My RL beta and I were chatting about House recently and came up with a theory about why our favorite shows eventually went downhill. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The West Wing, and now House all started out strong by exploring the balance and conflicting demands of life and work, whether that was battling the forces of darkness, working 24/7 to push a political agenda, or attempting to diagnose the patients that no one else could save. Towards the end, though, that balance was lost. Life became wholly consumed by work, or vice versa. As a result, something essential was sacrificed - the friendships, the complex political issues, the medicine.
In my opinion, Buffy only suffered one bad season (its last). I'm really starting to hope that the same is true for House. What I don't want to see is years of staggering on stubbornly despite dismal ratings as one key actor after another deserts a sinking ship (*cough* The X-Files *cough*).