Thursday, August 9, 2012

Repetitive Medical Theatre, Vol. 3 - House, M.D. - Season 3 Falls Down

The Good: Moments of character, Mysteries are interesting, Moments of acting
The Bad: It's ALL been done before! Lame DVD extras.
The Basics: In a dismally repetitive season for anyone who has been watching the show, House, M.D. Season 3 on DVD fails to impress and live up to the greatness of the medium.

Do you ever sit and watch something and find yourself asking, "Why am I still watching this?" I can't remember the last film I did not sit through to its end in order to be able to write a true and fair review of it, but when it comes to boxed set DVDs, the time commitment is so much greater and I've begun to feel like sometimes I'm taking one for the team with some of the sets I'm reviewing. Fortunately, in the case of House, M.D. Season Three, the torment of sitting through the entire five-disc, twenty-four episode set on DVD will help benefit the fight against breast cancer, so I suppose it was worth it.

For those who might not understand my gripe against one of the most acclaimed shows on television, House, M.D., in its third season, has degenerated into one of the most repetitive and formulaic shows on television. The actors are not so much required to act by growing and changing their characters as much as they are compelled to repeat the same performance over and over and over again. Rewatching the episodes on DVD, the problem becomes more than evident and the repetitive nature of the show, especially for those who watched the prior two seasons, is overwhelming.

Picking up where House, M.D. - Season Two (reviewed here!) left off, with Dr. Gregory House recovering from being shot, House returns to work apparently cured of his crippled leg. He resumes barking orders at his three diagnostic assistants and treating ailments both macabre and grotesque. As he goes through his daily routine, it soon becomes evident that he is not cured and he is once more addicted to pain medication. While House continues to isolate himself, his staff begins to strain, though Drs. Cameron and Chase begin to hook up. While House is investigated by police Detective Tritter, the loyalties of House's staff members are put to the test.

Like both season one (reviewed here!) and season two before it, House, M.D. Season 3 on DVD is a mostly episodic show with character elements that are serialized. For those who have not seen the show, virtually every episode begins with a person suddenly suffering from an affliction - usually resulting in them bleeding or falling unconscious - which causes them to be brought to the Princeton-Plainboro Teaching Hospital. When no one else understands what is wrong with said character, Dr. Gregory House takes over the case with his team of three diagnostic fellows. Usually, House has a clue, torments his staff until they guess what he suspects, the patient takes a nose-dive and an unrelated conversation sparks House into coming up with the correct diagnosis.

Over and over and over and over and over again . . . In this season, House's patients include: a child with rectal bleeding, a morbidly obese man, a screaming autistic kid, a comatose patient, a girl who cannot feel pain (hmm . . . didn't they do that in an earlier season, no, wait, that was Grey's Anatomy) and an outbreak of a plague on an airplane. As I've said in earlier reviews of House, M.D. seasons, the medical mysteries are interesting, but for the most part they are unsolvable save by those with an advanced medical degree. So, unlike a murder mystery where one can spout off suspects, House, M.D. is a mystery that has to spell out its killers without most people having a real chance of getting there first. And given the way facts are presented in most episodes, most viewers with a medical background wouldn't be able to get there anyway as usually there is a crucial test run at the last minute that turns the whole diagnosis.

So, what it comes down to is the characters and for the most part, the characters are pretty much who they've been all along - until the last few episodes. For those unfamiliar with the series, the principle characters are:

Dr. Gregory House - Head of Diagnostic Medicine and a Vicodin addict, he walks with a cane because of a prior medical condition. While he appears healed at the outset of the season, amid his self-doubt over his diagnosis's, he soon becomes drug-addicted again. This results in his continued superior attitude and lack of genuine caring for anyone around him. As the season goes on, a vindictive police detective works to get House out of the hospital and thrown in jail,

Dr. Lisa Cuddy - House's boss and chief administrator of the hospital. She works to keep the diagnostic team together and Dr. House in his place. Her big moment comes from sharing a plane ride with House overseas,

Dr. Foreman - The doctor who takes the brunt of much of House's abuse, he becomes the member of the team Detective Tritter thinks he can flip to use against House. Deeply human, he begins to question what working for House is doing to him as a person,

Dr. Cameron - No longer possessing a crush on House, she nevertheless stands by him during his legal troubles. She begins seeing Dr. Chase, but leaves him when he wants more than a casual relationship. She is competent and in this season she becomes more assertive,

Dr. Chase - The good-looking doctor continues to work to earn House's respect and falls short. He turns to Cameron, but when she rejects him, this causes tensions in the team and leads him to make professional mistakes,

and Dr. Wilson - The only man who truly knows House, he pals around with his friend and tries to assist him when he can. He counterbalances House's acerbic nature with his deep humanity and kindness.

The problem with continuing from the characters to the acting is that there is nothing tremendous with the acting in this season. Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, and Lisa Edelstein are all great, but they aren't giving viewers anything new by way of their performances. They are as static in their acting as their characters are in their routines. Indeed, Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson) becomes so annoying in his flawless portrayal of Dr. Wilson as a nice and decent guy that the viewer is left wondering why the character has anything to do with House.

The closest to growth on the acting level comes from Jennifer Morrison (Cameron) and Jesse Spencer (Chase), though how much acting growth there actually is is somewhat up in the air. That is to say the characters Morrison and Spencer play are the ones most altered during the course of the season and the actors simply adapt to suit the scripts. That said, Morrison plays Cameron as assertive with a convincing amount of force and spine. Similarly, when Spencer is called upon to play Chase as wounded, he proves he is not just the generically good-looking guy on the show. He pulls off the more angsty edge he is supposed to.

As for the DVD presentation itself, the show looks fine, but is quite light on extras. There is a lone commentary track on one episode featuring one of the writer-producers and it's not terribly exciting. There's a featurette on the music and the blooper reel which is fine. In other words, casual fans of the series will not get their money's worth out of this boxed set. Instead, the viewer is likely to feel cheated of something that could be far more original than this set pretends to be.

For other repetitive shows, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Six Feet Under
Homicide: Life On The Street


For other television reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page.

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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