Universal // 2009 // 967 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 31st, 2010
A light at the end of the tunnel?
Ah, House. Last we saw you, you were walking towards the imposing, dreary form of a psychiatric hospital, having completely bottomed out and unable to cope with your drug addiction. It was a downer way to end things. Can Season Six turn that frown upside down?
The season opens with a feature-length premiere, and it's completely different than any House episode that's come before it. It's all about Hugh Laurie (who plays the titular doctor) and his experience in the rehab/psychiatric facility. Tinged with a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest flavor, the show takes House through an extended arc; where he interacts with fellow patients (often with disastrous results), spars with the staff professionals and, finally, gains himself an epiphany that sets up the momentum for the remainder of the season going forward.
On tap: more shuffling of House's diagnostic team, divorce, murder, adultery, the return of Wilson's ex-wife, a security lockdown, Hugh Laurie's directorial debut, speed dating, unrequited love and lots and lots of blood vomiting.
I'm not one for the emaciated Hospital Genre, but House does it for me. Since the beginning, I've been on board with David Shore's creation. The "Sherlock Holmes" approach to negotiating medical mysteries grabbed me from the beginning and even though House's methodology has rarely deviated in the six seasons he's been at it: some poor schmuck gets wheeled into the hospital, he or she shows befuddling symptoms, House and his crew think they have it figured it out, it's a dead end, they run more tests, usually a bone marrow biopsy or some other horrible procedure, another dead end, they rule out lupus and, finally, just before the episode ends, House sees something trivial that gives him an epiphany and they realize that the victim was bitten by a bird or something.
As predictable as this game-plan is, it's still interesting. But what has driven the engine of House so effectively these seasons and, specifically, Season Six, is the character work. Laurie is always center-stage and that's good; the man continues to peel back layers of House with each season -- really, each medical case -- revealing new aspects. Surrounding him is a strong arrangement of supporting characters, headlined by Robert Sean Leonard's Wilson, House's best pal and counterweight, Lisa Edelstein's Cuddy (the object of House's affection) and the Scooby gang of sidekicks, some (Foreman and 13) less interesting than others.
For House, this season is one of recovery, as he attempts to move past his reliance on pain medication and transition to a semi-normal life of love and monogamy. Thankfully, that doesn't mean House is boring. He's still a snarky jackass and cooks up schemes this go-round that rival anything he's done before. But it is a welcome evolution of the character, and the finale features a dramatic tonal difference than the cappers that have come before. Also, lots of good stuff on the periphery, my favorites including the fallout from a crazy Chase decision, the return of Wilson's ex-wife and Taub's goofy rationalization for adultery.
Universal's Blu-ray presentation is top-shelf, starting with the high-quality 1.78:1 transfer. The picture quality is comparable to the broadcast HD, clean, clear and detailed, pushing out the shocking blues of Laurie's eyes and the rich, thick consistency of the puked blood and sinew. A strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix complements the picture nicely, despite the show's emphasis on dialogue and ambient score. Blu-ray exclusive extras: a featurettte on the visual effects for the episode "Epic Fail" and a pop-up bit that explains the exotic diseases featured in the episodes, which is actually kind of a nifty addition. Orthodox extras: "Before Broken," the original short prequel to the premiere, episode commentaries and featurettes on Hugh Laurie's directorial debut, House's new house and new characters.
This season features my least-favorite episode of the series run: "5-9," the stultifying Cuddy-centric episode that features an insurance negotiation as the main dramatic element.
The show still engages. House is still the man.
Not Guilty. And, again, not lupus.
Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 967 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Pop-Up Diagnosis
* Short Film