TV Review: Hugh Laurie’s House Shatters M.O. in Sly Season-Six Premiere of ‘House M.D.’

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Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – Unrelenting pain, obsessive drug use and chronic hallucinations. Yeah, House has a problem. He’s broken. But can he be fixed? And will he let himself? Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

For the first time, Dr. Gregory House is embracing denial no more. In the undeniably worth-your-time two-hour FOX premiere of season six of “House M.D” on Monday, Golden Globe winner Hugh Laurie instead shatters his M.O. by admitting his addiction to the narcotic painkiller Vicodin. He works on a drug detox as he tries to win jurisdiction over his hallucinations.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of House
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of “House”.
Photo credit: George Holz, Fox Broadcasting Co.

This time, calling the season opener an “epic premiere event” isn’t just the marketing folks blowing smoke up your whoopie cake. And this time, House mostly doesn’t step foot in a hospital where he usually plays the mastermind and callous doctor.

Instead, he’s now in a psychiatric hospital where he’s actually the patient. While it’s unfamiliar territory for the House character and the series in general following five successful seasons, the intrepid decision by the “House” makers pays off in spades.

The two-hour season premiere, which is titled “Broken” and can almost stand on its own as a made-for-TV movie, starts outside of House’s traditional hospital and maintains the theme throughout. At first, I felt the decision stymied my appreciation of this series because I wasn’t furnished with another inexplicable case needing House’s sly mind to decipher.

Andre Braugher as Dr. Nolan with Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of House
Dr. Nolan (guest star Andre Braugher, center) confronts House (Hugh Laurie, left) in the “House” two-hour season premiere episode. Also pictured: Megan Dodds (right).
Photo credit: Mike Yarish, Fox Broadcasting Co.

But as you cuddle the concept of a story that delves deep into another universe from what you’re normally accustomed to here, you soak up the new subplot in its new environment just as you do the previously traditional storytelling in the show’s previously traditional atmosphere.

There’s a possibility, though, that some House lovers might feel shafted. The show’s linchpin has been House’s emotional unavailability, his inability to love and the denial of his own problems while he so slyly cracks the curious cases of everyone else.

Just as the show has sold viewers on this modus operandi for so long, though, it just as quickly detonates these themes in one atomic bomb of a season premiere.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of House
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of “House”.
Photo credit: George Holz, Fox Broadcasting Co.

At first, I partially felt like this “House” opener is intensely “trying too hard” for high ratings in a cutthroat competitive television landscape. After all, this is entertainment and a dramatic mystery like this must keep putting up powerful numbers.

Once you understand and respect what the series must accomplish at a business level, you’re able to forgive season six for starting off in a way that may feel like you’ve been rused into a new veracity that’s the polar opposite of everything you thought you knew about this TV show.

Just as one door closes, another successfully opens in such a way that you’ll not only care but you’ll be refreshed to get on board just as you did when themes changed before.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House with Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alvie for the sixth season of House
House (Hugh Laurie, right) meets his roommate, Alvie (guest star Lin-Manuel Miranda, left) when he arrives at the psychiatric hospital in the “House” two-hour season premiere.
Photo credit: Mike Yarish, Fox Broadcasting Co.

Aside from Hugh Laurie again in the title role, “Broken” for the most part makes the bold decision not to feature many of the show’s typically beloved characters and actors (i.e. Jesse Spencer as Dr. Robert Chase, the Chicago-born Jennifer Morrison as Dr. Allison Cameron, Lisa Edelstein as Dr. Lisa Cuddy and Omar Epps as Dr. Eric Foreman).

House’s vital colleague and friend Robert Sean Leonard as Dr. James Wilson only appears in “Broken” in a cameo role. But without the show’s usual suspects, the entirely new-fangled story line also features a drove of fresh faces in guest-starring roles.

The Chicago-born Andre Braugher (“Primal Fear,” “City of Angels,” “Frequency,” TV’s “The Andromeda Strain”) is the episode’s most imperative fresh face. He’s the attending physician who strong-arms House into staying at Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital to experience true rehabilitation.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of House
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of “House”.
Photo credit: George Holz, Fox Broadcasting Co.

As guest star Dr. Darryl Nolan, Braugher masterfully lets House know he can’t con a con man and be released without an honest recovery. House’s liberation from the psychiatric hospital is at Dr. Nolan’s sole professional discretion.

Then there’s the high-strung, wannabe rapper Alvie (guest starred by Lin-Manuel Miranda) who begins to idolize House when they become roommates. He’s an entertaining cup of caffeine.

Now Franka Potente (“Blow”) as the married guest star Lydia does more than just visit the psychiatric hospital and assist House in bending its rules. There’s a twist between House and Lydia you’ll have to watch to believe, but suffice it to say they tug at more than just each other’s heartstrings. The German-accented belle clicks with House in a way you couldn’t see coming.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House for the sixth season of House
Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) has earned time out in the yard at the Mayfield
Psychiatric Hospital in the “House” two-hour season premiere.
Photo credit: Larry Watson, Fox Broadcasting Co.

House battles between his attempted cons at earning (or even blackmailing) for his release and whether or not he wants to take the drugs and navigate the hospital’s intended process.

Will House’s pride and typical demeanor win the day or will a real recovery be fashioned by a complete opening and humbling of his beautiful but broken mind? “Broken” is two of the best hours on TV that you can spend right now in your pursuit of the answer.

StarRead viewership numbers on the 2009 “House M.D.” season premiere.
StarRead our news on Jennifer Morrison of “House M.D.” leaving the show.

“Broken,” which is “House” episode 6.1, is the special two-hour season-premiere episode of “House” airing on Monday, Sept. 21, 2009 at 7 p.m. CT, 8 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. PT on FOX. Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House in “House M.D.” was trumped by Bryan Cranston as Walter White in “Breaking Bad” for the 2009 Emmy for an outstanding lead actor in a drama series.

“Broken” features Hugh Laurie, Curtis Armstrong, Angela Bettis, Meghan Bradley, Andre Braugher, Luke Davis, Alex Désert, Megan Dodds, Norman Fessler, Harrison Forsyth, Andrew Leeds, Ana Lenchantin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Artemis Pebdani, Jack Plotnick, Franka Potente and Robert Sean Leonard in a cameo role. The trailer for the season-six premiere can be watched now below!

StarRead viewership numbers on the 2009 “House M.D.” season premiere.
StarRead our news on Jennifer Morrison of “House M.D.” leaving the show. editor-in-chief and publisher Adam Fendelman


© 2009 Adam Fendelman, LLC

Martin's picture


Never have I been disappointed by “House.” Complemented by the amazing musical scores and soundtracks, this show keeps me anxiously waiting between seasons and between commercial breaks. Thank you, Adam Fendelman for giving me my first look at this new season and a pleasant read through this review.

House Doctor's picture


Hugh is fantastic. Great season premiere. Just a bit too much “One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s Nest”, especially with the cap and basketball.

Was waiting for the “ah Juicyfriut” line.

Put it in the basket House!!!!

Guy who Agrees with ^this guy's picture

What my name says

I completely agree with what you said about “One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s nest”. It had to be an homage to the movie. I was waiting for a big Native American guy to come in and smash a toilet through a wall.

This was a good episode…it dragged a couple times, but the story kept me into it. I was also laughing at the guy from the Revenge of the Nerds movies (he just looks funny). This was like a movie and it wasn’t disappointing. This season looks to be good :)

Anonymous's picture

does anyone else think the

does anyone else think the entire sappy thing was just part of plan b to get out of the place?? i like to think that. hes so much hotter when he’s a deceptive jerk/genius.

Anonymous's picture

House Works

I watched the season premiere and despite a few hiccups this was an excellent episode. I know many people are upset or worried that House will become “boring”. Just as the writers did not disappoint tonight I think this will only add another dimension to his character that has not been explored. Watching House unleash his genius and his cruelty is intoxicating I admit but there were many times when I wanted House to reveal something, feel something share the same feelings that the viewer is having. It is was nice to see what a vulnerable House looks like. I think it will be more interesting to see how the people around him respond. There enabling behaviors will be more obvious now and cast new light .All this time we thought House was the bad guy (bad boy take your pick) when so many others were probably more comfortable to have him as the dysfunctional excuse. There are so many avenues the writers can take. I am excited!

Anonymous's picture

OH my....

I was going to watch Dancing With the Stars and download the House Premiere - but after the first minute, I was hooked.

… absolutely amazing.

What ensemble cast?

drop him anywhere with anybody and its magic.

economy's picture

House played you too, Mr. Fendelman?

House schemed to get out of the hospital by having an emotionally empty tryst and cleverly selling it as proof of his rehabilitation. That one encounter is proof of emotional capacity? Please. I think we’ve figured out why Nolan isn’t a big shot doctor at that stage of his career!

This extremely excellent show revealed House as a sociopath/psychopath and I’m wondering if we will have sympathy for such a character where we previously gave him a pass on account of his pain and drug addiction.

The key is the four notes from Beethoven’s 5th that he plays after Lydia left the piano unlocked. House declared “V” for victory at that moment and walked out of the hospital smirking at his cleverness. If you didn’t catch it, watch it again. With all due respect, Mr. Fendelman, it’s more than obvious, really.

I want to like the character but it may be difficult now that he’s attempted to kill two people, one of them while he was completely clean and sober…

Anonymous's picture

House premier disappoints

Big disappointment. The writing was weak and unconvincing. Off his pain killers, House’s leg pain just disappeared? Add a totally contrived love interest. The whole recovery just wasn’t convincing, either — maybe too big a stretch for Laurie’s acting skills? This is jumping the shark when the producers try to coast along on the strength of the House character alone with pablum writing. Where is the fresh drama, mystery and irony? What hackney devices next? Cameo appearance of celebrities? House travels back in time? Young House at college? Hire some new writers, bring back House.

Anonymous's picture

[bleep]!!!!!!!!!!!! you

[bleep]!!!!!!!!!!!! you are a [bleep] moron!!!!!! That episode was the shit

Anonymous's picture

No, he's right, you moron

That was a shitty episode, the writing was VERY weak. Besides the obviously cartoonish crap (House rapping, House floating forty feet above the air at a fair, House getting somebody else to pee for him, House somehow NOT swallowing his sedatives and none of the guards who forced them into his mouth noticing) the real disappointment is that House is miraculously made a nicer guy by the end without any hugely traumatic cracking of his shell. He’s gotten more upset with himself for spilling his Vicodin than he did in breaking down his own defences. Ridiculous, childish, and yes, a whole new “House.” The show WILL improve if he becomes a little more likable, but NOT if the writers are hired straight from high school.

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