Strong Medicine for Fox's Dr. House

BlogHer Original Post

Last night's two-hour premiere of "House" was almost like an art house movie. It opened with a beautifully done montage of Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) painfully detoxing in a mental facility to the haunting strains of Radiohead's "No Surprises.

It then showed us a fascinating character at his most vulnerable. It put that character in a setting where his usual manipulative ways of coping with life are sorely tested. It also gave us two full hours to delve into that character's psyche without interruption. Unless you count the commercials.

But like with many art house movies, bad choices when it came to supporting characters and key plot points took away from what would otherwise have been a very satisfying experience.

***Spoiler Alert: If you haven't watched last night's episode and you want "No Surprises" read on, otherwise get thee to your DVR and then come back.****

First, some things I loved about the episode, starting with the
incredibly talented and still Emmy-less Hugh Laurie. He fills the screen with House's A to Z personality so thoroughly, whether you sympathize with him or hate his guts, you're never bored by his
manipulative antics or his barely hidden agony.

House's current address is the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital where he's kicked his Vicodin habit and is ready to bolt.  In his way is psychiatrist, Dr. Darryl Nolan (Andre Braugher, photo left) who refuses to recommend reinstating House's medical license until he submits to some serious head shrinking. After all, as Dr. Nolan points out, if Vicodin was House's only problem, he wouldn't have been having long conversations with dead colleagues.

House takes this as well as you might imagine and begins a scorched earth policy of disruption at the hospital to force
Nolan to cave. Like during his first group therapy session when he antagonizes a patient who tried to commit suicide. After being rebuked he says contritely, "Gosh, if I've broken a rule on my first day, I will kill myself."

Andre Braugher's a great actor, but as the low-key but stubborn Dr. Nolan, whose own personal issues House is determined to uncover, he's almost too low-key. A little more spark would have added some much needed fire to the scenes between him and Laurie. Guest star Lin-Manuel Miranda from Broadway's "In The Heights" is awesomely annoying as House's manic/depressive roommate, Alvie, who delights in House's rebellion.

Franka Potente plays Lydia, the visiting sister-in-law of Staring Girl, a patient who hasn't spoken for ten years. Lydia and House develop a mutual attraction that's doomed from the beginning, but nice while it lasts.

As far as the other patients, there are the usual psyche ward stereotypes: the aforementioned Staring Girl; Overweight Shy Girl, complete with glasses held together with tape; Super Boy, who thinks he has special powers; and Paranoid Guy who thinks the aliens are coming back to get him.

This is where the episode runs into trouble.

Not that I didn't enjoy seeing House run amok in the midst of all those crazy people as only House can, but in no way did I believe that someone of House's status and background would be in the same ward with the cast from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." And when House decides to prove his superior smarts by giving Super Boy his own special treatment, really, who doesn't see what's coming next?

On the other hand, what we should have seen coming next was Dr. Nolan's own personal medical issue. Memo to the writers: a few more hints about Nolan's problem would have made his consult with House much less jarring and out of the blue.

Finally, Megan Dodds as Dr. Beasley made me crazy for two--no, make that three--reasons. First, because she bore a striking resemblance to poor, dead Amber. Second, because it annoyed me that I couldn't figure out where I'd seen her before*. And third, because her character graduated from the "let's talk to the mental patients like little children" school of medicine.

The episode wasn't bad, just disappointing because I'd expected more.

"House" airs on Fox, Mondays at 8-9PM ET/PT.

Photo credits: Mike Yarish, Chris Haston ©2009 Fox Broadcasting Co.

Thanks to Dixie at Yahoo Answers for the list of music from the "House" premiere.

*Megan Dodds played the CIA liason in London on one of my favorite British shows, "MI-5."

Related Links

The Women Living In Hugh Laurie's "House"

Cathy of Have U Heard disagrees with me about the "House" premiere.

Casey at Other Random Musings did too.

As did Anne at One Word At A Time: "House is in the House"

 

Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online and she suggests you rent BlackAdder if you want to see Hugh Laurie at his comic best. Her other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock and Meg's Rad Reviews

 

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