House has been a huge success story for the FOX Network, and thankfully it's one of the shows that actually didn't get cancelled unnecessarily right out of the gate. This series is a gem that has been entertaining the masses since 2004 with its medical mumbo-jumbo and narcissistic protagonist. That's five years of mysteries House and his gang have been solving and all five of those seasons are now available on DVD. If for any reason you haven't seen the show though, let me fill you in on what it's all about!
The series came together from the minds of David Shore and Bryan Singer and sought to explore the medical world in ways that stuff like E.R. and Chicago Hope never did. For a while TV became saturated with medical dramas and in all honesty I had been burnt out on them for a number of years. Thankfully when House landed on the airwaves it was immediately a different style of show and it brought fresh air into an otherwise stale genre.
At the center of the action in House is none other than Gregory House M.D. (Hugh Laurie). House is a cynic and a curmudgeon with a Rubix complex who has a unique view on life brought about by his somewhat tragic past and addiction to pain killers. Some time before the series began he suffered from a medical condition that left him on the operating table having a cluster of dead muscles removed from his leg. This left him with a constant supply of pain, Vicodin, and a limp for the rest of his life. I'm sure your outlook would be a tad askew if you were in his situation as well, though it's revealed during the course of the show that he was basically always like this in some way. Despite all of that though House is an absolutely brilliant diagnostician who assembles a team of doctors to solve medical mysteries and help people (while often taking jabs at them I might add).
During the first three seasons House's punching bag assistants were Drs. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), Chase (Jesse Spencer), and Foreman (Omar Epps). As the show moved forward from there that trio were replaced by Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), Taub (Peter Jacobson), and Kutner (Kal Penn). All these cast members have remained through the fourth and five seasons in some capacity, and it's nice to note that Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) and Wilson (Robert Leonard) are still kicking around as well. Throughout the show no matter who the character is, House's relationship with them is roughly the same. He displays hints of friendship and understanding, and then strips them away with his defense mechanism of insults and harsh criticism. It's this personality quirk that gives the show its dark edge, but I must say that this fifth season is probably one of the darker in terms of overall content.
In the previous season's finale Amber was killed, Wilson more or less left, and House was beside himself over the loss of his best friend. We pick up the pieces this time around with Wilson still dealing with the death of his girlfriend. He really does quit and move away, which leaves House feeling unsettled. It's almost like he's missing a part of his life and he tries in vain to convince his friend to come back. Wilson eventually does, but there's a lot of talk about Amber's death and it takes the death of House's father to bring them back together.
Thirteen is also dealing with the fact that she is suffering from Huntington's disease in this season. She is brought to the brink multiple times and there's some development for her as she faces her own mortality. Taub deals with his failing marriage and despite his best efforts to keep his personal life out of the hospital House has a way of dragging those emotions out of him. In other dark news one of the main characters bites the dust later in the season, though I won't divulge exactly who. Let's just say that it comes as something of a surprise since you don't really see signs building up to it. So...with all of this death, what's there to appreciate? Frankly, quite a bit.
Out of the 24 episodes here there really isn't a bad one in the bunch. The show is focused on what it wants to do and where it wants to bring its characters, and the writers even have fun building upon the relationship between House and Cuddy at some point. Aside from the individual character drama each episode is written quite well and offers up some interesting medical cases for House's team to wrap their brains around. While some of the material feels a little too familiar at points, it's nice to know that there's quite the bag of tricks for the writers to dig their hands into. You'll never quite know what's going to happen and that's part of House's charm.
Overall this fifth season is a success and it's a nice change of pace for the series. In my opinion it's not quite as solid as some of the previous seasons, but it definitely holds its own and is not afraid to push the envelope. The risk taking is a nice touch, the darkness certainly feels haunting at times, and House's brand of humor never gets old. If you've been a fan of the series up to this point then you'll be quite pleased with what's here in the fifth season. If you haven't seen the show then, well, you're missing out on one of the better medical dramas ever to grace television.
If you have been following House on DVD then you already know how Universal messed up the presentation of the first season. Thankfully the seasons that followed had corrected anamorphic widescreen transfers and the same can be said about the fifth collection. The presentation of the series here is been, in a word, breathtaking. House is one of the crispest looking shows you're going to find on television and on DVD the transfer does the material a great amount of justice. The picture quality here is no less than immaculate with vibrant colors, an appropriate amount of contrast, outstanding clarity, and no digital artifacts of any kind. With the high production values it's no surprise that the filming of this show is as good as it is but thankfully the standard definition DVD maintains the quality. This is arguably one of the better looking shows available right now.
Considering House is a dialogue driven medical drama the presentation of the audio could have been simplistic and still get by. Thankfully like the video quality, the sound department was no slouch and this show constantly raises the bar for itself and others like it. The Dolby Digital 5.1 rings through with clearly defined sound that uses the soundstage intuitively. From the front channels to the rear the sense of immersion created by House is quite good with a nice balance all around. There are no defects of any kind with this release and the audio is about as clean as you could expect.
The bonus features for the fifth season of House are on par with what you'd expect from the show, given what we've seen before. First up is a six minute look at the milestone 100th episode, which features the cast and crew talking about how great it is to work on the show and how excited they are that it's been so successful. After that is an audio commentary for the episode "Locked In" with Writer/Producer David Foster and Writers/Executive Producers Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner. This is definitely a worthwhile commentary to sit through, and it made me wish there were more available for this season. Alas that's not the case so I suppose we should be happy with what we do have.
The rest of the bonus features are on the final disc of the set. "Keeping it Real: Accuracy in Writing" clocks in at just under eight minutes and looks at the medical mumbo-jumbo that is strewn together for most all of Dr. House's cases. "Dr. Mom: Cuddy's Storyline" is all about Cuddy's quest to be a mother and all of the ups and downs that accompany that. "Anatomy of a Teaser" shows the piecing together of a pre-opening teaser, which introduces us to the episode's patient. The final feature on this set looks at the bevy of guest stars who made their appearances in this season. This feature weighs in at just under eleven minutes and it's a nice retrospective on the show, but it's nothing you wouldn't really get from just watching each episode anyways.
The things I have enjoyed about House are still present in the fifth season of the show. The character drama is handled extremely well, the acting is top notch, and all around this season has some incredibly solid episode. While not every episode is a hit and some of the storylines don't feel quite right, this is a very stable season that is easily highly recommended. This is by far one of the most unique medical dramas ever and it's a testament to the show's quality that it can stay interesting even after 100 episodes. Here's looking forward to the sixth season and all the misanthropic viewpoints it may bring.
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