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September 20, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

Remember when House was a show about a brilliant but difficult doctor who solved baffling medical cases with a mixture of piercing insight and a pitiless work ethic? That was the House you and I lived in for quite a while.

But now, House is a show about a moony-eyed doctor who makes sweet, sweet love to his boss and then frets over being “not sure if you were ready to go public with the whole ‘us’ thing.”

“The whole ‘us’ thing”? Ye gods, had House stumbled upon an old script of Grey’s Anatomy and decided to reenact it, just for laughs? I looked really closely tonight, praying to find some glimmer, some lightning-fast wink, that Dr. Gregory House was being sarcastic when he uttered this mushy line on Monday night’s season premiere, but, alas, he was that thing some of us always dreaded Dr. House would become: sincere.

The week’s medical case was pretty much irrelevant except as (unfunny) comic relief. The only intended humorous moment that was genuinely humorous was Robert Sean Leonard getting stuck in House’s window trying to break in — Leonard is so good, he can make a visual gag like that work.

TV shows, when they become hits and go on for multiple seasons, evolve, of course. They move beyond their original concept. So it is with House. A turning-point occurred when the series pulled its expanding cast stunt, drawing out for weeks the question of which new doctors House would take onto his team. (Only Olivia Wilde’s character proved to be interesting… and she’s the one who’s leaving for a chunk of the season.)

I admire Hugh Laurie’s work and career enormously — have been a fan of his at least as far back as Blackadder. Lisa Edelstein is a terrific actress, as a talk-show guest she’s pleasure to listen to, and after years of doing excellent work in scores of shows including Seinfeld, Sports Night, The West Wing, and Felicity, I’m glad she’s in a hit. Robert Sean Leonard — the guy’s work is golden.

All that said, House has become a show that doesn’t really showcase its stars to best effect. Having Cuddy coo, “I don’t want you to change… You’re the most incredible man I’ve ever known” — sheesh, Cuddy as she was originally conceived and presented was a lot more thoughtful and articulate than that.

This episode was entitled “Now What?” My title for it? “Now Stop That!”

Agree? Disagree?

Follow: @kentucker

Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein star in the hit medical mystery series
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