When Did House M.D. Become Thirteen M.D.?

Ladies and gents, I am in the middle of a terrible TV dilemma. What do you do if you love a show but detest, with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns (borrowing a line from Cheers’ Diane Chambers), one of the characters in it?

I’ll give you two recent examples: Ashes To Ashes’ DCI Alex Drake and House’s Thirteen. The former first. To be fair to Alex Drake, I find her irritating rather than contemptible.

A great deal of my annoyance, I suspect, stems from actress Keeley Hawes. For some bizarre reason, she is distinctly average in this series. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but she simply hasn’t nailed the role yet. And there’s a third (and final) series still to come. I can see what the producers were trying to do; the last thing the politically incorrect DCI Gene Hunt (superbly played by Philip Glenister) would expect is to be paired with a woman. Especially strong, upright, sexy, intelligent, DCI Alex Drake (as she’s probably written).

It’s that old TV trope of opposites attracting again and it’s a scenario I’ve spent my entire TV life watching: from Sam and Diane in Cheers to Maddy and David in Moonlighting, Vince and Penny in Just Good Friends – the list goes on. While there’s no denying Keeley Hawes’ fab looks, a nice cleavage and great legs aren’t enough to stand toe-to-toe with Philip Glenister who eats every inch of the TV screen as Hunt. He needed a stronger female adversary but there’s little weight or nuance behind Keeley Hawes’ portrayal of Alex Drake. She’s so one-dimensional that, for me, it impacts on the series itself. And not in a good way. For this reason, I inwardly sigh whenever Drake is on screen; she has me enduring Ashes To Ashes rather than enjoying it.   

On the other side of the Atlantic, US drama House (catch repeats on Five and The Hallmark Channel, new shows on Sky1) appears to be in the midst of an identity crisis. It’s so-called because it revolves around Dr Gregory House. Or rather, it used to. The series, about a curmudgeonly but brilliant diagnostician magnificently played by our very own Hugh Laurie, is now into its fifth season here in the UK. But it has seen the unwelcome elevation of supporting character Dr Remy ‘Thirteen’ Hadley (portrayed by actress Olivia Wilde) – and all her bloody endless, tedious troubles to boot.

When Did House M.D. become Thirteen M.D.? That’s what I want to know. Who is the Frankenstein behind the scenes obsessed with the monster they’ve created? The amount of screentime devoted to Thirteen is not only getting on my last nerve, it is killing one of my favourite TV shows. Forget Count Dracula, Nosferatu and Lestat et al because nothing can suck the life out of something as devastatingly as scene-after-scene of Thirteen’s travails.

The irony is, on paper, Thirteen should be ‘interesting’ (note the quotation marks). She’s young and pretty and dying of a degenerative disease (Huntington’s). She had a ‘tragic childhood’ (she watched her mother suffer with the same condition). She’s bisexual (an explicit – for a US network anyway – scene of her one night stand with another woman probably got the lads’ mags crowd going). She enters into a mixed-race relationship with Doctor Eric Foreman (Omar Epps). House, who has dubbed them ‘ForeTeen’ (a la Brangelina and TomKat), disapproves of said liaison… etc  

I should be captivated. I should be engaged. I should be invested in her. I should be rooting for her. But the truth is I couldn’t give a rat’s a**e. And I’m not alone. Thirteen-hate is par for the course with House fans these days who have rightly branded ForeTeen ‘BoreTeen’. There’s more chemistry in mouldy bread than there is between those two. When they snogged last week, I literally felt the bile travel up from my stomach to my throat. Now I spend every week hoping Thirteen will die. Or at the very least, move to Tulsa. Or Utah.  

Unfortunately for the powers that be behind Thirteen, there’s no magic formula to creating a character that captures the imagination, and heart, of the viewing public. If there was, everybody would be doing it. To my way of thinking, it’s a combination of writing, casting, acting and a certain je ne sais quoi.

In the case of Ms Hadley, every single one of those elements is missing in action. Instead of the textured writing that has made Gregory House one of this decade’s most compelling TV characters, a sledgehammer approach is employed for unlucky Thirteen. It’s reached a stage where I now require treatment from House for the Thirteen/BoreTeen knocks inflicted by the writers this season. Not that I’d complain about being treated by House, especially if he talks dirty to me…

In addition to the bad writing polluting the character, the biggest problem about Thirteen is Olivia Wilde herself – yer average shop dummy has more acting range. And emotion. And less blankness.

The writers are going to have to accept that they have failed miserably here. Irrespective of what they do, no matter how many Perils of Penelope Pitstop-type scenarios she’s put through or how ‘hot’ her sex scenes are perceived to be, I will continue to begrudge every second she takes away from Robert Sean Leonard’s Wilson or Lisa Edelstein’s Cuddy.

Heck, I’ll even hate her for depriving me of the promising partnership beween Kutner (Kal Penn) and Taub (Peter Jacobson). And where the hell are Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) these days? With apologies to Winston Churchill, but never in the field of human TV conflict was so much airtime resented by so many to so few deserving of it.

Here I am in full love-the-show-hate-the-character mode, and here I’ll stay because I know that the people behind House, in their desperation to make us like Thirteen, will continue to throw her in our face at every opportunity. Throw her somewhere else, I say. Preferably off the show.

Today I am mostly lovin’ – My love for The Wire, and anti-hero Omar Little, knows no bounds. Seriously, if the show was a man, I’d probably be served with a restraining order by now. I can’t keep away from it – it’s that good.

Today I am mostly hatin’ – A shame ER’s last season is rather hidden away in such a poor slot on Channel 4. Saturdays circa 7.30pm? Little wonder the ratings are so disappointing. Sad end to a once-great show.


MSN Editor Coops

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35 Responses to When Did House M.D. Become Thirteen M.D.?

  1. Tina says:

    I haven\’t paid too much attention to House to be honest, though Hugh Laurie really does look good in it. Really good. But I have to admit, when I started to think yesh – House looks quite good actually, they started showing tons of trailers of it, all containing Thirteen and all about her sex shenanigans. All of this pushy preconceived oh no I\’m young and gorgeous but I\’m dying so I need to sleep with everything that moves bull has really put me off watching it now. Disappointing. Because I would have watched this show for Hugh Laurie alone…

  2. Samantha says:

    I like Thirteen I don\’t know why you\’re attacking her so much. She gets approx same amount of air time as Taub and Kutner just hers comes all at once and she\’s not treating patients most of the time but is a patient herself. The trial isn\’t just about her but about Foreman. When I saw the episode that ended with her being on the placebo I felt sorry, equally so for Foreman. I agree Cameron and Chase aren\’t around much these days but they no longer work for House but in other areas of the hospital so of course we\’re going to see them less. Cuddy\’s been around a lot recently so I don\’t see how her time has been taken away. Wilson has always been a \’part-timer\’ maybe one or two short scenes an episode – bar when Amber was around.

  3. Coops - says:

    Hello Tina – nice to hear from you again. Don\’t ever pay attention to promos; they\’re such a tease. 🙂 In truth, House is a good show with a magnificent central performance by Hugh Laurie. I definitely recommend catching re-runs (or investing in the DVDs).

  4. Coops - says:

    No name, thanks for your input but I strongly disagree. No way does Thirteen get "approx same amount of air time as Taub and Kutner". No way. So far this season, her story arc has dominated just as much as House\’s; it\’s a bone of contention with various fans and critics. Take respected US critic Alan Sepinwall, for example. He brought this very same matter up with House creator David Shore (read his blog entry here, but don\’t read the comments because there may be spoilers http://sepinwall.blogspot.com/2009/01/dispatch-from-press-tour-house-creator.html).Entertainment Weekly\’s Ausiello Files tackled the House team about it too (http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20252814,00.html)It\’s possible that I have a lower tolerance level than you No Name… but I really don\’t care about Thirteen\’s travails.

  5. David says:

    I couldn\’t agree more, Coops. The first 3 seasons of House were really good until the writers decided to "freshen things up a bit". While I like the Taub character, and liked the Kutner character, I\’ve never been fussed on Thirteen/Hadley. They should have gone with Amber instead because that would have brought the excellent Robert Sean Leonard into more scenes. I saw what they did with Amber as a wasted opportunity, even though she came back temporarily at the end of last season.What needs to happen for Season 6 is they need to focus everything more on House, which they seemed to be doing at the back-end of last season. By all means have more scenes with Robert Sean Leonard and Lisa Edelstein, who are both fantastic actors. And scale back on the "ducklings", well certainly Hadley because at least Taub is interesting and brings something to the table with his background in cosmetic surgery. I do think Foreman has lost his shine though and maybe House\’s new team should be Cameron, Chase and Taub?

  6. Coops - says:

    Hello David Jones: very intestesting comments. In retrospect, I think the decision to freshen up House was the right one – it had become a tad too formulaic by the end of the third season. However, like you, I feel that the wrong choice was made with the third duckling. Even before she grew intensely tedious, Thirteen was too reminiscent of Cameron. Amber was definitely the better option.Having said all of that, season five is definitely worth sticking with as the last few episodes are phenomenal. However, I really hope the writers drastically reduce the amount of screentime devoted to ForeTeen in season six. I just don\’t understand how they got this one soooo wrong – it boggles the mind.

  7. Rachel says:

    I can\’t comment on Thirteen because I don\’t watch House, but I think you\’re absolutely dead wrong about Alex Drake and Keeley Hawes. Yes, at times in Series 1 of Ashes to Ashes she was at times shrill and possibly irritating (but I believe that may have been intentional!). If that is seen as a fault though, it should surely be laid at the doors of the writers and directors, as Keeley Hawes would only have been taking instruction from them as to how to play the character. The amount of very personal abuse she took from a lot of so-called journalists and critics was downright shameful and almost tantamount to playground bullying, and I thoroughly respect and applaud Philip Glenister\’s comments on how she was treated in the Press while series 1 was airing.However, I think that in Series 2 both character and actress have really hit their stride. Drake is every inch Hunt\’s equal, and Hawes\’ chemistry with Glenister lights up the screen.

  8. Sean says:

    I disagree.I don\’t find her acting skills dire, though I wouldn\’t say she\’s as talented as the actress who played Amber. Perhaps I\’m just a huge fan of the show, but I think shaking it up with the new team and the new dynamic that the Foreman/Thirteen relationship has brought to the show is refreshing. Personally it\’s giving me a further insight into the character of Foreman and how he performs in relationships.However I\’m quite sure this relationship is going to come down with a boom at some point…I also agree that the focus seems to be off of Gregory House, which is frustrating, he is played in a highly entertaining fashion.We\’re all entitled to an opinion of course…I think your "BoreTeen" is my "Kutmyselfner".

  9. Amanda says:

    I dont watch house so ill decline to comment, but im an avid watcher of ashes to ashes and i find "Alex Drake" annoying in the extreme!This is a professional who is supposed to have skills in detection and human behavour, but time after time plot lines seem to go totaly over her head.Series 1 i spotted straight away that there was something very familiar about the clown who kept appearing. She is not proactive in the same way that "Sam Tyler" was written. I agree that her character should have been written with a bit more whomph!This is a woman who has (or should have) the skills to see whats going on, has the sex appeal to wrap "Gene" round her little finger and finally has no real connection/affection with any of the other main characters in the show.Hopefully the writers will write some dicent storys this year for the final series.

  10. Coops - says:

    Hello No Name – just picking up on this comment with respect to Keeley Hawes: "The amount of very personal abuse she took from a lot of so-called journalists and critics was downright shameful and almost tantamount to playground bullying…" If criticism is constructive, I don\’t think anyone who puts themself in the public domain can complain. The fact that so many viewers (check forums and message boards) and critics felt the need to highlight Keeley Hawes\’ performance can\’t be a coincidence…

  11. Coops - says:

    Sorry harriet todd, I had to delete a little of what you wrote because you posted a spoiler. Take 2:harriet toddwrote: I agree Thirteen \’Olivia Wilde\’ has for too much screen time her acting skills are okay however it seems as she is distant and blank. Season 6 needs to be all out House, Wilson and Cuddy relationship. Chase and Cameron should be shown a little more as well. To the people that havent seen House i recommend that you catch the re-runs or buy the box set dvd\’s as they are fantastic.Harriet x

  12. Harriet says:

    Sorry Coops for revealing a spoiler but its a good spoiler Haha x

  13. Coops - says:

    Indeed harriet – I can\’t wait for season six! I\’ll have to get used to Hugh Laurie\’s hair (or lack thereof). Is that terribly shallow of me? Watched last night\’s episodes – more ForeTeen airtime. More ForeTeen snogging. It\’s doing my head in…

  14. christina says:

    I think your wrong the whole thirteen side mixed in is good. It helps fill in time, if the show was all about house all the time it would get old alot faster and come to an abrupt end

  15. Tina says:

    Why would they need to fill time with Thirteen\’s sex/love scenes if they wrote a good script?

  16. Stephen says:

    Did anyone else wonder what she was doing when she "Balled her eyes out"? Editor\’s English is Ball-ocks. Ever heard of "Bawled her eyes out"? Ye Gods!

  17. Coops - says:

    Just to clarify: Stephen\’s referring to an article that was written by one of our partners. We have pointed out the error. Thanks Stephen.

  18. Joe says:

    I Actually Thought The Person Who Got The Rectal Thermometer Up Their Bum BUT Wanted To Get Back At House Was Okay To Start With But Took Up WAY Too Much Of The Season It Was In Too. \’Thirteen\’ Is Tedious BUT All The Magazine Fodder/ Eye Candy Hasn\’t Helped Either….. Another Unnecessary Sex Scene And I May Throw Up!

  19. Coops - says:

    Lucy, I have edited your comment to take out the spoiler you posted, but left the rest as is…Lucy Warner wrote: this whole house thing, 13 is in to boost ratings even more so now the show has moved to sky, remember buffy? you needed as much of that thing in there as possible. season 5 is definately the worst so far. It should be abould house and his life, simple as. recall season 1 and 2 that made this show what it is, it was all house, thats what this show needs. too much longer with things the way they are and all you\’ll have watching this show are the type who followed the likes of buffy through to the last season. this is a car crash waiting to happen

  20. jonathan says:

    Interesting. I am not a great fan of any of the House people apart from House, Cuddy and Wilson and the deceased Amber. The other characters are very earnest – not very interesting. Olivia Wilde is attractive and she is a very decent actress. I would not single her out in particular except for the disproportionate amount of screen time. The show is a bit of a bore. Very samey at times. But the Thirteen haters are being a bit unpleasant and personal to her and she is fine. As for Keeley Hawes I disagree. She was a much better character in the 2nd season. I like her. She is annoying at times but that gives her a bit of an edge and makes her more interesting. We did not want another Sam Tyler. Also very interesting that they are both women who are different.

  21. caroline says:

    i luv hugh laurie as house it is a fantastic programe but doing it like this is going to ruin it house is supposed to be the centre of attention he is fantastic a brilliant actor PLEASE keep it as it is

  22. Allister says:

    Today I\’m mostly agreeing with Coops, Keely is distinctly underwelming in my opinion and House is suffering since expanding 13\’s role. Keely just does not seem to have got a handle on this role and like Coops I tolerate rather than enjoy her stilted very one dimensional portrayal of a time travelling cop.13 seems, to me at least, to have been almost bolted on to story lines to give a bit of lesbo action which especially in the good old USA is flavour of the month.

  23. Morag says:

    I\’m glad I\’m not the only one who thinks Alex Drake role in Ashes to Ashes is a one dimensional disappointment. I only watch it to lust after Gene Hunt, and I wince every time her character is on screen. As for House, I haven\’t seen the latest series, so I can\’t comment on this 13 character. I\’ve always found the series gripping, but essentially very samey in its plots. I just don\’t happen to mind watching House do his stuff every week. For the same reasons as I like Gene Hunt 😉

  24. Rob says:

    13 is great, so is Cuddy as is Wilson…. House is legend, don\’t knock such a great show … next you will be knocling 24 and Heros !!

  25. alison says:

    Having seen the whole of season 5 I think I can say you will be most disappointed at times, especially w. ith the sudden departure of a character (which doesn\’t actually make much sense in terms of the story line – the actor quit) However, the last two episodes of the season are worth watching.

  26. Coops - says:

    Today I am mostly agreeing with Allister McKillop 🙂 Question is, with one final season of Ashes To Ashes to come, can Keeley deliever? I\’m happy to eat humble pie – if only she\’d make me…Morag – we are sooooooooo on the same page! Oooooh Gene Hunt – he can slap those handcuffs on me any time.Robert Whitemore – I\’m not knocking House; I love that show. I just can\’t stand Thirteen.alison brown – I\’m hearing great things about the sixth season. Not long to go now!

  27. Steph says:

    I hate Chase and Cameron a lot more than I hate Thirteen in House. Cameron, especially, is a snivelling do-gooder who just makes me angry any time she appears on screen.

  28. Kara says:

    I completely disagree. I personally feel you slandering shows and their writers purely because of the dislike of one character apalling. If you dont like whats happening to a show, simple answer, dont watch it!I personally think Keely Hawes MAKES Ashes to Ashes. Infact I only started watching it in the first place because of her involvement. In reference to Thirteen and House MD, come on. Seriously? A series cannot stand up for 6 series based solely on one characters brilliance. Yes, House is a brilliant diagnostician and Laurie is amazing in the part, but forgive me for enjoying the development of supporting characters. I think the re-shuffle of the team divided fans, yes thats true. But it also brought something new to the table, new possibilites, storyline, and especially acting talent. I actually like that theyve bothered to invest time in Thirteen and her back story, it makes her more to the show than just a pointless pretty face. As I imagine you would resent her too if they\’d put here there and NOT given made her a three-dimensional character. And personally, the fact they\’ve made her bisexual and (now) in a relationship with Foreman is daring, but comforting. Seeing as the only lesbian character in Greys Anatomy disappeared without a trace one episode (courtesty of TV bosses disapproving of seeing gay relationships portrayed on their show), I say fair play to the House writers for doing it. Its nice to see a show willing to show all walks of life. Including my own. Finally, saying you "cant stand" a character is fine. At the end of the day, they\’re fictional. But making personal comments about Olivia Wilde herself is out of order, and unproffesional.

  29. .♥ைмΐcн.•♥ೀ says:

    i love thirteen she\’s the best! leave her alone she\’s great!and we don\’t mine about your opinions! she\’s fantastic!

  30. Bert says:

    House as was (Series\’ 1,2 & 3) must be considered by most as one of the best ever drama-com\’s. Yes, it was mostly about Gregory House, maybe that\’s why it was called House M.D. Superb acting from a very tight-knit cast. The six main characters were strong enough individually to hold an episode if so required. I reckon it is purley down to the writers. It is far easier to introduce new characters (and in theory generate new interest) than it is to create new/fresh story lines. The problem for me is that I didn\’t need new, thought inducing, inspiring story lines. More of the same would have been good enough for me. Oh, and I almost forgot, in my humble male opinion Jennifer Morrison is absolutely gorgeous, far more so than the reasonably attractive Olivia Wilde, so to see more of Cameron would be an absolute feast for my aging minces.

  31. Coops - says:

    Kara, thanks for your comment. I strongly disagree with your contention that I made personal remarks about Olivia Wilde. I think you\’ll find that most reviews do mention an actor\’s performance. If I think she\’s lacking in any way, I\’m perfectly entitled to say so. Now if I\’d made some disparaging remark about her love life or her family, then yes – I\’d be out of order. There\’s a difference. By the way, describing Thirteen as a "three-dimensional character" is unintentionally hilarious. She\’s a two-dimensional character at best.1 minute ago | Delete

  32. Vincent says:

    Can tell a lass wrote that lol. To be fair, she was easily the least-worst of the new gang of characters that came about for seemingly no reason and brought nothing to the show. Amber, talb and the other one seemed completely pointless to me. The original lot were best, that\’s why they\’re being forced to slowly bring them back further into the fray. I must say that I don\’t mind the character of 13 but I have began to worry about the direction of the show having seen the first 3 or 4 episodes of the new series. I\’ve always thought that for an American show it\’s been very well written but probably the main reason I watch it is because of one of my favourite actors Hugh Laurie. Instead the new series so far has been just full of that moaning grinding character Foreman and his incompetent life. Hopefully it will get better again soon.

  33. Vincent says:

    Oh yeah and xaing. No one cares.

  34. ella says:

    having been a fashion victim in the 70s and 80s, not only does the portrayal of Dci Alex Drake spoil the show but also her sense of dress, someone let Gok have a go at her.

  35. Amy says:

    I disagree with Kara. Without Hugh Laurie as House, the show would be terrible. His insults and politically incorrect slanders are what make the show. The only other two that deserve mention are Cuddy and Wilson, and they are good purely for their interactions with House. I normally have strong feelings about characters in shows I watch whether I love them or hate them but I really don\’t care about most of the characters in House.

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