed her.)
    Waiting for the full review.

  • http://BarbaraBarnett.com barbara barnett

    Apologies for the delay on the full review. Car issues and other interferences…I’m finishing it up as we speak and I hop you all will like it…

  • dejune117

    @Derdriui

    House’s epiphany wasn’t to the “I hate kids” part of Arlene’s dialogue. His epiphany stemmed from her “Everytime I stay with Lisa or her sister ONE OF THOSE RUGRATS GETS ME SICK” line. That fits in PERFECTLY with House’s conclusion that JACK CAUGHT CHICKEN POX FROM HIS DAUGHTER. I thought that was pretty obvious.

    And one more quibble … the shouting across the lobby about the wedding occurred in “Small Sacrifices” not “Unplanned Parenthood.”

  • Derdriui

    dejune117

    Alright, so I was too general. It came from her saying kids make her sick, and he thought of kids making him sick. Whatever. Still hamfisted compared to older House episodes.

    As for the reference, thanks for fixing the episode. It was still a ridiculous thing for her to do.

    But hey, if this is the kind of writing you expect and actually like, then good for you. I expect more from the show, simply because it used to be really good.

  • Annie

    @Derdriui

    I still have one big beef with how you compare Grey’s Anatomy to House. I just don’t think that you can say House is predictable, and use Grey’s as a good comparison. That show must be one of the most predictable ones out there. I stopped watching last season because, seriously, the storylines got so old.

    Take Cristina and Owen for example. I used to ship them, until I realized that their whole relationship was random spurts of rough passion, Cristina thinking she’s strong enough, Cristina rethinking and deciding that she’s not strong enough, Owen being masochistic and tortured, Cristina being scared of Owen, multiple break ups, multiple make ups, a shooting, Cristina traumatized, Cristina thinking she’s strong enough, and, surprise surprise, Cristina realizing that she’s not strong enough, Owen being supportive and yet not, Cristina contemplating break-up #bajillion, a marriage! omg! and then ANOTHER SHOOTING. NO WAY.

    And don’t get me started on Mer/Der. The characters on this show are all so horny and bipolar that it’s become painfully predictable. Even the Season 6 finale: it was pretty obvious that they wouldn’t kill off any of the main characters–the writers just wanted to get rid of the useless Mercy West transfers who were using up the show’s resources.

    So, I don’t think that you can even compare Grey’s and House.

    Your example about Richard and the whole thing about Cuddy being emotionally dependent on House doesn’t make sense to me. So, it’s a problem that Cuddy wants to have her boyfriend around when she has to confront her psycho mother? I also fail to see how you could possibly compare Richard’s problem with alcohol with Cuddy deciding to welcome House into her life. For one, the two aren’t even related to the same things. For another, Huddy happened a while ago. I thought you’re problem was with this episode in particular. And about flaunting their relationship: do I really have to say it? Come on. In Grey’s, there are people having sex in the on-call room at least once every episode. And everybody in the hospital is aware of it.

    This episode may not have been the best, but I still don’t think that it deserves a bashing. IMO, House still maintains its level of awesomeness.

  • Derdriui

    Okay, two things.

    1) ‘So, it’s a problem that Cuddy wants to have her boyfriend around when she has to confront her psycho mother?’

    House is the psycho ass who has been taunting her for years, while she bends over backwards to accomodate him. Her suddenly being emotionally dependent on him is not a value (unless the great thing we’re celebrating are her powers of forgiveness).

    Comparing it to alcoholism: It’s a superficial comparison, but it goes like this. She has been in love with House for years and he’s, as Wilson said, toyed with her emotions for years. And he went further than that, embarassing her as a professional. And yet he’s the most incredible man she knows and she’s smitten, going so far as to bring him into her daughters life and talking about their relationship in serious ways (needing him there at the dinner, averaging pain).

    2) Flaunting their relationship

    Cuddy is his superior! She’s a female Dean of Medicine. She’s supposed to be a respected figure of authority. House has repeatedly humiliated her, and her she yells about their relationship across the lobby.

    That’s just stupid.

    And yes, the writing is predictable. They got them together, had Cuddy deal with jealousy about House’s hookers, they had them sorting out where they would sleep and deal with the issue of House in Rachel’s life, they had two men and a baby and light comic relief with House trying to deal with the kid. Meet the Parents and Kindergarten Cop are obviously great inspirations.

    And now they are settling into a proper relationships, wherein there will be random hiccups, but they love each other so they’ll make it through. They tried to deal with House undermining Cuddy, but they couldn’t, because he’s undermined her for so long and they can’t bear to show Cuddy being incompetent.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    @Derdriui
    Now I know what the problem is! You are watching a different show, just with the same name! Because this: House is the psycho ass who has been taunting her for years, while she bends over backwards to accomodate him. hasn’t ever happened in the show I’m watching. :-)

  • Derdriui

    Wow… Okay, logic.

    Here’s a starting point: would House be employed anywhere else? (for reference, look at all the people who wouldn’t hire Foreman)