It’s a bit hard to tell so early in the season (which I’m enjoying immensely), but it seems the ratings (shiver and quake) are a bit down from last year’s numbers. However, two episodes hardly make a trend. But nonetheless, the question debated hotly and passionately among the “fandom” and some talking heads in Internet TV critic land is “why?”
Some argue that the numbers are down because the creators have taken House down a different path this season. Becoming involved with his boss Lisa Cuddy after (at least) four seasons of flirting and parrying must be it. Getting them together is the death knell: get out the coffins. Really? You mean like when they changed up House’s team in season four (and jettisoned Cameron from the narrative? And Chase for that matter?) At the time, the fans clamored about how that was going to be the death of the series.
I talk about the show all the time (away from my blog and the fandom) to people who’ve only just started watching it; I talk to people who stopped enjoying it, but have now come back to it (making a point of telling me how much they are enjoying season seven—although why they tell me, I’m not sure, since I’m not attached to the show.)
I have spoken to more and more people over the last couple of months, just now discovering the series on USA or Bravo. Because the episodes on those networks are often shown out of sequence, I always suggest they rent or buy the DVDs so they can observe House’s journey right from the start. Being part of House’s journey, watching him struggle and win, only to falter and pick himself up over six seasons makes for fascinating viewing.
People seem to watch House for so many reasons: the medicine, the wisecracks, the characters, the relationships. That’s why the series such a pleasure: you can watch it casually or watch it for meaning beyond perhaps what even the writers originally intended.
To attribute a small (but possibly significant) downswing in the ratings (especially after only two episodes have aired this season) to a perceived directional change in the series is to overly simplify what contributes to the ratings themselves—and to dismiss possible flaws in the rating system itself given the epidemic time-shifting habits of the television viewing public.
The 8 p.m. timeslot has certainly affected the number of viewers who tune in as it airs. I’m one of those who do not get home from work in time to see the episode live (and might therefore erroneously represent one teeny tiny dropped viewer). I DVR episodes and watch when I get home (and without the commercials) or wait till my purchased Amazon video on demand copy downloads to my TiVo.