Monday, September 21, 2009

House Reborn in Season Six?

A quieter, change of pace, nonetheless satisfying two-hour premiere of House, Season 6, on Fox tonight. House may be the most brilliant show on television - in fact, I think it is - with the astonishing logic of misanthropic Gregory House, MD, often playing a central role, and the occasional glints of almost genius of the doctors on his team also in the mix. It's medical mystery, angst in the extreme, and jab in the gut humor, like no other show on television.

Tonight's start of the sixth season had almost none of this - none of the regulars except a brief phone conversation with Wilson, no strange medical conditions all but inexplicable to everyone except eventually House. What it did have was Andre Braugher (of Homicide fame) as the head shrink Dr. Darryl Nolan in the mental institution House voluntarily committed himself to at the end of last season. Nolan moves from arch antagonist who won't give House the letter he needs to practice medicine again (it was great to see Braugher vs. Hugh Laurie as House), to a friend and supporter. House gets his letter, and in the process has a semi-normal start of a relationship with Lydia (played by Franka Potente, who was perfect in The Bourne Identity, as she was in this episode of House), who unfortunately is married. But this was probably the most normal we've ever seen House, certainly for most of two hours.

How did House get there? The suicide of Kutner was a little more than his tenuous grip on reality could take last season. Just for the record, I won't be surprised if somewhere along the future line it turns out that House's initial insistence was right that Kutner was murdered, after all. It's also worth noting, as everyone in our world outside of television knows, that Kutner had to leave the show because Kal Penn accepted a post in the Obama administration as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. This was consistent - if contributing a lot more to the public good - with a connection between House and our real world that runs through all of the show like a live wire, with House revealing to the real world of viewers the identity of Keyser Sose in the The Usual Suspects (don't worry, I won't), cracking wise about Heroes (which runs opposite House on NBC), and more in just Season Five.

But what will happen now in Season Six? Is House truly cured of his vicodin dependency, has he really found a way to handle his daily pain and deal with unexpected pain without resort to that little bottle? In the past, such liberations have always been temporary. Because, if permanent, we would have had a significantly different character from the flawed, troubled genius who has been such a commanding, exhilirating presence over the past five years.

The series has been so superb, so far, that I'm betting whatever way House goes, we'll find him no less provocative and riveting. And I'll be reviewing every episode right here.

8-min podcast review of House

The Plot to Save Socrates

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