Universal // 2006 // 1044 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel MacDonald (Retired) // September 13th, 2006
"Do I get bonus points if I act like I care?"
Ratings- and critical-darling House returns for its sophomore season, promising new insight into the eponymous self-absorbed doctor and his trio of subordinates.
He wouldn't have a job if he wasn't right so darn often...
Pill-popping Doctor Gregory House (Hugh Laurie, Black Adder) specializes in mysterious cases no one else can figure out, both leading and relying on the three doctors working under him, Chase (Jessie Spencer, Uptown Girls), Cameron (Jennifer Morrison, Mr. and Mrs. Smith), and Foreman (Omar Epps, Juice). Keeping him in check is his boss, Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelestein, Keeping the Faith), and newly regular, after guest starring in Season One, hospital lawyer Stacy Warner (Sela Ward, The Day After Tomorrow).
Things are never easy at the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital; over the course of the year, House faces a broad range of bizarre maladies, including a death row inmate's heart problem, an overly brave nine-year-old cancer patient, and a police officer that can't stop laughing. At the same time, he must deal with his ex-girlfriend, now married to someone else and working at the hospital, respond to Cameron's lasting affections, manage his addiction to painkillers, and hang on to his only friend, Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard, Dead Poets Society).
And it's not just House who gets all the action: Cameron faces an AIDS scare, Chase has to account for a patient's death which may have been his fault, and Foreman takes a turn as a patient relying on House to save him.
All in all, it's 22 gripping episodes of medical and personal drama; betcha can't watch just one! Spread over six single-sided discs:
* Humpty Dumpty
* TB or not TB
* Daddy's Boy
* The Mistake
* Failure to Communicate
* Need to Know
* Skin Deep
* Sex Kills
* All In
* Sleeping Dogs Lie
* House vs. God
* Euphoria -- Part 1
* Euphoria -- Part 2
* Who's Your Daddy?
* No Reason
If you ever find yourself in Princeton-Plainsboro, under the care of a limping, abrasive, t-shirt-wearing grump who, after throwing down a few Vicodin, tells you he's figured out what's wrong and you're going to be fine, you'd better ask how many commercial breaks have gone by before listening to him -- if you're not in the final act, chances are you're going to get a whole lot worse before you get better.
The fact that House can be so formulaic, and yet so well regarded, is a testament to its sharp writing and solid acting. I can imagine it might get a bit old in a few years, but for now, every episode feels fresh and unpredictable despite the (nearly) inevitable ending.
One of the joys of the series is in discovering what new way House will find to be darkly funny, cold, and uncaring, and he's given lots of opportunity here. For example, the season premiere finds Cameron in denial about a cancer patient's terminal status, and House is ruthless in pushing her to admit the obvious. But this season we also get to see how he has influenced the rest of his team. Cameron, Foreman, and Chase all get the opportunity to deceive their patients, act in their own best interests, and challenge their boss in ways we haven't seen before, adding a lot of depth to their characters and making for great television.
In a lot of ways, House is more of a character study than a medical drama, since often the epiphany that leads to solving the case comes from one character telling another a truth about his or her personality. It's amazing, really, that the show can get away with such blatant psychoanalysis, but it does.
Season One featured one episode that really stood out as phenomenal ("Three Stories"); here we get several, with "The Mistake" and "No Reason" arguably packing the biggest punches. But throughout the season, the secondary stories often take precedence over the main medical mystery, offering some great insight into the characters and keeping viewers on their toes. Especially interesting is having House simultaneously punish and flirt with Stacy, the woman he blames for his chronic pain -- this storyline reveals a subtext of how troubled he really is, and what kind of baggage he is carrying into each patient's room.
Much praise has been heaped on Hugh Laurie for his searing portrayal of the titular character, and he really is remarkably watchable for such a dark, uncompromising individual. But it's nice to see the other actors really get to stretch their legs as well, as this is a strong cast who ravishes the material. I only hope series creators don't try to add too many secondary characters in future seasons, as I think that could water down the show's potency. Guest stars LL Cool J (Deep Blue Sea), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), and Ron Livingston (Office Space) are all well used, but I'm glad familiar actors don't show off their chops by playing patients in every episode.
This is a beautiful DVD presentation, with each episode in razor-sharp 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and featuring Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. I wish every show looked this good on DVD. Special features are sparse, but have some bright spots: the "Valley Girl Versions" of a couple of scenes find Cuddy and Cameron sounding hilariously dumb, "An Evening With House" is a somewhat-insightful Q&A session with the cast and executive producers, and the two audio commentaries (on "Autopsy" and "No Reason") are worth a listen, even if producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs spend a good deal of their time describing the events on screen. The blooper reel, on the other hand, is pretty forgettable, as watching an actor blow a line then smile at the camera is only funny for so long.
As mentioned, there is a pretty rigid formula in place here, where the team will think they've solved the case five or six times before they are actually right, so it might get old after a few more seasons. For now, though, most episodes have enough twists and turns to keep viewers guessing.
One of the most consistently strong shows currently on TV, House: The Complete Second Season will keep you up later than you planned, since you'll always want to watch just one more episode. Recommended.
I acquit House: The Complete Second Season of all charges.
Review content copyright © 2006 Daniel MacDonald; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1044 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* An Evening With House
* Blooper Reel
* Alternate Takes: The Valley Girl Versions
* It Could Be Lupus...
* Producer Commentaries
* Official Site