Wednesday, September 03, 2008

House still rules

(WARNING: Don't read the following review if you haven't seen Seasons 1-3 of House.)

The end of House, Season 3 saw the adorably antagonistic diagnostician Gregory House losing all 3 of his "ducklings" (as fans of the show fondly refer to the trio). Foreman resigned, Chase was fired, Cameron also quit, and the latter 2 officially became an item. The season finale left viewers wondering what was to become of the show and its dynamics, with only the certainty that House would return as snide, sarcastic, and supremely brilliant as ever.

Season 4 kicks off with the beleaguered Dr. Cuddy, Dean of Medicine at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, and the long-suffering oncologist Wilson, House's BFF, urging House to hire new fellows. House decides to undertake the search for his disciples reality game show-style, starting with a big group of candidates and pitting them against each other, testing their skill and mettle as they help House solve the medical mysteries that come their way. House brutally fires candidates at the end of each episode a la Donald Trump, gradually narrowing the field to his favorites. The process is crazy but effective, as only House can pull off, and it is thoroughly entertaining, notwithstanding --indeed, perhaps because of-- Cuddy's consternation.

House eventually picks out 3 new ducklings (and I'm pleased with his choices), but thankfully we haven't seen the last of his original 3 acolytes. Foreman, Chase and Cameron are still around, with marked changes in their personalities that show how working with House the past 3 years has changed all of them, for better or worse. I especially like seeing how Chase is clearly enjoying no longer being House's whipping boy, and it gives him the masculinity he needed to be upgraded from cute to hot. I don't like Cameron as a blonde, but I like her better now that she's no longer mooning over House. Foreman is coming to terms with the internal struggle between his respect for and resentment towards House, and it is amusing to see how he resists becoming like House, yet thinks and acts like him more and more.

Of course some things still haven't changed: House's complete disregard for Cuddy's authority, his continued dependence on and abuse of Wilson's friendship, his horrible bedside manner, his Vicodin addiction, and his uncanny ability to get to the bottom of even the most complicated, puzzling medical cases. Season 4's House is a bit more of a loose cannon than he was in previous seasons, but as in Season 2, his softer side slips through the cracks in his armor of cynicism ever-so-occasionally. My favorite episodes are "Frozen", guest starring Mira Sorvino as a psychiatrist stationed in the South Pole who's having debilitating abdominal pains, and possibly the first patient House shows a genuine personal concern for, and the terrific 2-part season finale, which features a conflict that will put House and Wilson's friendship to the ultimate test. Next to the loony twosome of Boston Legal's Alan Shore and Denny Crane, House and Wilson have the most fascinating best-buddy dynamics on TV today: one's a self-centered, needy, abusive junkie, and the other's a patient pushover who thrives on neediness. Watching them's like watching an old married couple who banter and bicker and basically can't live without one another.

It's a relief that House is one of those rare TV series that don't lose their charm after 2 or 3 seasons. Just when I was afraid it would turn stale, it shook things up by throwing in drastic and dramatic plot twists, introducing new characters, and giving old ones new dimensions to keep them interesting.
Props to the writers of the show, who keep the teleplays engaging and the dialogues full of the ripostes, retorts, and ruminations we have come to expect from and love about House and company. Above all, though, the show is anchored by Hugh Laurie's prodigious acting talent: House is a product not only of the show's creators, but of the humor, intelligence, and depth Laurie lends to the character (not to mention his flawless American accent). I find it outrageous he has yet to win an Emmy for playing this role. Maybe, hopefully, this year?

And after the Emmys, Season 5! I really hope House and Wilson work things out, they make such a cute couple...


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