House, M.D.: Season Two
Most of us grew up watching doctors on television. After all, the medical series has been one of the most popular genres since families started to sit in front of the glowing tube for entertainment. We have come to expect something from these medically astute characters, extraordinary diagnostic skills, determination and most of all compassion. When watching the Fox series, House, we have to accept that two out of three is not bad. Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) may be one of the world’s leading diagnosticians but he is complete void of any emotion that even slightly resembles compassion for the sick human beings he treats. Dr. House makes being a misanthropic curmudgeon into an art form. He is hated by most people he encounters and for good reason. The cynical Dr. House has no internal censor, he finds flaws in others and wastes no time in letting them know. Even his team is quick to say that House is not exactly a ‘people person’. This team of young doctors put up with House because he is the best and there is a lot to learn from him. In the second season of the series they move forward somewhat and think that they can best the master in his own diagnostic game. The team consists of three doctors. There is Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) an immunologist, Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), a neurologist and finally Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) an intensivist. Trying to keep this motley crew in line is the hospital administrator Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) and House’s only real friend Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) the head of oncology.
House lives by one simple rule, people always lie. Usually, this results in an initial misdiagnosis that threatens the patient’s life. Very often the lie involves an extramarital affair that although the patient is unwilling to discuss House instinctively knows is going on. In one episode House suspects that his beautiful, young model patient (Cameron Richardson) is being abused by her father (Tom Verica). Above and beyond the medical problems there is also the moral and legal dilemma of whether they should confront the father and report the abuse of a minor to the authorities. Lies and deception are not limited to the patients it is running wild this season among the staff. Foreman and Cameron almost come to blows when Cameron discovers that Foreman published a research paper using her work. Her contribution was un-credited, of course. House also finds himself with a new and unwanted roommate when Wilson goes through a divorce. The scenes with the two of them at House’s apartment calls to mind the Odd Couple as the two try to remain friends while living together. At one point in the season the natural pecking order is disrupted when House is put on probation by Cuddy and Foreman is put in charge of the team, including a very disgruntled House.
This series could have easily degraded into the sickness of the week. The introduction of multi-episode character arcs and novel medical twists has kept each episode fresh. In one episode House notices many similarities between on of Cuddy’s patients and a patient that House was unable to save years before. House becomes obsessed with saving the current patient hoping it will provide some measure of relief for the guilt he has carried for many years. In order to Cuddy uninvolved he has Wilson keep her busy at a charity poker game. House finds the best way to make sure Cuddy doesn’t leave the table and check on her patient is to give bad advice to his friend and have Wilson lose.
In many ways this series is more a detective mystery than a medical show. There are many notable similarities between House and the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. They are both brilliant, able to see clues that others miss. Both are addicts, Holmes to cocaine and House to Vicodan due to ongoing pain from an injury to his leg. Both men have a great distain for others and have only one close friend. In each case that friend has the unenviable task of keeping their friend somewhat grounded in reality.
Some people may feel that the methodology used by House and his staff is unrealistic and on the verge of malpractice. In many ways it is a more accurate depiction of how a diagnosis is made. A doctor makes an educated assumption based on the symptoms and runs some tests. They then institute a treatment plan based on that and if the patient does not get better they try something else. In the series much of the misinformation comes from the realization of House’s axiomatic statement about lying. Since the patient rarely is truthful the doctor must rely on tests and observation to uncover the truth.
Hugh Laurie is absolutely perfect as House. The British born actor has been honing his craft for over thirty years and this experience shows here. Many may recognize Laurie from many BBC television series such as Black Adder. He adds depth to his presentation of House. This is extremely important to keep the audience coming back to watch a character that is written as completely unlikable. Laurie uses House’s addiction and problem with his leg to great advantage humanizing this really terrible person. There are also some scenes that show House playing the piano. This not only gives House a more human side but highlights the musical talents of Laurie. To offset the horrible House the series needs a softer, more human character. This is found in the performance of Jennifer Morrison. Morrison portrays Cameron as a brilliant and beautiful young woman that in many ways unable to be as detached as is frequently required by a doctor. She is unable to tell a patient that he is dying; her empathy gets in the way of her patient interaction. She is also repressed. When Foreman steals an article from her Cameron is not able to fully vent her rage. Robert Sean Leonard has the difficult task of helping the audience understand why Wilson would remain friends with House. The way he plays it Wilson sees beyond House’s façade to a man that really wants his patients to be well. Omar Epps has a powerful role as Foreman. He treads the thin line between being hated by his on screen co-workers and being accepted by the audience. He is ambitious and willing to push House to the brink every chance he gets.
As usual Universal has done very well in bringing this series to DVD. This second season set is well mastered. The video is presented in an 1.78:1 transfer. It is crisp and clear with an excellent color balance and contrast. The Dolby 5.1 audio is rich and realistic. The sub woofer when used punctuates the sound track. The rear speakers provide ambience that makes you part of the scene. This is not your typical television series. It is intelligently written, well acted and perfectly directed. If you haven’t seen the series this DVD set is the perfect way to introduce yourself. For fans this is a most have.