Blu-ray Review: HOUSE Season 7 Throws Some Curve-Balls, But Retains All of its Charm

The seventh season of Hugh Lawrie's hit diagnostic medicine show arrives to the home release market in high-definition, and it's another strong showing.

It doesn't seem two minutes since the sixth season of Hugh Laurie's brilliant medical detective show landed on shelves, and now we have another beautiful looking high-definition season to add to our collections (though still no seasons 1 - 5 yet) with number seven now available to buy. The development of this seventh series outing for House and his team-members was far from clean-cut, with initial plans to have the inimitable doctor on the road scrapped in favour of a safer road closer to the familiar model that has kept fans coming back in the droves since the first show aired back in 2004. Seven seasons is an impressive feat for a show that has such a tight, simple formula - patient presents mysterious symptoms, the first line of inquiry turns up fruitless, despite the huge amounts of money wasted, everyone looks suitably baffled and then our rough hero appears with a very coincidental discovery that solves everything. And in the process also undermines the worth of his entire "special investigation" team. House is of course a genius very much in the maverick mould: he is a wild-card, but everything he achieves professionally, no matter how outside the rules his methods are, confirms his downright brilliance. Crucially for his enduring success, House is also an anti-hero: he is flawed beyond redemption but his charisma is hugely cool as well as pitch black at times, and while it is easy to swerve towards disliking him at moments, it is never ever possible to hate him. And rather cleverly season seven presented something new to shake up the character more than we have seen before: the writers offered a tantalising hint that he might actually be allowed happiness and normalcy. The biggest question of the season is whether House is capable of sustaining a real romantic relationship after advancing things with Cuddy by admitting love, but fans will know, given the underlying issues the good doctor suffers from, and his idiosyncracies when it comes to normal levels of social and personal engagement, that that isn't quite the right question. While we are lead to believe that House wants to be happy, his philosophical rest-point - which can perhaps best be called uber-cynical - the enjoyment of that relationship is firmly framed by the knowledge that this was to be co-star Lisa Edelstein's final season and our experience of House so far. So basically, we watch, perversely waiting for the bomb to drop. And credit to the show's writers, they handle it all brilliantly, never compromising the character when he is acting atypically, and always casting an eye towards that imagined explosive moment that is realised finally, and brilliantly in the final episode. The simple formula works so well because of the performances on show - Laurie is incredibly good, and exudes confidence and charisma, and he is surrounded by a very strong wider cast including the excellent Olivia Wilde (though her appearances were limited thanks to other career concerns and a storyline that accommodated them), and other show stalwarts Jesse Spencer, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Lisa Edelstein and Peter Jacobsen. Truth be told, the season's successes are chiefly down to the same reasons the preceding six seasons have enjoyed so many accolades and sustained quality - tight episodic story-arcs, a very strong supporting cast and the charming inquisitive nature of a modern, skewed Sherlock Holmes. Fans will continue to adore it for exactly the same reasons they've stuck with it thus far. But not everything has remained the same: the title sequence is the first thing to feel the inevitable grip of redevelopment (and the loss of Jennifer Morrison's credit), but there is an obvious move to also give those who are still included in those credits some more focus. To facilitate, and as a product of his finally realised love affair with Cuddy, House isn't always as centre-stage as he usually is, and his fellow investigative saw-bones are forced to grab more focus as he is distracted from his duties, which changes the entire dynamic for most of the season. And the ultimate game changer at the end of the season means that little is likely to be the same into the eighth season - because given how 7 ends, that simply can't be an option. With Olivia Wilde off making a film career for herself (and looking infinitely beautiful all the time), the show also welcomes in new character Martha Masters (Amber Tamblyn), a medical student who temporarily plugs the gap in the team. Masters matches House in the intelligence stakes, but she also offers some more explicit balance to him, as her strict moral code and dedication to ethics allow her to stand up to her fearsome leader in a way that has never really worked before. She's a great new addition while she lasts (she disappears sadly when Wilde returns), though the decision not to keep her around is perhaps justified considering how large the wider cast already is, and how difficult it would be to offer enough focus to a new character for a sustained period. Overall, it's another great season - with an inevitable slight drop in form that always follows high-numbered seasons, but House has done an awful lot so far to make sure that that particular development is arrested as much as possible. There are some new elements here, and while the "new House" who appears for a good deal of the season is not quite as iconic as the tougher, meaner usual one it is nice to see some innovation in a show built on such a water-tight formula. But again, it is those old characteristics, and the old dynamics between characters that continues to make House a hugely watchable show, and it those features that will have already determined whether you're a fan or not. Quality Much the same as the sixth season blu-ray, which means the transfer is about as good as TV boxsets get, with a wonderful film-like quality and a general clarity and high quality that would put most film releases to shame. Colours, detail and textures are all stand-out, even despite the shows usually muted pallette, and there is very little to distract from what overall is a massively impressive visual transfer. The audio, likewise is outstanding: dialogue is clear throughout, atmospherics are pitched perfectly and musical tracks match the quality of the visuals without exception. Overall, very very strong, once again. Extras It is an enormous shame that Universal could only find space for three episode audio commentaties, considering there are 23 eps in total in the series, but then they're not always the greatest at putting a package together based on track record, and the fact that they insist on sticking with an awful looking menu design across the board. Other than the commentaries, there are a few behind the scenes bits and pieces, though most feel a little on the promo side, and there is a fairly diverting Anatomy of an Episode featurette. Not a huge amount for an entire season by any means though. U-Control: A Beginner's Guide to Diagnostic Medicine (HD) Disc 2 Meet Martha Masters (HD, 7 mins) Huddy Dissected (HD, 9 mins) Disc 4 Audio Commentary #1 €” Episode "Bombshell" with director Greg Yaitanes and Lisa Edelstein (Cuddy). Audio Commentary #1 €” Episode "The Dig" which features writers Sara Hess and David Hoselton. Anatomy of an Episode: "Bombshell" (HD, 23 mins) Thirteen Returns (HD, 5 mins) Disc 5 Audio Commentary €” Episode "Moving On" with David Shore and director Greg Yaitanes. House Season 7 is available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD now.
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