TV Review: Eighth Season Puts ‘House M.D.’ in a New Place

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CHICAGO – As long as Hugh Laurie limps in the shoes of Dr. Gregory House, the FOX TV nation will show up, because it’s a great actor taking a memorable character and and putting him in often strange and unexpected situations. The eighth season premiere of “House M.D.” on October 3rd is no exception. TV Rating: 4.0/5.0
TV Rating: 4.0/5.0

The premiere is juicy, because Gregory House is in jail – where I suspect even his hardcore fans believe he belongs. This new atmosphere is Kafka-esque, which adds a new twist to how the crabby disease-detecting doctor will operate. All the fine tuned elements of the House character are here, except the physician that is used to getting his way now will have to contend with shivs and stoolies, including the stunt casting of the former Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) as a cellblock procurer.

At the end of the seventh season, Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) crashed his car into the living room of his colleague and sometimes lover, Lisa Cuddy. When the eighth season begins, we see House in front of a panel of New Jersey correctional judges, waiting for the proclamation of his parole. We find out that he left the country for three months after the incident, and has been in custody ever since. He is his usual put-upon self, but the panel will release him in five days, given that he breaks no rules.

Jailhouse Rock: Hugh Laurie the Eighth Season Premiere of ‘House M.D.’
Jailhouse Rock: Hugh Laurie in the Eighth Season Premiere of ‘House M.D.’
Photo credit:Ray Mickshaw for FOX Broadcasting

This is a tough test for House, because he is still hooked on Vicodin and that happens to be a hot commodity within the prison community. Cellblock enforcer Mendelson (Jude Ciccolella) wants twenty of House’s dwindling drug supply, so the doctor also faces withdrawal from his dependency. At the same time, a fellow inmate (Sebastian Sozzi) shows signs of a strange joint disease, and prison clinician Dr. Jessica Adams (Odette Annable) reluctantly listens to House regarding possible causes. It becomes questionable whether Dr. H. will make it to freedom on Day Five.

Hugh Laurie is a wonder as Gregory House, a character he has studied now for eight years. The show allows all the ramifications of his actions to now be punished, but the way Laurie plays House it seems that the doctor is punishing himself. The drug dependency issue can get a bit old, but like his ever-present cane it is part of the character and keeps him vulnerable. It is terrific when the one scene in front of the judge’s panel, just one scene, establishes the state of House in anticipation of the rest of the new season.

The episode is written by series creator David Shore and includes all of the characteristics of familiarity with House, but puts him in a new and dangerous setting. The series is famous for it’s shake-ups, and I suspect that the trust they have in Laurie’s delivery of the quirky doctor means that the production can place him anywhere. There is a nice Sherlock Holmes moment in this program, as House analyzes his new colleague down to her shoes, and its endearing that the show pays tribute to the legendary detective.

Ally or Enemy?: Guest Star Odette Annable as Dr. Jessica Adams with Hugh Laurie on ‘House M.D.’
Ally or Enemy?: Guest Star Odette Annable as Dr. Jessica Adams with Hugh Laurie on ‘House M.D.’
Photo credit:Ray Mickshaw for FOX Broadcasting

House also gratefully puts a new spin on the old doctors-as-saints routine that seems all so prevalent in medical shows. He ain’t no saint, but in his sinning and psychosis it is all about the healing of the patient. He has no friends or colleagues, never coddles up to the patients, he exists only to solve the unsolvable riddles of life. And despite some “that’s convenient” parts of the story – the New Jersey prison system lets a Vicodin user clean the infirmary? – the series anti-sincerity is what makes it better than the piety of, for instance, “E.R.”

Fans of the show should be grateful that yet another change of scenery will evolve House even further. As the fatalistic physician himself says in this episode, “Doctors can be degenerate…this is America.”

”House M.D.” premieres its eighth season, Monday, October 3rd, 9pm ET/8pm CT on FOX. Check local listings for channel location. Featuring Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, Omar Epps, Lisa Edelstein, Jesse Spencer, Odette Annable and Sebastian Sozzi. Created by David Shore. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2011 Patrick McDonald,

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