‘Housewives’ and ‘House’ are cuing up final episodes
Goodbye, Wisteria Lane.
Adios, Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital.
So long, Susan Mayer, Lynette Scavo, Bree Van de Kamp and Gabrielle Solis.
See you in reruns, Doctors Gregory House, James Wilson, Robert Chase and Eric Foreman. It’s been fun.
Two iconic series will close up shop this spring.
After eight seasons and 176 episodes, “Desperate Housewives” wraps up May 13 on ABC. “House,” which debuted a month later on Fox, ends its run May 21 with 173 episodes to its credit.
Eight seasons is an impressive run for a prime-time series, and both were success stories from the start.
“Desperate Housewives” drew 21.6 million viewers for its premiere and built to more than 30 million, finishing its first season as the No. 1 network series.
“House” averaged a solid 13 million viewers for its first season but grew to a Top 10 hit in Seasons 2-4. At its peak, in 2007, almost 20 million viewers were tuning in every week.
Both shows, though, pressed their luck, staying on a season (or four) too long and scrambling for new stories to tell and twists to keep those stories fresh. In the end, by the time the networks announced the final seasons, a lot of fans had drifted away and even former boosters were complaining that they should have called it quits sooner.
One of the pleasures of series television is the chance to get to know characters and follow them over years and seasons. Networks, of course, love a long-running show that can bring in viewers reliably and win its time slot week after week.
The catch: when to let go.
When “Lost” wanted to set an end date, ABC agreed only reluctantly, but the decision was the right one. So was the decision to end “Desperate Housewives,” but it came too late.
For the finale, some former regulars will return, including James Denton, who was recently killed off as Mike Delfino. That suggests to some observers that another death may occur in the finale, resulting in a funeral and possibly visitors from the afterlife.
The strength of “Desperate Housewives” was the friendship of the four women who formed the heart of the series. Sometimes that got lost in the ridiculous plots and silly escapades.
If they came back together in the finale, celebrating the bond that was once so important, “Desperate Housewives” could see some of its luster restored.
“House” was never as ambitious a series as “Desperate Housewives.” It was conceived as a procedural, a “CSI” clone set in a hospital where doctors tackled mysterious cases.
The casting of Hugh Laurie as cranky, crippled Dr. House, endlessly irritated by patients and staff and everything but the cerebral medical mysteries he enjoyed, took the series to a different level. Laurie was so great in the role that for years, just watching him was enough to make an enjoyable hour.
The casting of the supporting roles was equally successful. Robert Sean Leonard, a serious Broadway actor, was solidly believable as House’s odd-couple best friend, Wilson. Viewers also grew to love House’s team, including Lisa Edelstein as the hospital administrator, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, who specialized in low-cut tops and standing in House’s way at all times.
The problem was with the procedural elements. Early on, regular viewers caught on to the formula: A patient presents with odd symptoms; House’s team diagnoses and treats; the patient almost dies. They diagnose, guessing, once again; again, the patient almost dies. Finally, in the final moments, the correct diagnosis comes out of nowhere, but sometimes too late. Before long, some of us felt that we could make a bad diagnosis (sarcoidosis!) just as easily as the team, and we vowed to stay out of hospitals.
All this was fun and fungus until the end of Season 3, when some brilliant mind decided to shake things up by getting rid of the whole team and starting fresh. Although the regulars drifted back in, things were never the same, and that gave us more time to focus on the sameness of every plot. Meanwhile, an early vow not to reform House forced creator David Shore and his writers to worsen his pill habit and escalate his bad behavior.