Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"House, M.D." Season Four

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I love "House". This was not a program I watched from its inception. I saw an episode in passing during its first season and as I recall I kind of liked it. It was not anything I felt compelled to watch based on that viewing though, and a couple of years passed.

Last fall, I found myself watching reruns on USA on Fridays while waiting for something to do. As I watched a few shows, I found that--while each episode had self-contained cases for House and Co. to solve--there was definitely a story arc of sorts that ran through the episodes. I found myself caring about what was going on with each character, which led to my renting every disc of each of the first three seasons over the course of what couldn't have been more than a month.

I devoured it. It appealed to me in so many ways, and it completely set itself apart from the procedural medical shows like "E.R.", or the far too personally centered medical shows like "Scrubs" or "Gray's Anatomy"*.

*Is anyone else bothered by the fact that "Gray's Anatomy" is just a drawn out episode of "Scrubs" without any of the elements that actually make "Scrubs" watchable**? Seriously, the show is marked by the same overly introspective voice-over from the young learning about medicine and life at the same time, and each episode of both ends with a ridiculously sappy moral to tie the episode up into a nice little bow, complete with a sappy montage set to some song by a band, generally a bad one like that horrible band, The Fray. At least, the supporting characters in "Scrubs" are really great, even if we only get them in small doses...
**And I don't want anyone accusing me of being a huge "Scrubs" fan, so I'll clarify here. Many times, the first two-thirds of a "Scrubs" episode are really great, only to be undermined by its moralization. Sure, there have been great episodes, "My Screwup" comes to mind (yes, I looked the name of the episode up), but far too often they're ruined by a far too wise J.D. voice-over that almost always takes a degree of omniscience that this cartoonish character simply doesn't seem capable of. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but it is a little frustrating to watch, and frankly it's driven me away.

As a character, Gregory House is such a captivating figure. He's such an unabashed asshole that his interactions with everyone he comes across make for both dramatic and comedic gold. His presence as what seems to be the only atheist on television is refreshing on a personal level. His egocentrism operating in conjunction with his drug addiction and his wanton disregard for rules create situations rife with opportunity to stick his finger in the eye of just about anyone, whether they deserve it or not.

All that being said, I was a bit leery of how Season Four would play out, since the Third Season ended with Chase being canned, and Foreman and Cameron leaving the team. I knew a bit about what was to take place in regards to reforming a team, but the Fourth Season was executed much more deftly than I could have imagined, especially when taking into account its abbreviation at the hands of the writers' strike last year.

The selection of the fellows of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine was amusing to say the least. Playing off the reality show phenomenon, the viewer finds Dr. Gregory House narrowing down his field of candidates via ridiculously manipulative games and fool's errands. He finds new, increasingly insulting ways to offend almost everyone on his team--for instance, Big Love and Cut-Throat Bitch are the names he assigns to a Mormon and a competitive female candidate, respectively, for fellowships. Within a few episodes, Drs. Cameron, Chase, and Foreman are back, with Foreman rejoining the team after having proven himself to have been tainted by House's ways. We also find House growing more and more curious about religion, which comes up even more this season than it had in the previous three.

When Wilson finds a companion despite his efforts to hide his romance from his best friend, that's when we are treated to House at his best. His juvenile attitude towards the relationship and the ensuing hijinx that ensue, including a Cuddy-mediated custody battle and multiple date crashes, are endlessly amusing, even though you do find yourself rooting for Wilson finding some happiness.

What is particularly outstanding, though, is the two-part finale, which for the sake of preserving spoiler-free viewing for those who may not have seen it. While being perhaps the most technically demanding pair of episode in the series' run, it is without a doubt the most affecting, mining depths hitherto unimagined from the show.

Where it goes from its finale is obviously yet to be seen, but I am waiting with baited breath for next Tuesday to roll around, and I will no longer wonder what the hell Peter King is talking about.

1 comment:

Weibel said...

I agree the finale was pretty damn good television. I don't like though how everytime they start diagnosing someone always thinks it is an auto immune disorder, how many auto immune disorders are there?

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