House – Season Six
Years ago, Hugh Laurie tickled audiences and stole scenes as the incredibly stupid George in “Blackadder,” Rowan Atkinson’s Pre-Bean period sitcom. Laurie’s acting ability, brilliant delivery, and sophisticated countenance could have type-cast many other actors, but Laurie – an actor, comedian, musician and writer – has made it his life’s business to exceed expectations. Thus, when he took on the role of House, M.D., the intelligent and sarcastic lead in Fox’s hit hospital detective series, he did it without a backwards glance. Laurie’s brilliance as an actor has directly led to his rise as one of the biggest television stars in the world today.
For those of you that don’t remember or didn’t watch, the last season of House, M.D. (now entering its sixth season) ended when House admitted himself into a mental health facility because he couldn’t stop his hallucinations of Amber, his previous employee, crush, and friend’s girlfriend. It was more of a cliffhanger than previous House finales. Would House be back? Would he be able to practice medicine? Would we ever again be accosted by a litany of medical jargon the likes of which only exists on television?
The two-hour season premiere, Broken, runs more like a movie than a standard episode. A montage at the beginning of the episode, set to Radiohead’s melancholic lullaby, “No Surprises,” depicts House’s seclusion during his withdrawal from Vicodin. When the song is over, House has just packed his bags. He’s going to speak to the head of the facility, Dr. Darryl Nolan (Andre Braugher, “Homicide: Life on the Streets”). After all, now that he has stopped taking Vicodin, the visions have ceased. Still, Dr. Nolan points out that House’s problems only began after the death of two colleagues and he refuses to write a recommendation for House to practice again until he faces the underlying issues that brought him to the facility. “I don’t want to practice medicine. I’ve decided to be an astronaut,” House says. “You need to get better,” Nolan replies. The seeds are set for the next two hours and the season beyond.
The first half of the episode plays like Ken Kesey’s classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with House as Randle McMurphy, his loquacious roommate, Alvie (Lin-Manuel Miranda), as Chief Bromden, and Dr. Nolan and Dr. Beasley (Megan Dodds) as Nurse Ratched. Quite early, House tells Dr. Beasley that he could cooperate, or he could make life so difficult that Nolan will have no other choice but to discharge him. House disrupts group: “Oh, I’m sorry; is suicide taboo? Gosh, if I have broken a rule on the first day, I will kill myself.” He exploits the patients’ conditions. He tries to incite a riot. He tries to blackmail Nolan. He refuses to take his medication. Beasley and Nolan thwart House at every turn until he inadvertently causes a delusional patient who thinks himself a superhero, Freedom Master (Derek Richardson, “Hostel”), to injure himself greatly. The guilt that washes over him makes him commit to becoming healthy.
The second half focuses on House’s relationships with his own mental health, Dr. Nolan, and Lydia (Franka Potente, ”The Bourne Identity”), a regular facility visitor with whom House has become smitten. Nolan and House start having therapy sessions and he agrees to begin taking medication and to do whatever Dr. Nolan tells him.
Broken is an inventive and clever episode of House, M.D., in that it doesn’t follow the regular House formula, and shows us different sides of House himself; those of trust, remorse, and love. Sure, there are moments where you must suspend disbelief, but in general the episode was incredibly entertaining and bodes well for the season to follow. However, it gave us no clues as to what we should expect in the upcoming season. Will House be forever cured of his crankiness? Does he no longer need Vicodin? Doubtful on both counts, but no matter what, House, M.D. has always been a solidly written and imagined show and one of the best of its kind on television. House, as Alvie raps, is in the House.