Thursday, October 04, 2007

“Would you condemn this woman to a life where people look at her face when they talk to her?”: House

The writers know it, and so do we – it’s nice to have some new characters on House. Although the show has had various antagonists and love interests for its title character, House has never before altered its formula to the point of adding permanent new characters, happy to stick to few-episode arcs. Nor did it really need to change itself – three seasons isn’t too long to stick to an ensemble of six core characters. Theoretically, there’s no law against a remaining with your formula for a whole series. Only after the third season proved the shtick was getting a little stale did the need for change become readily apparent.

So last week we were treated to a premiere in which House gets all his advice from a janitor, before eventually conceding that he may need a new team; and now this week we get an episode in which House whittles down a group of forty potential applicants to a final ten. As an audience, we take just as much pleasure in this torturous process as House does. Among the applicants are Kal Penn (Kumar from Harold & Kumar), Olivia Wilde (The O.C.) and Peter Jacobson (one of those familiar faces who everyone knows from something), along with several unknowns. Beyond those three, all of whom I liked, a few others made an impression: Jeffrey Cole, introduced a little too obviously as ‘the guy with religious beliefs’; Henry Dobson, a likeable older man who I hope sticks around; and Amber Volakis (Anne Dudek) aggressive and annoying. Although I won’t spoil it here, the info on the eventual three new regulars is out there if you want it.

This week’s case was another welcome departure from the usual formula. The basic idea was admittedly more in tune with usual House than ‘Alone’, in that it had House messing around while his underlings did most of the work for him. Yet it felt different, which is good enough for me. Especially amusing: a walk-and-talk scene with a mass of twenty white coats following House down a hospital corridor. The patient’s freaky hearing-by-seeing hallucinations were also suitably trippy. The lengths House goes to keep her illness secret get a little ridiculous, but serve well as a blind test for the applicants.

Finally, ‘The Right Stuff’ starts off the surprisingly slow reintegration of Chase, Cameron and Foreman. House sees all three of them wandering the halls at different points, but after Wilson insists that they’ve all taken jobs elsewhere he wonders if he might be going mad. Usually I wouldn’t buy House falling for this, but I believed that the shock of seeing them again would be jarring enough to put him off his guard. (Side note: that’s two wins for Wilson in a row – the guy is on a roll!) It turns out that Cameron is in charge of the E.R. and Chase was called in by Wilson. Both get great returning scenes: Chase shows up at House's surgery to provide the correct diagnosis, and Cameron greets him more warmly with some casual flirting. Turned out Foreman really was working somewhere else though, which makes House one-third crazy. Sounds about right.

Another strong, fun episode. Keep it up House!

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