Starring: Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jesse Spencer, Peter Jacobson, Odette Annable, Charlyne Li,
Running Time: 960 minutes
Extras: House M.D. Swan Song, a look at House and Wilson’s relationship,
Apparently this HOUSE is kind of a big deal. Before reviewing the show for this site I hadn’t seen a single episode, but like many things that ingrain themselves in popular culture, I am aware of a number of traits that go with the show. Before watching I knew the show was about a cranky doctor that lacked people skills and walked with a cane. So far, so Kerry Weaver from ER. I also knew the show was about a crack team of doctors that solved bizarre illnesses that always turned out to be something other than their first 10 guesses. Oh, and they always suspect Lupus, but it’s never lupus.
WOW! For a show I’ve never watched, I certainly know quite a lot about the setup. I guess that shows just how popular this series has become over its eight year run. This is the eighth and final season of the show and I have to say it does a grand job at keeping itself open to newcomers. Never once did I feel lost or confused by plot points or character history. The season opens up in prison, which isn’t something I was expecting. House (Hugh Laurie) is serving time for driving a car through his ex’s house, as you do. He clearly has people problems, is very smart, and never goes for the obvious answer. His interactions with fellow prisoners show that he is also a man of pride, and is ready to risk a shanking so as to save face.
By the second episode he is out of prison on parole and returns to his old place of work. His ankle bracelet is a constant reminder of how close he is to returning to the big house if he ever steps out of line. However, House always steps out of line and I was never convinced he was going back behind bars. House hires two misfits to work with him until he can raise a budget for his division. There’s Dr. Jessica Adams, played by the beautiful Odette Annable and Dr. Chi Park played by the kooky and adorable Charlyne Li. These two have strong, but almost cartoonish characteristics. Adams love giving to charity, but only in the sense that it makes her feel better. Park is more suspicious of the world and has a unique view on every situation. For a few episodes these guys are at the forefront and a nice little bit of chemistry comes about. I loved seeing them grow, especially since I too was new to the show. Then House gets his funding and brings back old team members. Even for new viewers we get to learn about them pretty quickly.
The show, like many medical or crime shows, is very episodic. Sitting and watching the series as a whole became a disorientating experience, as I began to be able to predict every beat. Someone falls ill through mysterious circumstances, doctors guess at illnesses, they try a few remedies which make things worse, they search the patients house, they think everything is solved, they’re wrong, and then they work it all out in the nick of time. Seeing that 21 times, over and over again was repetitive and kind of infuriating. I guess that’s one of the dangers of DVD box sets rather than watching a show once a week.
Meanwhile there’s a lot of drama going on between House and his clan. He has a best friend that feels used and is dying of cancer, House’s old protégé is now his boss, one of the doctors has two babies with two different women, and House is pretending to be married so a woman can get a green card. The human drama is often interesting and can navigate around the slightly predictable cases, but not always. Best of all is when House purposefully manipulates his team just for fun. It becomes a battle of wits, which adds a lot of humour to each episode.
I can see why HOUSE is so popular. Each episode is intelligently written with a lot of wit and great verbal sparring. The characters are lovable, even if they aren’t always nice people. The performances are also very impressive, as each character goes through a number of different arcs throughout this season alone. The very end of the series had me baffled somewhat. I saw House acting in a way that wasn’t hinted at throughout the rest of the season. Suddenly dead or past characters were there to give House advice, and the final scenes were simply a bit silly. That’s the problem with such a formulaic show, when it does decide to go off the rails, it just comes across as bizarre. It’s the kind of show I could easily watch every now and again, and wouldn’t give a huge audible sigh if a friend put it on the box. At the same time, I think I’ve had enough House to last me for a year or two.
Extras: The extras include three behind the scenes looks at the show which come across as more of a moving photo album for the cast and crew. Hugh Laurie takes us around the sets and interviews the cast and crew in House: A Swan Song. It is a piece of self congratulatory fluff, but I’m sure more dedicated fans will get a serious kick out of it. There’s also a piece that looks at House and Wilson’s relationship.