The word around the water cooler* is that the fourth season of “House, M.D.” is that it was a weak effort. This is incorrect. After a disappointing third season which wasted an antagonist and backed itself into a corner, the show made a much-needed shake-up. Enter a wonderful parody of reality shows and the re-introduction of one of the show’s more brilliant concepts: House as Teacher.
With the departure of his team, Dr. Gregory House (the always-brilliant Hugh Laurie continuing to entertain and amaze with his iconic portrayal of the misanthropic doc) must wade through a pool of applicants and he does it in the way he (and us) will find most entertaining: rounds of eliminations. Viewers will find characters they want to see as permanent additions and root for them as they would for any contestant. It automatically adds suspense beyond just the cases which continue to be formulaically paced but still surprising when it comes to the final diagnosis.
Rather than stuck in his office, we spend a lot of time in an auditorium and it calls to mind one of the series’ best episodes, “Three Stories”. While it’s fun to watch House be snarky, wry, and sometimes downright cruel, it’s nice to see him let loose some actual wisdom and that in order to be on his team, it’s not how much you know that’s important (since he knows everything): it’s your character. House may not like people, but he still needs to work with them and choosing the right colleagues is the only way he can fill that magic whiteboard of his and solve the mystery.
The new cast members are a joy, from familiar face Kal Penn to breakthrough performances from Olivia Wilde as the enigmatic “Thirteen” and Anne Dudek as “Cutthroat Bitch”. Returning cast members like Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) also continue to grow and take their characters to new places. Of course, at the end, it’s really all Laurie. Even if every other aspect of the show rubs you the wrong way (and it really shouldn’t), “House” is still worth watching for his performance. It’s just that good.
The DVD set of “House, M.D. – Season 4” contains four discs containing sixteen episodes with an MSRP of $59.98 (which is the same MSRP as the other three seasons despite having eight fewer episodes). Each of the episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, along with English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks. Extras include commentaries with Cast and Crew, 5 featurettes (New Beginnings, Meet the Wirters, The Visual Effects House, Anatomy of a Crash, My Favorite Season 4 Episode), a gag reel, and a Season 5 Sneak Peek.
* I bring a water cooler wherever I go so I may discuss things around it.