If you haven't yet seen the fifth season of House M.D., then this review will contain
spoilers so I would stop reading right now and go and buy, rent or borrow that box
set and get caught up as the seven season has begun in both the US and UK. I will
try to keep the spoilers to a minimum for this season but will assume that most people
reading this will have seen most, if not all of the episodes on TV.
Season five ended with a death that has a fairly big input on the first half of this
season: a bus crash in which Wilson's girlfriend, Amber, suffered fatal injuries.
Furthermore, House was becoming increasingly addicted to Vicodin and having aural
and visual hallucinations, seeing and talking to Amber to the point where he imagined
a sexual relationship with Cuddy and checked himself into the Mayfield Psychiatric
Disc one contains the double episode which is set in the psychiatric hospital and
play as one 90 minute movie rather than separate episodes and there is more than
one reference to One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, with House in the McMurphy role.
Using his intelligence and manipulative skills, he does best to wind up and manipulate
other patients in order to get his own way before eventually realise that the best
course of action is just to go with the flow, confide in the psychiatrist and let
him do his job. There is a terrific guest appearance Franke Potente as the sister-in-law
of one of the residents who becomes a love interest for House and just shows what
an assured feature film actress she is who's equally at home on a television series.
The other two episodes on this disc are absolutely brilliant with 'Epic Fail' integrating
a whole load of video game footage into the narrative and 'The Tyrant' starring James
Earl Jones as an African dictator seeking medical attention to Princeton Plainsboro.
This episode has far reaching consequences for the rest of the season with Chase
having severe difficulties reconciling the 'do no harm' part of the Hippocratic oath
with his gut reaction to use his position to prevent genocide by killing his patient.
Even if you haven't seen this, you can guess which way the episode goes.
By disc two, House is back and settled in at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
although without a medical license so he is basically there in an advisory capacity,
with Foreman in charge of the team. This arrangement suits House just fine as he
is still the de facto boss but has absolutely none of the responsibility. Chase's
murder of Dibala is really the elephant in the room that only he and Foreman properly
know about although House, being House, has a fair idea of what happened and Chase's
reluctance to say anything that's a massive strain on his marriage to Cameron who
basically suspects that he is having an affair.
In terms of developing the series and introducing characters, the dynamic between
Chase and Cameron leads to both of them quitting the team in order to save their
marriage whilst House desperately pursues Taub and Thirteen who try their best to
stay away but there was something about the cases that House brings in to Princeton
Plainsboro and offers as bait to his two former employees that has the seriously
reconsidering their decisions to quit.
As seasons go, this one is probably the best since the third as there is far less
of the 'team around the whiteboard' sequences, very few of the CG animation to show
you what happens inside the body and, with the season involving Foreman, Chase, Cameron,
Taub and Thirteen all vying for a spot on House’s team, there are so many fascinating
relationships to go on with. Additionally, you have House and Wilson and House and
Cuddy, who has now decided to settle down with Lucas, the PI that House first brought
onto the scene a long time ago.
It's hard to pick a favourite episode from the 22 in season six but, aside from the
first three which is just a tremendous piece of television, I found the most interesting
to be the 14th, '5 to 9’, which really shows you what being Dr Lisa Cuddy really
entails with early mornings, a sick daughter, an unreliable partner and all of the
administrative side of hospital life, particularly medical insurance. I won't pretend
to fully understand exactly what all the numbers and percentages mean and exactly
what Cuddy was striving for with the insurance company but I thought it was an extremely
interesting and revealing episodes that shows you a great deal about a character
who is normally only seen in her office, arguing with House or giving him something
to look out with her traditional low-cut tops!
Every single actor here shows why they are generally regarded in such high esteem,
particularly Lisa Edelstein, who continues to impress, and Hugh Laurie who shows
why he has taken over from Kiefer Sutherland as the highest-paid actor on American
TV, being paid an estimated $400,000 per episode.
There really isn't a low point in this season either and it finishes with such a
terrific episode and a great moment in House’s apartment which means the first episode
of the seventh season will be virtually unmissable.
There is an audio commentary on the episode 'Broken' involving director Katie Jacobs
and writers Garret Lerner and Russel Friend which is a very well delivered and revelatory
track with plenty of information about the sets, shooting and casting. As it involves
two of the writers and the director, they have plenty to offer about everything from
pre-production (including all of the research they did) through to the shooting and
where it fits into the season was a whole.
There are three featurettes to do with this episode:
Before "Broken", a 10 minute short that goes into a great amount of detail showing
the preparation from Hugh Laurie and the writer/director for the double episode to
open this season with input from director/executive producer Katie Jacobs. This
includes shooting locations and such things as Laurie having his hair cut and growing
a longer beard.
A New House for House (22:40, HD) just shows how much time and effort went into recreating
the psychiatric hospital on the set in Los Angeles rather than filming in the real
hospital in New Jersey. It really was a massive undertaking that illustrates the
massive resources that the crew for House M.D. have at their disposal.
New Faces in a New House (8:45, HD) is quite interesting as they go through the various
ways in which 'Broken' is different from just about every other episode of House
M.D. as, aside from Wilson, there isn't a single regular cast member so they needed
to cast about 40 entirely new actors for a different location and a narrative in
which there is not going to be a medical mystery.
Crazy CoolEpisode: Epic Fail (22:29, HD) focuses entirely on the visual effects
in the episode 'Epic Fail' in which there is a massive amount of CGI, with a huge
amount of the episode basically involving a computer game, and is a fascinating look
at one of the more unusual aspects of any episode of the show.
On disc three, there are two audio commentaries:
'Wilson' has Robert Sean Leonard and writer David Foster M.D. giving their opinions
on the episode which is entirely about the oncologist and House's best friend so
it is quite interesting to get Leonard's opinion on making an episode of the show.
Surprisingly, there is more dead air than I expected as they seem quite happy to
just sit there and watch the show yet it is still an interesting commentary track
that sheds information on this episode in particular and the entire show in general.
'5 to 9' fittingly has Lisa Edelstein joined by writer Thomas L. Moran and I just
wish that people would watch the episode immediately before providing a commentary
so that they are familiar with the content and don't really feel like sitting there
watching it again as is the case here. What they do have to say is fairly interesting
and well delivered but there is way too much dead air for my liking.
On disc four, you have 'A Different POV: Hugh Laurie Directs' (7:22, HD) which concentrates
on the episode 'Lockdown' on which Hugh Laurie made his directorial debut and it's
quite an interesting behind the scenes look at what it takes to actually prep an
episode and work out all of the various logistics about what it takes to direct a
45 minute TV episode. It's quite interesting to hear the feedback from the actors
about what it's like to be directed by one of their peers.
Disc five contains one audio commentary on the season's final episode 'Help Me' with
director Greg Yaitanes and technical adviser Larry Collins, a member of LA Search
and Rescue. Between them, the two guys barely take a breath and this is one of the
most interesting and well delivered commentary is that I've listened to in a very
long time; they've clearly said the best until last.
This was broadcast on TV in high definition so it makes perfect sense for it to be
given a Blu-ray release and TV has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, moving
from the typical 4:3 aspect ratio to the 16:9 widescreen format on virtually every
channel and now just about every major TV show is also broadcast in high definition.
Although House M.D. isn't the sort of show to really show off the benefits of HD,
it does benefit from the added detail with brighter colours during the surgery scenes
and an altogether more pleasing picture.
Just as the picture isn't necessarily the greatest use of HD, this is still a show
that benefits from the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, especially when there
are very busy scenes with people moving around, doors opening and closing and, during
the final episode, the surround sound used to great effect to really enhance the
claustrophobic feel of being trapped under masonry.
The use of Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' over the opening credits was a stroke of genius
and there are plenty of other pieces of source music throughout the season which
showed that someone really listens to a lot of great music and knows exactly where
it would fit into an episode. The show is also very well scored with the music used
to great effect to underscore the more emotional scenes and ramp up the tension when
someone's life is literally on the line.
If you have been watching and buying the previous five seasons of House M.D. then
this will be a season that you will add to your collection whether on DVD or Blu-ray
and, although the step up to high definition isn't as drastic as with some older
feature films, it is still a marked improvement over the previous DVD releases with
better AV quality and even something so minor as more episodes on a single disc.
This is one of the best seasons so far with a Vicodin-free House proving to be just
as effective, sarcastic and misanthropic as the one that was hopped up on painkillers!
As such, his relationships with his employees and co-workers are just as good as
they have ever been and when you bring in the great storylines that follow from the
end of season five, that you have something that is involving, amusing and utterly
brilliant. I'm just amazed that it hasn't been the recipient of more Emmy awards.