Everyone loves an anti-hero and few characters can claim that title with more self-congratulatory arrogance than Dr Gregory House MD, the troubled, socially-moribund lead to the best medical TV show still in circulation. Houses compelling personal story is the key to the success of that show, and its enduring longevity, especially considering the relativity high-concept that underpins its more human element, and the key in turn to that compulsion is an incredible performance of Hugh Laurie in the title lead.
The sixth season promised to further Houses story thanks to the finale of the fifth, which saw House headed towards a stay in a psychiatric hospital, a man broken by his psychosis and drug addiction. Opening with a feature-length 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest'-riffing episode charting Houses time among the padded walls, the season had looked to be furthering the glumness that had threatened to over-power the preceding season but it is with considerable relief, and no small amount of glee, that I can confirm that the quack-sleuth does indeed get his groove back, in the new to Blu-ray season release.
'House' is unlike anything else in the hospital genre where E.R. goes for episodic trauma-events, framed by human drama, and 'Greys Anatomy' plumps for hyperbole-like emotional drama, 'House' is like a composite of 'Sherlock Holmes' and the delectable 'Monk'. In introducing the mystery-negotiation element of medicine, while retaining a charming lead character with his arch, 'House' channels the spirit of the once-prosperous private detective genre and spins it with enough of that pseudo-science that grips the 'CSI' and 'NCIS' brigade of audiences.
The model for each episode is pretty simple: patient presents with mysterious symptoms, the first avenue of investigation proves to be a non-starter, everyone scratches their head, having wasted probably millions of tax-payers hard-earneds in their fruitless endeavours, then 'House' relates something minute/trivial he witnesses purely be chance of circumstance to the cave and solves it grumpily, before limping away. Doesnt sound all that good when broken down that way, though it does say something interesting about the show-creators opinions of conventional American health-care, but really, 'House' is incredibly good TV.
It might however be considered a dangerous decision to follow that formula, as it criminally undervalues the intelligence and diligence of the other characters, relying a little heavily on the bias towards House. To have every revelation based on trivially-informed epiphany (or so it seems) is also occasionally unfair on the audience, as it demands an enormous amount of forgiveness and patience of us at times. It even undercuts Houses own untouchable maverick status, because it asks us to accept that anyone could have solved the cases with the right inspiration, since intellect and technology perpetually fail. And yet, the show still succeeds.
That success is driven hard by the character work on display, and season six steps it up admirably, predictable focusing on Lauries House with almost an embarrassing bias, but then you play to your strengths. Aside from Laurie (who is a million charming miles away from the bumbling, gurning fool of 'Blackadder' days gone) the surrounding characters are just as good, and deal admirably with their fate of always playing second-fiddle (and inevitably being trumped by) their unstable leader. Robert Sean Leonard is excellent as Wilson, Houses best friend and colleague , who offers Lauries performance much needed balance, and the increased importance of Lisa Edelsteins Cuddy that is leading to its excellent conclusion in Season Seven, adds to that counter-weight.
In shows like this, it would be incredibly easy to make everything about House, especially considering the potential bounty offered by teaming an on-form lead actor with the fruit of an intriguing a story-line as the finale of season five and outset of six offered. But, credit to the writers, 'House' season six features some strong peripheral storylines , featuring his gaggle of willing, if put-upon side-kicks. Those story-lines especially the reappearance of Wilsons ex-wife offer much more than merely an arresting distraction from Houses story (and of course the medical mysteries), and that is down to the strong scripts and performances that bring them to the screen.
But really, it is Houses story that wins the final plaudits: the decision to make the season about his recovery is a dynamite one, as it plays to both Laurie and the characters strengths in giving him the right ammunition to play with. House is never better then when he is battling himself a vulnerable, broken man facing his demons, but still a cutting, sardonic bastard with the wit (if not the colourful vocabulary) of Peter Capaldis Malcolm Tucker from 'In The Loop'. But to borrow a little myself, 'House' is fucking genius.
Holy God it looks good. As with the stunning-looking lost transfer this TV HD presentation makes a lot of theatrical Blu-ray releases look shoddy by comparison. The picture quality retains the near-perfection of the broadcast HD it is immaculate and intricately detailed, especially in the medi-gore scenes and none of the usual suspects for bad transfer are visible. The sound is also just as impressive and clean really, I could rave about it for another thousand words, but wouldnt do the transfer the justice it deserves. Go and buy it.
All in all pretty good - though I would have preferred a commentary for every episode, especially considering how good the few that are included are. In addition the various interviews with Hugh Laurie show him to be an entertaining voice, which would have added to additional viewing of the episodes. My favourite of the mini-features included is the Before Broken short which focuses on the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, the setting for season sixs opener 'Broken'. It is directed by Katie Jacobs who begins with a good four minute introduction before the short begins- I'm always a huge fan of any original material included as an Extra, and this certainly doesn't disappoint.
Additionally, BD-Live including new featurePocket Blu which allows you to use your mobile to control playback as well as access bonus materials. My Scenes also allows you to bookmark any favourite scenes, and create your own clips. Pretty superfluous, but there's no harm in including features like this for those inclined to play about with such technical things.Disc 1: Before Broken: An Exclusive Original Short (10 mins) A New House for House (23 mins) 'New Faces in a New House' (9mins 'Crazy Cool Episode: Epic Fail' (23mins) side-by-side comparison of visual effects and storyboards for the episode. Audio Commentary for Episode 'Broken' Disc 3 Audio Commentary for Episode 'Wilson Audio Commentary for Episode '5 to 9' Disc 4: A Different POV: Hugh Laurie Directs (7mins) Disc 5: Audio Commentary for Episode 'Help Me'
Overall, the sixth season is a triumph, and rightly deserves the extra outlay required to pick it up on Blu-ray for the first time. And six seasons is nothing to be sniffed at, especially when the show consistently ups the ante against a bar the show-makers had already set impressively, and probably dauntingly high.
House: Season Six is available on Blu-ray now.