I last left House at the end of its sixth season on a bit of an up note, but also one of slight dread. Two of the main characters were consummating a relationship after a prolonged period of teasing and/or flirting, and ever since Anything But Love I've always been cautious as to how things like this pan out. Turns out it might not have been bad as I was thinking.
By this point, I'd hope we know all of the cast and characters within House. The title character is played by the always enjoyable (and Emmy adorned) Hugh Laurie of the Fry and Laurie comedy pairing. House is a gifted doctor whose inclination to get into trouble is only exceeded by his medical diagnostic abilities. He runs a team who is virtually unchanged when we left them in Season Six, starting with Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps, Higher Learning) and Dr. Chase (Jesse Spencer, Uptown Girls), and finishing with Dr. Taub (Peter Jacobson, What Just Happened). The only notable change during the season was that Dr. Hadley (a.k.a. 13) is played by Olivia Wilde, who took a sabbatical of sorts to appear in this summer's blockbuster Cowboys & Aliens. Her replacement was Dr. Martha Masters, a younger than usual medical student played by Amber Tamblyn of Joan of Arcadia lore. Her introduction into the mix made for an intriguing choice, and combined with what House was experiencing out of the hospital, seemed to breathe new life into the show.
Note: Spoilers from the Season about to be discussed. Abandon ye those who have not seen it yet.
House and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein, Daddy Day Care) finally got together after years of bureaucratic head clashing and crude remark-making, and House appeared to show some feeling and vulnerability in this relationship with her. This tended to veer into the sitcom-esque at times, particularly when Cuddy's daughter ingested some coins and House almost resorts to surgery to get them out so Cuddy won't notice. The relationship as soon as it starts almost seems destined to fail and it does late into the season, but next to what happened in Season Six, seeing House as a slightly caring and loyal boyfriend before spiraling into somewhat House-like behavior makes for some interesting material going forward.
Note: Spoilers gone, resume reading.
As for Tamblyn's addition to the show, while it's easy to play her as a pseudo Doogie Howser with a sense of innocence and naivety to what House and the team practice in the "Real World," she manages the balance of integrity from her own values to House's quite well. Watching her interact with him over the course of the season, getting exposed to the things he does, made for some of the best hospital moments House had. While her multi-episode arc ended shortly before the finale, I hope I'm not the only one looking forward to seeing her in a recurring role at some point down the road, should the show live long enough to do so.
That isn't to say the show's proclivity to serve as a revolving door for notable guest stars wasn't limited to the hospital staff. The familiar faces in this season brought their own acting chops to the show, but the best might have been Candice Bergen, who appeared as Cuddy's mother. The former Murphy Brown star did a great job of pushing both her daughter's buttons along with House's. Also Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) appears as a mother who did not have a great communication with her now-grown daughter but decides to have another child in her fifties, and this might have been one of her best performances in her slightly compressed career. With Taub's emergence in the cast, there is enough time to give some inroads to his character, his relationships and his emerging friendship with Foreman among others. It's clear that while House could have spent time putting all its eggs in the basket with its star, to see this rejuvenation of sorts by the supporting cast is encouraging.
That may be the best part of the show at this point, to be honest. While Laurie's character at the end of the season is in worse shape than he might have been at the beginning, those that work with and for House have been put into a position to succeed because of how well they work off of one another. Even if the show's leads follow a fate similar to the show I mentioned at the outset, there is enough talent among the cast to keep pressing on and replace House with an equally caustic head of diagnostic medicine should they need to. If the creative team has thrown all of the chips in the air as it might appear they have at the end of the season, they certainly know where they're going to land, and the show may be the better for it.
The Blu-Ray Discs:
The 23 episodes of House are spread out over five discs, but the packaging looks like only three discs are there, until you notice that the first four discs are stacked two at a time. All of the episodes appear in 1.78:1 for your viewing pleasure, using a VC-1 encode. I caught episodes of the show here and there on television during the season and they appear to be faithful reproductions of those, with image detail strong and clear in the foreground (with some background clarity to boot). Flesh tones and the show's color palette are accurate, and in some episodes when the show gets a little stylish (the episode "Bombshells" coming to mind with various nods to black and white and three camera sitcoms tossed in), the image holds up well. This is a clean and faithful reproduction of the show on Blu-ray.
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround on all the episodes. As in Season Six, the songs sound clear as a bell, and the dialogue is firm and consistent in the center channel. Not having seen the show on Blu-ray before, I could definitely pick up some low-end activity from the subwoofer and some smartly placed and effective channel panning (with ambient noise moving from front to back when characters are walking down a hallway) and directional effects. House might not get any awards for being a technical marvel sonically, but it's one of the more immersive soundtracks I've heard for a television show recently.
All of the discs include a U-Control function on all episodes, with each of the Picture-in-Pictures titled "A Beginner's Guide to Diagnostic Medicine," where the viewer learns about some of the illnesses mentioned in each episode, their origin in the body, where they might reach within the body and whom they affect the most. When enabled, the feature only pops up when talking about the more major conditions, and its lack of obtrusiveness is welcome when watching each episode. Aside from the Pocket Blu app and My Scenes features on each BD-Live enabled disc, the other extras are decent. On Disc Two, "Meet Martha Masters" (7:06) serves as the introduction to and synopsis of Tamblyn's character, as she also discusses the character and working on the show compared to other experiences. The cast and crew share their thoughts on working with her as well. "Huddy Dissected" (8:33) is where Edelstein talks about the hookup and subsequent relationship. It ventures into slightly spoilerish territory, so be prepared.
Disc Four holds the most extras, started with a commentary on "Bombshells" with Edelstein and executive producer Greg Yaitanes. Yaitanes recounts the shot intent and themes within the story, and mentions any specific production challenges that occurred during shooting. Edelstein discussed her approach to the episode and specific scenes, and the pair talk about the cast's efforts in the episode. There's even a small technical breakdown here too. It's a worthwhile track to listen to, but if you're not inclined, you can take it "Anatomy of an Episode" (23:21), which shows us the work put into "Bombshells," from Laurie's dance rehearsal footage to makeup and costumes for the other cast members. It's a solid piece that I hope other shows take note of for their top shelf episodes in a season. Moving along, "13 Returns" (4:45) shows us Wilde's triumphant in-season return, and a commentary for "The Dig" with writers Sara Hess and David Hoselton isn't as informative but is fairly funny, especially with lines like "you tell Olivia Wilde to eat some pie, she's gonna eat some pie" among them. Disc Five has a commentary on "Moving On" with Yaitanes and show runner David Shore as the pair recount story arcs in the season and the relationship between Cuddy and House. The track itself is dry but it's got some worthwhile information buried in it.
The seventh season of House certainly raised its game, to the point of likely drawing me back in as a regular viewer. I'm optimistic on the cast changes and the stories with the supporting doctors are interesting enough to keep attention. Technically the discs are solid and the bonus material is worthwhile enough, so if you're a longtime fan of the show who's strayed as I have, I'd jump back into this season with both feet, or in House's case, from a hotel balcony.