House M.D. is one of those rare shows. You know, it's one of those shows that FOX hasn't cancelled yet. And do you know why FOX hasn't pulled the plug? It's really freaking popular!
Since 2004 House has been going strong with a powerful cast and a selection of writers that have attempted to stay ahead of the curve. The series has rejuvenated itself several times since it started, from a shakeup of the cast to taking its characters in different directions than one would expect. The tone of the show remains largely intact, however, and House today is more or less the same House as when the series started (though maybe he's less of a dick).
House focuses on the life of Gregory House M.D. (Hugh Laurie), who is the lead diagnostician at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey. He's not only a brilliant doctor, but also a cynical curmudgeon with a Rubix complex. Every episode sees him taking on a bizarre medical case that nobody else can solve so he can flex his diagnostic muscles. In between the bits of medicinal mumbo-jumbo House also finds time to belittle his team, sexually harass his boss, and see, and expose, the worst in everything and everyone. There's something to be said for the brutality of his honesty.
Joining House's diagnostic ensemble is a cast of characters including doctors Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), Chase (Jesse Spencer), and Foreman (Omar Epps). A couple of seasons back the series also introduced Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) and Taub (Peter Jacobson). Aside from the team that House abuses every day, there's also his boss Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) and his best friend, and all around nice guy, Wilson (Robert Leonard).
Like the previous seasons of House, the episodes in the Sixth live up to expectations. I don't want to come right out and call them formulaic, but when a patient comes in, the exact same stuff almost always happens. The medical mystery perplexes everyone at first and they throw ideas out to see what sticks. A treatment is decided and fails. Rinse, wash, and repeat. Eventually House figures out what's wrong and stops whatever he's doing to reveal his "ah ha" moment. It's a formula that never really grows stale, but one certainly can't say their surprised that it happens. The biggest draw for the series in this season actually isn't the medical bits at all; it's the character development.
At the start of the season House is institutionalized in a mental hospital. His medical license has been revoked and as a part of his attempts at getting it back he's going through rehab for hallucinations and his addition to Vicodin. He's also trying to turn a new leaf with a new belief system that if he does good things for people, then karma will reciprocate. The only thing is House's method of doing things nicely isn't necessarily clear to see and it's quite a long time until he begins to see the fruits of his labor.
On one hand he's Vicodin free now, but on the other he's living with pain in his leg that's growing every day. Part of his suffering is psychological now, but ibuprofen and alcohol take the edge off just a bit. Considering he's newly released from a mental institution, his friends don't want him to be alone. And by friends, I mean Wilson, who takes him in and gives him a place to stay. As the season moves forward the relationship that House has with his coworkers also changes somewhat. It's subtle, but there are nice things nestled in between the insults and abuse. Don't worry, House hasn't gone completely soft. He's just embraced some of his humanity.
Other characters get their time in the spotlight as well. Everyone has some storyline or another that is explored extensively here, and for the most part the developmental bits carry on from episode to episode. Thirteen is really the only one who doesn't have much work done on her in this season. By the end there are some cards left up in the air, but there are only a few things that leave you itching to know what happens in the seventh season so what happens here is mostly self-contained.
Aside from the overall plot of House trying to be a better person and do the right thing, the season is packed with great moments that stand out for some of their more peculiar moments. For instance, House, Wilson, and Chase go out for a round of speed dating, which is utterly hilarious. Then there's House, Chase, and Foreman going out for drinks and karaoke in another episode. A Cuddy specific episode is worked into the season where we are able to see what she does in the day while House isn't hitting on her. And then there's an episode where House discovers Wilson was in a porno. Awesome!
House M.D. Season Six is a success. The medical angle isn't quite as sharp or as enticing as it was, but the interpersonal drama has really stepped it up a bit with some nice development of the support cast. Granted that elemental was always there, yet somehow it feels stronger in this season. As House explores himself and attempts to change who he is, he inevitably gets more involved with those around him. If you've been following the show to this point, then all you need to know is that House is every bit as sharp, fun, and witty as it's always been. Highly Recommended
House is presented on Blu-ray with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This season comes with a 1080p high definition transfer with VC-1 encoding. To be frank, House has always looked good. Whether it appears on TV or home video, the show has had an impressive streak. On Blu-ray the series looks even better in every category. In fact, I'd almost go as far to say that this is the best the show has ever looked and it's a near perfect transfer.
From the first episode to the last House is consistently sharp and detailed. Close-ups are a staple in the series and the smallest features really hit home here. Every bit of stubble on House's chin comes through with remarkable clarity, you can literally count the hairs left on Taub's head, fabrics really stand out, and Thirteen...well, let's just say Olivia Wilde looks great in HD. No grain or artifacts are present anywhere and the black levels are rich. Really the only ding in the transfer is a little bit of softness that creeps in from time to time (all part of the production). Overall the show is impeccable looking and stands out as one of the best TV to Blu-ray transfers I've ever seen.
A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is House's main source of sound here. The quality of the sound is good with razor sharp dialogue, a nicely balanced presence on the soundstage, and moments where the LFE truly makes its presence known. The audio here is pretty much crystal clear across the board. The only thing that is a bit of a letdown is the sense of immersion. Because dialogue takes the center stage nine times out of ten, the audio package really isn't given many opportunities to flex its muscles. Sure there are moments where the rear channels are implemented nicely, but by and large they are given the task of subtle background noises.
The sixth season of House comes with some solid bonus features nestled within its five Blu-ray discs. For starters there are four audio commentaries to go through for the episodes "Broken", "Wilson", "9 to 5", and "Help Me". These vary greatly in terms of quality and commentators. All feature some production crew talking about the show, though "Wilson" and "9 to 5" include Robert Sean Leonard and Lisa Edelstein. Hugh Laurie is unfortunately missing from all these commentaries, which is a shame. I'm sure he has some fascinating insight on his character and the show.
The other bonus features here run the gamut when you're talking about quality. Lighter inclusions such as "A Beginners Guide to Diagnostic Medicine" offer picture in picture descriptions of the diseases and symptoms talked about on the show. There's also "A Different Point of View: Hugh Laurie Directs" (7 min), which looks at the actors attempts to sit in the big chair as well in the episode "Knight Fall". Another mediocre featurette is "Crazy Cool Episode: Epic Fail" (23 min). This one looks at the special effects that went into making the video game segments of the episode.
The final three features all focus on the episode "Broken", which introduces us to House in Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital. "Exclusive: Before Broken" (10 min) is a little clip that was shot unscripted at the hospital before the sixth season even began filming. "A New House for House" (23 min) looks at the location used for filming in "Broken". And finally, "New Faces in a New House" (9 min) introduces the other patients at Mayfield and examines House's mental state.
Some things in House are beginning to feel a little old hat. The formulaic manner in which episodes find themselves structured and medical mysteries are solved is getting a little tiresome. Fortunately the shift in focus more towards the characters and their personal drama helps stave off the sense that House has lost its edge. This season wasn't the greatest by any means, but it was very entertaining with several highlights. I really appreciated the direction House's character is taking and the way things are left up in the air at the end really leaves you wondering what happens next. This Blu-ray release also happens to feature some outstanding picture quality, solid audio, and a nice helping of bonus features.
In the end this is a release that's really only for folks that have been watching the show. If you haven't seen seasons one through five, then there's no point in starting with six. The show as a whole is highly recommended, and I'd still go with a high recommendation for this season as well. Sure, it's not as sharp as it used to be, but House is still a blast to watch!