Having detoxed from pain-killers, Dr Gregory House (Laurie) is released from the psychiatric institute he’s been staying at and attempts to get his old life back, returning to Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital to practice medicine once again…
House without vicodin and attempting to be a better person? Say it isn’t so! But yet, after last season’s jaw-dropping finale where everyone’s favourite grumpy Doc checked himself into a crazy ward to kick his pill-popping drug habit, that’s the prospect we were left with. Happily though, like previous years the potentially game-changing cliffhanger doesn’t alter the show for the worst – it merely adds a new layer. Our stubble-wielding, sleuth-like diagnostician might try out new means to stifle his recurring leg pain (including, wait for it… cooking), but he remains one of TV’s most watchable enigmas. If not, TV’s most watchable enigma.
Any such fears of overall declining quality are also quickly laid to rest, as the dark, double-part opener Broken is among the best in the show’s history. Taking place entirely around the psychiatric institute, this One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-ish two-header barely features the supporting cast, but sets the tone: despite the bluster, our hero is in need of help. Plus, by now any deviations from the usual weekly formula (patient comes in, misdiagnosed 23 times, House stumbles on answer in moment of genius) are more than welcome.
Predictably, we’re swiftly back to illness-of-the-week format soon after, but there’s also a few other variations to the normal formula. A Wilson-centric episode here, a Cuddy-centric episode there, it’s nice to change the format now and again. That said, whilst we gain new appreciations for both Robert Sean Leonard and Lisa Edelstein’s characters, having Hugh Laurie in the background – even briefly – just doesn’t feel right. After all, his sarcastic medical genius is the main reason we’re watching (sorry everyone else), as demonstrated again in the utterly-gripping, crane collapse finale. Is it as good as previous climaxes? Probably not. Will you be glued throughout? Probably so.
Elsewhere, though it’s nice to see Jesse Spencer’s Chase finally get some decent screen time (not to mention a new ‘do), by now some of the other supporting players feel like they’ve ran their course (step forward Foreman and Thirteen).
After six years, there’s bound to be elements that grate (the constant hiring-and-firing, House getting an epiphany from something trivial), but what really matters is that House MD continues to be one of the best-written dramas on the box. And that’s a diagnosisyou can trust.