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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » House, M.D. - Season Two
House, M.D. - Season Two
Universal // Unrated // August 22, 2006
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted August 10, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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In 10 Words or Less
The best formulaic show on TV

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Hugh Laurie, "House," mysteries, dark comedy
Likes: Companies that learn from their mistakes
Hates: Needles, Non-anamorphic widescreen

The Story So Far...
Executive Produced by Bryan Singer, "House, M.D." follows the medical misadventures of Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), a genius diagnostician with a bum leg and addiction to painkillers, who hates people and loves puzzles. Working with his team of doctors and annoying the hospital administrators, House tackles the toughest cases, where no one can figure out what's wrong with the patient. Focusing more on solving the mystery than the action in the operating room, the show tempers the drama of a medical show with House's sarcastic humor, and mixes in some intriguing relationships among the doctors. The first season was released on DVD in August of 2005, and DVDTalk has a review here.

The Show
As I said above, I love "House." I think the writing is great, the production values are terrific and the cast is just about perfect. But for all that is good about the series, I fully admit that the show is formulaic. The opening scene features some sort of spastic fit or other dramatic medical problem, House's team diagnoses the problem and starts a treatment program. The treatment then fails, a new diagnosis is made, a new treatment is started, and that one fails. Finally, they chance upon another solution, and save the patient (or not.) Sprinkle in some clashes or clinches between the hospital's staff, and you've got a "House" episode.

Despite the show following a formula, it's one of the most engaging series on TV, mainly because the characters are so deep and the medical mysteries are so interesting. You may know where the show is going, but you have no idea how it's going to get there, and you don't know what's going to happen to the characters. Even the star of the show isn't immune, as he struggles with his drug addiction and his attraction to his ex Stacy (Sela Ward), while dealing with the red tape that keeps interrupting his work. Though severely disconnected from the world around him, with the exception of his unwelcome roommate and colleague Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), he is the show's center, as he's effected by everything, but barely lets it show, using sarcasm to cover plenty of pain.

House may be the star, but without his team, the show wouldn't work, as their compassion and positivity balances his curmudgeonly attitude. They also provide additional points of view on the cases, and add to the show's complexity. Whether it's Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) and her empathy, Foreman (Omar Epps) and his by-the-book techniques, or Chase (Jesse Spencer) and his internal conflicts, they all have a huge effect on the series and its stories. Each gets a chance to shine in the spotlight, as Cameron faces the possibility that she's contracted HIV from a patient, Foreman is debilitated by disease and Chase copes with a death he may be responsible for. These challenges are not one-episode storylines, as they permanently change the team and change how they approach their jobs and patients.

Some of this season's episodes were true stand-outs, for both the medical aspects and the continuing storylines. One of the best of the bunch is the stunning "Sleeping Dogs Lie," in which a woman dying from insomnia can be saved by a transplanted organ from her girlfriend. The story plays out to be much more intense than what lies on the surface and the doctors face some tremendous ethical dilemmas that are capped off by one of the most disturbing emotional endings possible. It's challenged for the title by the religion/science conflict at the center of "House vs. God," which sees House attempting to cure a faith healer, and the drama of the two-part "Euphoria" which sees Foreman's life placed on the line.

Though the series is often gripping in its depiction of the life and death medical cases, the show is frequently hilarious, as seen in the love/hate relationship between House and his administrator Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). It's mostly in the tremendous delivery of Laurie, but House has lines that are incredibly politically incorrect and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. His exchanges with Foreman, who never backs down, are hilarious, including a give-and-take about race and office supplies. The way the comedy balances the serious nature of the plots makes the series so real, well-rounded and enjoyable.

Though there's much to like about most of the episodes in this set, the finale brings together everything this season put into play, in a show that twists reality and gets to the core of who House is. When House is confronted by the husband of one of his former patients and comes face to face with the way he practices medicine and its effects, it redefines just who the good doctor is. It also changes him, in a way that won't be revealed until the show returns for its third season. Despite the cliffhanger, its an effective ending for the season, as it's the culmination of the characters' growth and the investment fans have made by following the show for these 24 episodes. It also has one of the more disgustingly gory subplots the show has seen, proving once again that the show pulls no punches in trying to tell an entertaining story.

Hey, Isn't That...
Among the guest stars in the second season of "House, M.D." are Ron Livingston (Office Space), R. Lee Ermey, Howard Hesseman, Charles S. Dutton, D.B. Sweeney, Elias Koteas, LL Cool J and Cynthia Nixon ("Sex and the City").

The DVDs
This time around, Universal has graced us with six four-episode discs instead of just three, though the packaging, a three-tray, three-panel digipak in an embossed, spot-coated slipcover, remains mostly the same. The digipak has an episode guide on it, with descriptions and info on extras. The discs have static anamorphic-widescreen main menus offering a choice to play all the episodes, select individual shows, view special features, and adjust languages. There are no audio options or closed captioning, but there are subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.

The Quality
On the first-season DVDs, Universal screwed the pooch by releasing the show with letterboxed widescreen transfers. Thankfully, they learned their lesson, and this time we get to see the show in glorious anamorphic widescreen. The transfers are just excellent, with crisp detail and bright, vivid color and a complete lack of dirt and damage. I really could find nothing wrong with the video on this disc.

The audio is delivered as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, which feature crystal-clear dialogue and strong music and sound effects. The surrounds are used mainly for emphasis, and not dynamic presentation, but the powerful source music creates some very enveloping moments when used during the show's emotional montages. There may not be panning, but it all sounds good.

The Extras
Before we dive in, a quick note on the extras menus. These discs feature a nice touch, as all of the extras for the set are listed on each disc, with the current disc's content made clickable. This is much better than those discs that list special features on the main menu and then say "See other discs for special features. Having this on-screen guide is very handy and very appreciated.

The bonus features are much improved this time around, starting with a pair of audio commentaries by executive producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs. They cover the second episode, "Autopsy," and the season finale, "No Reason," and provide a good deal of behind-the-scenes info and some joking as well. The choice of episodes was good, and the conversation is friendly enough to keep things lively, making the tracks an enjoyable and informative listen for the show's fans.

Disc Two holds a cute five-minute blooper reel, in which the cast flubs their complicated dialogue and curses like sailors (all of which is bleeped.) There are some giggles here, especially in Laurie's reactions to screw-ups and Epps' cut-ups. That's followed by a collection of clips that run a bit over a minute, which show how often the team brings up Lupus in this season's episodes. The purpose is a bit lost on me, but that probably has more to do with me knowing someone with Lupus than the content itself.

Also on Disc Two is a great alternate take from "Daddy's Boy," listed as "The Valley Girl Version." Edelstein and Morrison perform the scene with their best airhead impersonations, making it extremely funny. This must be something these two actress do for fun, as Disc Five has another example, from "Sleeping Dogs Lie." When I saw these listed, I hoped for a Valley Girl performance from Laurie, but these were entertaining anyway.

Disc Six holds the remaining extra, "An Evening with 'House.'" Filmed at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and hosted by critic Elvis Mitchell, the 18-minute featurette is a stage Q&A with Bryan Singer, Paul Attanasio, Leonard, Shore, Jacobs, Edelstein, Morrison, Spencer, Epps and Laurie. The creation of the show is the main focus, and you get a solid background on how the series came together. Though it's "found" material and not intently done for this set, it's a really good supplement to the series.

The Bottom Line
After a few episodes, it's pretty easy to guess how the show will progress, but the terrific writing and fantastic cast keep things fresh and prevent the series from getting bogged down in the jargon and technical aspects of medicine. It's hard to not get hooked, if you can get past the blood and guts, and this season went a long way in terms of developing the world of House and advancing the characters' personalities, while delivering a couple of incredible stories. The DVD set presents the show in top-notch quality, FINALLY, and improved on the first-season extras, showing that Universal raised their game after fumbling the ball with Season One. Fans of the series will definitely want to own this set, and those who wonder about the show's hype should check it out.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter

*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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