House, M.D.: Season Four
In the fifties and sixties the medical drama ruled the airwaves. Each week doctors like Ben Casey. Kildare and Marcus Welby would make their house calls directly to our living rooms. For the most part they were friend, kind, caring and empathic to their patients and co-workers. While this format lasted on television for decades a few years ago a new kind of TV doctor appeared; Dr. Gregory House as played by British actor Hugh Laurie. In every way possible he is the anti-Welby; sort of the evil version of the good doctor from some alternate universe. This series represents a new view of the medical profession. Back in the old days doctors were godlike men who swooped in and healed the sick. Now, there are more medical malpractice actions than ever and doctors are reduced to mortal professionals. The old doctors had a stethoscope, a thermometer, little rubber hammer and maybe a circular mirror atop his forehead. With those meager and primitive tools they were able to diagnosis, treat and cure just about any aliment presented. They were general practitioners who considered the patient as a whole. Now, we live in the age of specialties. Every doctor concentrates on only one aspect of the human physiology. We also are in a time where technology has permeated every aspect of life. This is especially true of medicine where there is a plethora of tests available in the medical arsenal. This series reflects this modern attitude. The doctors presented here are all too human, capable of making mistakes. They depend on all the modern medical technology and devices around.
Along with this shift in the methodology of the series comes a paradigm change in the way it is presented to the audience. House is more of a mystery than anything else. The creator David Shore has mentioned that this is a medical version of the Sherlock Holmes franchise. This series has the disease as the villain and House and his team hot on the trail to solve the mystery. If the patient survives and gets well all the better but the main thing is the chase. Gregory House is a miserable excuse for a human being. His is a misanthropic, misogynistic drug addict. The only reason why his boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) keeps him on staff is one simple fact; he is brilliant and the best diagnostician in the business. In the last season House had to come to grips with his addiction to Vicodan. He takes it because of chronic pain due to a disease of the muscles of his leg but has come to realize that it is a serious problem in his life. In this forth season House has to life with the repercussions of crossing a police detective obsessed with bringing him down. Houseís only real friend is Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) the head of oncology. He is the opposite of House, compassionate and enjoys the company of other people. Actually his fault is that he tends to become involved with terminally ill patients. In many ways Wilson is the voice of reason and conscience for the acerbic House. Like many modern series this one combines season and even series long major arcs with the disease of the week. This does give the show a little touch of soap opera but it is so well done that it comes across as acceptable.
At the end of the third season House was left without a staff. He fired intensivist Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer). Previous he had started a Ďfriends with benefitsí relationship with other team member Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), an immunologist. She had a relationship of sort with House and often was the only one coming to his defense. She quits the team along with the third member neurologist Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps). Both Chase and Cameron return to staff positions in Princeton Plainsboro Hospital; Chase on the surgical staff and Cameron in the emergency room. Forman has a rougher time. He takes a position in another hospital only to get in trouble for an unorthodox treatment plan. Although it saves the patient they administration feels he is too risky to keep around. Foreman discovers that his training with House has poisoned his prospects anywhere else. Finally he gets a position in Princeton Plainsboro when Cuddy hires him basically to keep an eye on House. This does provide a major change in the dynamic of their characters relegating them to advisory roles for their potential replacements instead of going head to head with House.
Speaking of the replacements House has three slots open on his team but takes on forty doctors. Naturally he canít just interview potential replacements since that would be the way Cuddy would want. House makes the candidates where numbered signs around there necks and either refers to them only by their numbers or some derogatory and demeaning nick name. He turns going through the process into parodies of several reality game shows by making the candidates perform humiliating tasks and voting them off. Finally he narrows the field down to ten and the competition begins to get personal. One candidate, Amber Volakis (Anne Dudek) is a radiologist who will step on anyone to get one of the open positions. In the final throws of the competition she is denied the position but stays around as Wilsonís new girlfriend. When Foreman is rehired the number of slots falls to two. The winners were Dr. Chris Taub (Peter Jacobson), a plastic surgeon and Dr. Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn). Taub resigned from a lucrative private practice after an affair with a nurse. Kutner is fast to brown nose House and generally goes along with anything he suggests. Cuddy feels that House should have hired a woman and forces him to rearrange the salaries so he could hire Thirteen (Olivia Wilde). She is an internist who has been diagnosed with the potential of Huntington's disease. There is also some conjecture that she is bisexual. Even now that the competition is over House refuses to use her name referring to her only by her number.
The season was cut short by the Writerís Guild strike cutting the number of episode in this season from the usual 24 down to only 16. the season did end with a bang with House in a bus accident unable to remember the details of someone with a disease that needs his help. He endures a drastic, life threatening procedure to help him remember setting up a season cliff hanger. Even with a short season this set is well worth having. It represents some of the best writing, direction and acting television has to offer. Hugh Laurie may have made a name for himself over in England for his musical comedy talents but here he shows the full scope of his considerable abilities. His comic background does translate to a dark humor that pervades the series. In this season there is a grater concentration on the character development than before. This is one of the best series out there and deserves being added to your DVD collection. Fox brings this season set to disc with an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer and a robust Dolby 5.1 soundtrack.