With House airing its series finale this evening, I thought it was time to bust out a list or two. I love House and I love lists. It seems only fitting. First up, one of the lists I “do best”: ranking the seasons. Obviously, the finale could have some influence on the placement of season eight, but I cannot much impact either way. House has had a few stand-out seasons and a few that I thought I clearly disliked the most, but doing this list made me reconsider various things. It is much closer than I imagined. I think there is a clear division in quality between the bottom four seasons and the top four seasons, that much is true. Nevertheless, here we go, ranking the seasons of House, from worst to best.
Season 5 (2008-2009): I’ve been on record about my frustrations with seasons five and six so I won’t belabor the point here too much. BUT, season five is a melodramatic mess. Season four ended on a powerful note that suggested big changes for the House-Wilson relationship. Those changes were shooed away in a half-dozen episodes or less. Thirteen’s story was a mess. The Lucas character didn’t really work. Kutner killed himself because Kal Penn wanted to be a (temporary) civil servant. There were too many dumb, dull “event” episodes. Shall I go on?
Season 6 (2009-2010): Season six featured many of the same problems that plagued season five, but it was also buoyed by a better focus on Chase and Cameron (albeit one that was powered by a fairly dumb plot) and a really solid arc for House. The two-hour opener “Broken” is one of the series’ best and the events of that episode actually influenced the entire season.
Season 8 (2011-2012): This final season has been way less ambitious than the previous three or four years, but I think House has been better for it. The lower stakes resulted in an amiable, enjoyable stretch of episodes that led into what has been a fairly powerful conclusion. I understand that many see the series as a shell of its former self in many ways. I happen to disagree. Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard and Jesse Spencer were awesome all season. Season eight featured less “great” episodes, but also featured less awful, miserable ones as well.
Season 7 (2010-2011): Your mileage of season seven is almost solely dependent on how you feel about the House-Cuddy romance. I, for one, feel like the series had to go there eventually and I appreciate many of the things David Shore and his team tried to explore with that relationship. Laurie and Lisa Edelstein acted the hell out of those scenes. Nevertheless, at times, Huddy-related stories verged on the melodramatic (“Family Practice” might be my least favorite episode in the entire run) and the ending was a bit of a disaster. Thankfully though, most of the non-Huddy content in season seven was great. The team’s rapport was better and Masters added just enough to the formula.
Season 3 (2006-2007): In season three, House continued producing fine procedural stories that kept our interest. However, the “arc” with Tritter and House never, ever worked. It started poorly and only descended into stupidity (on a narrative- and character-level) from there. The Tritter story suggested certain changes and then immediately discarded them and was the first sign that House’s writers were sometimes more interested in shocking swerves than they were substantial character development. Even the finale’s big move (no more team) didn’t really have much weight behind it.
Season 1 (2004-2005): I think I’m a bigger fan of Vogler than most people (not that I love him) and that might make this season’s placement a bit surprising. However, after a few expected stumbles in the early going, the first season of House easily found an entertaining, complex gear. The middle of the season is very strong and Sela Ward and Hugh Laurie’s quality chemistry makes the final stretch pretty great, despite Vogler’s presence.
Season 4 (2007-2008): This is far and away my favorite season of House. The ambitious Survivor-like competition for new fellows played out masterfully and most of the possible candidates were very compelling. Unfortunately, the Writer’s Strike delayed much of this season’s momentum (and those characters’ development), which prevents me from putting it at the top of the list. Many individual episodes though.
Season 2 (2005-2006): I cannot imagine many people being shocked by this one topping the list. In its second season, House churned out one high-quality episode of procedural television after another. The cases and the medical mysteries were still intriguing (and the writers still cared writing them), the moral dilemmas felt important and the characters were given a sufficient amount of time to be more than pretty exposition-delivery machines. The series’ most consistent run of episodes, for sure.
There you have it folks. Thoughts?