Universal // 2006 // 1050 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 5th, 2007
Take it from me: it's not lupus.
Fox's dynamite hospital hour-long returns to DVD for its excellent third outing. I know some folks think the show made some narrative missteps, but for my money House remains one of the finest shows on TV.
This year, anti-social medical genius Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie, Flight of the Phoenix) faces his biggest threat yet to his pushy, bullyish lifestyle: a police officer (David Morse) committed to pushing back. This is the central storyline of the third season, and Morse's Detective Tritter acts as the touchstone that affects all of the major players. Tritter is an attack dog, and for the first tine, a worthy adversary to House. But as this external pressure grows, all is not right within the uber-doc's professional sanctum, as Doctors Chase and Cameron (Jesse Spencer and Jennifer Morrison) test the relationship waters and all-star neurologist Eric Foreman (Omar Epps) considers his future at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
I'm a huge fan of this show. It's one of the few series on television that I'll be actually upset about if I happened to miss an episode. The first two seasons were excellent, highlighted by Laurie's constantly improving characterization of the titular role, but the writers really shook things up with the introduction of the Tritter storyline. A quick perusal of the fan message boards reveals that it wasn't a terrible popular thread, but I think it was by the strongest mini-arc in the show's young history, eclipsing the Chi McBride-centric, overbearing CEO plot from the first season and the estranged-lover-back-in-his-life-starring-the-beautiful-Sela-Ward story from the second. Morse is a top-shelf talent, of course, and his character provides a prism from which to view House objectively. As a series-long fan, I was surprised by how much slack I gave to the crotchety doctor and creator David Shore and his writers shrewdly developed this arc to provide an outsider-looking-in view of the doctor -- and show that, really, the dude is an insufferable prick.
But he's funny and he saves people and he's a remarkably complicated creation and that's why the show works so well. While the supporting cast is across-the-board strong (shout-out to Robert Sean Leonard as House's best friend and emotional foil), the success of the series can be deposited in Hugh Laurie's lap -- as well as the Shore's, who is committed to pushing the character, even if it means he's getting pushed towards the Land of Supreme A-holes. House definitely came off as more heartless this season. In the startling "Fetal Position," his remarks about an unborn baby are shuddering -- but there is, on the other hand (pun intended), a jawdropper of a payoff to this. But tracing his behavior back to the beginning of the Tritter storyline, what House did to set the whole thing in motion, was horrendous. And let's not even address the brain tumor fiasco. The man deserves at least a moderate amount of scorn, but because of the deft writing and characterization, I think the audience is able to look past the big-ass warts and embrace the anti-hero (much like what happens with Vic Mackey in The Shield, to digress way out to left field).
As far as the show itself goes, the medical mysteries, which drive the plots for each episode, are satisfying. The House formula is still in play, where a patient is wheeled in, usually bleeding from the anus or some other exotic orifice, House and his crew tag-team the ailment to no avail until about the 50-mnute mark, where a light goes off in House's head, and he lands the correct treatment in time for the show-closing song of the night. To his credit, David Shore acknowledges the format in the "Anatomy of a Show" featurette on the fifth disc, and insists that it's not the end that is compelling, but the journey. I agree with him. Ninety percent of the time House wins, but it's the buildup, the interactions between him and his patients and colleagues, that reveals the rich character work. Plus, the mysteries themselves are really cool.
Another straightforward DVD release by Universal, featuring no-frills packaging and menus systems. Episodes, transferred in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen look good, though I'm spoiled from enjoying the show in high-definition this season. Still, picture quality is sharp and clean. The 5.1 surround mix is a nice inclusion, despite the front-loaded nature of the dialogue-heavy audio. Music and the inevitable ICU alarms fill the room, however.
I like the extras. The aforementioned "Anatomy of an Episode: The Jerk" is the highlight, featuring interview from the cast and crew and taking an in-depth look at the show as whole, using one episode as a starting-off point. Also, you'll get some tasty tidbits about next season. Two shorter behind-the-scenes segments, looking at the prop department and the production office, are okay and a feature on Hugh Laurie's "Band from TV" music group (along with Greg Grunberg from Heroes) is a lot of fun. There's only one commentary, on the episode "Half-Wit," from Shore and executive producer Katie Jacobs. Finally, a standard-issue blooper reel with z-z-z-z-any!!! music rounds out the dosage.
Without giving too much away, I'm fairly concerned about what the finale has wrought for next season. But Shore has earned my trust, so we'll see...
House continues its stellar track record of elite character work and engaging medical procedural drama. Hugh Laurie does some of the best work on television.
Not guilty. Just keep that lumbar-puncture needle the hell away from me.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; 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: 1050 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Producers Commentary
* Anatomy of a Show: The Jerk
* "Band from TV" Feature
* Props Featurette
* Production Office Tour
* Blooper Reel
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict Review of Season One