Judge Clark Douglas is both a misanthrope and a genius. Well, just a misanthrope, actually.
Our reviews of House, M.D. Season Two (published September 13th, 2006), House, M.D. Season Six (Blu-ray) (published August 31st, 2010), House, M.D. Season One (published August 22nd, 2005), House, M.D. Season Three (published September 5th, 2007), House, M.D. Season Four (published August 19th, 2008), House, M.D. Season Eight (Blu-ray) (published August 21st, 2012), House, M.D. Season Five (published August 25th, 2009), House, M.D. Season Seven (published August 30th, 2011), House, M.D. Season Seven (Blu-ray) (published August 30th, 2011), and House, M.D. Season Six (published August 25th, 2010) are also available.
Genius has side effects.
Facts of the Case
Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie, Jeeves and Wooster) is a misanthropic, reclusive, physically impaired, pill-addicted, rule-violating diagnostician who frequently attempts to get away with doing as little work as possible. However, he also happens to be an unmatched genius in his field, and he has proven time and time again that he is capable of unraveling even the most mystifying medical anomalies. His boss is hospital administrator Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein, The West Wing); his best friend and sole confidant is Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard, Much Ado About Nothing). Over the years, House sees a host of capable staff members come and go: Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer, Uptown Girls), Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps, E.R.), Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison, Once Upon a Time), Dr. Chris Taub (Peter Jacobson, Transformers), Dr. Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay), Dr. Remy "Thirteen" Hadley (Olivia Wilde, Tron: Legacy), Dr. Jessica Adams (Odette Annable, Cloverfield) and Dr. Chi Park (Charlyne Yi, Paper Heart). Welcome to eight seasons of rampant misdiagnosis and brilliant course-correction.
By the time House, M.D. limped to the finish line with its eighth season, many had grown disillusioned with/disappointed by/bored with the once-magnificent show. After a host of fake-outs and quickly-rescinded dramatic developments, people grew weary of seeing the same old thing over and over again. The show never really managed to take any truly bold, lasting steps to shake up the formula and transcend its roots as a standard-issue network medical procedural. Elements of the show were so good that it seemed like it eventually just had to become something greater than a formulaic doctor show. No, House, M.D. never truly plumbed the depths of its lead character's failings to the unflinching degree of The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, but you know what? It was a pretty terrific formulaic doctor show.
So many episodes of House, M.D. essentially follow the same formula: a patient with some unusual condition will come in, someone will have to persuade House to take the case, House makes a bold diagnosis that turns out to be completely off-base, a host of wild theories are explored and finally House lands upon the real solution. See you next week, everyone! The structure does get a little old after a while (particularly when you're working your way through a marathon viewing session—the patterns become just a bit more prominent), but the show generally works thanks to the sharp writing and impressively inventive plotting. Sure, you know that the first diagnosis will probably be wrong, but the inevitable twist generally manages to be reasonably surprising, anyway (perhaps it would seem less so if I actually knew anything whatsoever about modern medicine, but such knowledge might spoil the fun in an entirely different way).
Regardless of all of that, the primary reason to watch the show—and arguably the only reason to watch the show during its weaker stretches—is the performance of Hugh Laurie as the title character. There's a reason the show is called House, M.D. and not The League of Extraordinary Diagnosticians: the title character is such a compelling creation (a tormented, embittered, caustically funny variation on Sherlock Holmes) and Laurie's performance so pitch-perfect that the show often manages to seem significantly better than it really is. Laurie owns every scene he appears in, and consistently brings a sly, dark energy to even the crummiest of plot strands.
Looking back, it's a wonder that Laurie was ever given the role in the first place. Nothing in his earlier work suggested he had a performance like this contained within him; the foppish, frantic comic figures he portrayed in the earlier years of his career (often alongside the great Stephen Fry, who really should have guest-starred on this show at some point during its run) are generally the sort of people Dr. House would have despised. Even so, his magnetic turn remains fresh and engaging throughout the entire series, as Laurie's work never feels lazy or repetitive (which simply can't be said about many characters who have a run this long, including quite a few on this show).
There's nobody who can match Laurie, but a shiny silver medal goes to Robert Sean Leonard as House's pal Dr. Wilson. Leonard's charming, understated work and easy-going chemistry with Laurie remains one of the show's long-lasting pleasures, making their scenes together a highlight of many episodes (particularly later in the run). Omar Epps—though often underused—is the effectively steady anchor of House's team in most seasons, and Lisa Edelstein's warm, weary work as Dr. Cuddy is exceptional (though it must be noted that her presence sorely missed during the show's erratic final season).
Now, onto the reason you're all here: what does the House, M.D. The Complete Series box set contain that you can't get with the individual season sets? Well…almost nothing, to be honest. The DVDs contained are actually the same DVDs that have been available for years, and each season gets its own slim, plastic DVD case. All eight seasons are housed inside a sturdy cardboard box that features some rather grim-looking pictures of House's smirking visage. The only new thing you'll get is a nice little booklet that contains a few choice quotes from assorted cast and crew members, a full episode list and some behind-the-scenes info. Otherwise, you won't find any new retrospective documentaries taking a comprehensive look back at this long-running program. It's disappointing to see a show that was once such a huge part of Fox's identity being given such a half-hearted send-off, but that's showbiz for you.
All eight seasons of the show have been expertly reviewed by a host of DVD Verdict Judges over the years, so I'll guide you to their efforts if you're curious about the specifics of the video, audio and supplements offered. In short, everything looks and sounds about as solid as you would expect from a DVD release of a modern TV show, and the supplements are a pretty typical mix of occasional episode commentaries and fluff-heavy featurettes.
Like its protagonist, House, M.D. is entertaining, deeply flawed and generally manages to get the job done in spite of its sizable mistakes. Regardless of the show's ups and downs, Laurie's magnificent portrait of the good doctor has earned the actor a permanent spot on any list of great 21st Century television characters. This box set doesn't offer anything new, but it's the best option for someone who hasn't bought all or most of the individual seasons yet.
Fox is guilty of failing to give one of its more memorable shows of recent years a proper retirement party, but the show itself is free to continue providing viewing pleasure for many years to come.
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