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House - Season 1 review

Hugh Laurie in House

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5


HUGH Laurie became an unlikely sex symbol and a household name in America, following his incredible transformation in House.

Armed with a very bad attitude, a sympathetic limp and some ‘designer stubble’ to rival Miami Vice’s Sonny Crockett, the British actor created a loveably roguish presence as the grouchy star of this top-notch medical series, complete with a convincing US accent.

He has rightly been showered with accolades, for Laurie’s performance remains the highlight of an intriguing, if quickly formulaic show that was part-created by Bryan (X-Men/The Usual Suspects) singer.

The format is simple. Dr Gregory House is a brilliant, if difficult, diagnostician and physician who must solve a new medical mystery each week with his team of sceptical medics – Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer), Dr Eric Foreman (Omar Epps) and Dr James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard).

The conditions are always life-threatening and never obvious, calling upon all of House’s brilliance to help save lives.

Yet as much of a genius as House is considered, his gruff bedside manner (which is practically non-existent) and brutal honesty continually place him at odds with his colleagues, as well as hospital boss, Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein).

The resulting episodes are frequently fast-paced affairs that mix high-tension (ER-style), with acerbic wit that can frequently have you chuckling out loud.

Season one provided a cracking introduction to House and his team and season two (currently airing on Channel 5) looks set to maintain the high standards while taking a few more risks with the format.

The pilot episode had you hooked from the outset, featuring a kindergarten teacher (played by Robin Tunney) who suffered fits and collapsed at the start of the episode. Her subsequent diagnosis involved plenty of twists and revealed a tumour that might only give her a week to live.

Yet it capably set into play House’s ability to offend and delight in equal measure, frequently telling patients what they didn’t want to hear, while toying with his colleagues in the process. Under Laurie’s expert performance, the doc became an enigmatic presence – someone who had you gasping ‘he can’t say that’ on several occasions, but who you’d want by your bedside in an emergency.

Unlike more straight-forward medical dramas, such as ER, House takes on a mystery element so that each episode becomes a race against time to save a life. But while the format threatened to become rigid and repetititve, the characters are so richly drawn that even more mundane cases are enlivened by the banter that exists between the doctors.

What’s more, with House’s lack of emotion there was a great balance between the black humour and the emotional impact of some of the more poignant episodes. House does care for his patients but his sentiment is always kept in check by his cynicism, thereby ensuring that the show never drifts into the kind of mawkish sentimentality that a lot of US entertainment is guilty of.

Season one highlights included episodes such as Maternity, in which a virus sweeping the hospital infects six babies, forcing House to make some tough choices that may compromise the lives of some of the infants; Damned If You Do, which centres around a nun who believes she may be suffering the stigmata; DNR, in which House goes head-to-head against a legendary jazz musician (played by Harry J Lennix) who has signed a ‘do not resuscitate’ order; and Detox, in which House comes off his Vicodin for a week following a bet with Dr Cuddy.

The series was at its absolute best when pitting House against someone who gave as good as they got. Hence, a story arc late on involving a battle of wits between House and billionaire Edward Vogel was brilliantly played, heightening the drama and overall power of the series (especially when Greg was asked to decide on which of his colleagues to fire).

The last two episodes of the season also succeeded in shedding some light on House’s own injury, while also bringing back the love of his life, Stacy Warner (Sela Ward), paving the way for her continued presence during the second season. Season finale, The Honeymoon, ended things on a particular high as House had to cast aside his personal feelings to diagnose Stacy’s new love.

The arrival of this hugely entertaining series on DVD can only be good news for those who have missed out on another high-quality US import. It’s well worth owning as House’s investigations are sure to deliver the goods many times over, leaving viewers in good health.

House (Season 1) Certificate: 15

  1. Brilliant article, sums the series up superbly. This is one of the only true British funnymen to have really captured the imagination over the water!

    PETER MCCORMACK    Mar 3    #