Being House — or House — has never been easy. Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is coming off a wee breakdown in which he had to kick painkillers and egomania. The series, now in its sixth season, is also facing challenges — like keeping its premise fresh while still shuffling around major characters and subplots.
The result is a hit show that frequently looks like it’s flailing, groping for new directions only to return to the cranky man with the cane and the stubble. Which is why we started watching House to begin with, right? To have Laurie make us understand that not all doctors are arrogant-yet-noble healers: Sometimes they’re brilliant, irredeemably arrogant healers who deserve to get punched occasionally.
We’ve been through the seasons in which the show soured into the Cameron-Chase daytimesoap- opera hour; we’ve looked through our fingers at the Cuddy-House wango-tango; we’ve drummed our fingers on our armrests as the show filled up with (and just as quickly eliminated) new characters. And recently we’ve endured the producers’ misguided notion that we want a Foreman-Thirteen romance to take center stage whenever guest stars like James Earl Jones aren’t being wheeled into the hospital with mysterious maladies.
The best thing that came out of the two-hour season opener that put House in a psychiatric hospital to overcome his addictions and his ego has been Laurie’s renewed zest in portraying an antihero who’s been humbled but not rendered brain-dead. House may have said of his job for the first time without irony, ”I need this in my life?. It’s a process; I’m learning.” But thank goodness Laurie scoured that dialogue of any mawkishness or self-pity.
And finally — finally! — House has made a home with his true soul mate, Robert Sean Leonard’s superb Wilson. Since moving in with Wilson as part of his healing process — well, that and the fact that Wilson is the only one who’ll put up with him — House has a new spring in his hobbled step. They’re not an odd couple, they’re a made-for-each-other couple. As they sit around and diagnose each other’s emotional temperatures via subtle physical clues and ”tells,” you’re reminded of the original inspiration for this series: the tales of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, solving mysteries with a similar method.
In fact, the Oct. 5 episode, with its subplot about House grappling with the mystery of Wilson’s hostile amputee neighbor (David Marciano, Billings from The Shield!) was a virtual blueprint for a whole new, superior series. Every week, House and Wilson solve a crime, using their observational skills while sniping over each other’s faults.
Murder, They Argued. Or, Stop, You’re Killing Me. I’d watch it. Would you? B