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House, M.D.: Season Seven

(2011) *** Unrated
1007 min. FOX. Cast: Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, Omar Epps, Amber Tamblyn, Olivia Wilde, Jesse Spencer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Dylan Baker, Vinessa Shaw, Amy Irving, Alyson Stoner, Candice Bergen, Jennifer Grey, Matthew Lillard, Christopher Marquette, Donal Logue.


"I don´t need to come back to watch this big mess. Not even for one episode." "I'm done." "I won’t be watching House anymore, even in reruns..." Author and journalist Mark Harris recently devoted one of his Entertainment Weekly columns to the phenomenon of comment-board carping, largely characterized by threats of never watching a show again due to a perceived betrayal of character or concept. Perhaps no show on the air has stirred up more such threats than House, M.D., which pressed its fanbase's buttons by finally "going there" with a romantic relationship between the damaged-goods Dr. Gregory House and his boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, a pairing long wished for by "Huddy" "shippers." The tumultuous path the relationship took over the course of the medical drama's seventh season was perhaps destined to upset everyone, at various times and for various reasons: everyone, that is, except those happy to be taken on the ride plotted by the show's creator, David Shore, and his fairly stable stable of writers.

Even in the show's seventh year, House continues to be an endlessly fascinating character, as brilliantly played by English actor Hugh Laurie (who remains, astoundingly, Emmy-less for embodying and sustaining this indelible character). Also an executive producer, Laurie has participated in the series' quality control, with varying degrees of success. The procedural has shifted its focus on medical mysteries to the inner lives of its doctors, but that's a reasonable adaptive strategy for an aging show intent on not repeating itself. Given the nearly unavoidable repetitive structure of the diagnostic investigations and the cyclical nature of its irascible protagonist's leg pain, Vicodin addiction, and romantic success and failure, House, M.D. has done an admirable job of keeping things fresh with a rotation of characters on House's team, the odd innovative plot structure, and different causes and effects to House's bad behavior. Season Seven has plenty of memorable moments (my favorite: a sweat-inducing self-surgery) but also at times crosses the line of behavioral believability, even for a character as edgy as House.

The season begins with House and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) throwing lighter fluid on the fire they've kindled for six years, consummating the relationship and asking the title question of the season opener: "Now What?" The arrangement will require careful negotiation in keeping home and work lives separate, if indeed that's even possible, and Cuddy frets over the possible emotional consequences for her two-year-old daughter Rachel (Kayla and Rylie Colbert). Requited love results in tentative signs of growth on House's part: signifiers of caring for Lisa and Rachel, and a perhaps more optimistic view of human nature that creeps into his work with patients. House's humor remains irreverent as he mocks his long-suffering BFF Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and the diagnostic team serving under House at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.

Foremost on the team are the men House at one point calls "Boring, Bimbo and Bite-Size": Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Chris Taub (Peter Jacobson). In and out in the series opener is team member Remy "Thirteen" Hadley (Olivia Wilde, off to star in Cowboys and Aliens); her eventual short-term replacement is genius-level medical student Martha Masters (Amber Tamblyn). (Martha appears in fourteen of the season's episodes, while Thirteen appears in seven.) Masters allows House to play a few new notes as she is arguably the sharpest tool he's ever had on the team, while also the most innocent and resistant to House's corruption. House is never wrong about his motto "Everybody lies," though he is often frustrated by his patients' life choices, from the unwavering faith in God of a man (Kuno Becker) who crucifies himself to keep his daughter cancer-free to the crafty performance artist (Oscar nominee Shohreh Agdashloo) who discovers she's willing to compromise her principles after all.

Season Seven allots at least one episode's subplot to each of the supporting cast, and includes return visits from Wilson's ex-wife Sam (Cynthia Watros) as well as the introduction of Cuddy's mother Arlene (Candice Bergen in three episodes) and sister Julia (Paula Marshall). Though often pushed into the background and beholden to the old get-it-wrong, get-it-wrong, get-it-right pattern, the medical mysteries haven't yet lost the element of surprise, and the character plots are far more often engrossing or funny than they are preposterous. Still, House and Cuddy are asked to do things that defy reason (one of the more obvious is House drugging Cuddy's mother during a dinner, and Cuddy's acceptance of same), culminating in an outrageous season finale that, amazingly, wasn't intended as Cuddy's swan song but turned out to be after failed contraction negotiations with Edelstein.

The finale serves as a reminder of the trap the show finds itself in, requiring House to up the ante of his destructiveness to shock and awe the audience; with the character reaching his highest personal high, a precipitous drop is to be expected (and, perhaps, desired, to keep House at his unhappy best). Whether anyone will believe that life goes on in Season Eight is difficult to say, but I'm sure House's diminished but still sizeable core audience will come back—even many of those who swear they won't—for the next "Now What?"

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 5

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 8/30/2011

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


House fans will find consistent quality in the five-disc Season Seven Blu-ray set. The packaging has improved a bit, with hubs that make it a bit easier to access the discs. The twenty-three hi-def transfers please with sharp detail, fine textures, and accurate color ranging from vibrant to purposefully bled-out, depending on the episode's moods. Other than a touch of banding, there's little to suggest the digital nature of the images, which generally have a handsome, filmic feel, with a better-than-broadcast HD picture quality that gets a strong bill of health in all areas. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks are definitive, with lively immersion and sometimes surprising low-end potency, when the story calls for it; music is full and dialogue is crisp and clear.

In Universal's patented U-Control feature, fans will again find A Beginner's Guide to Diagnostic Medicine, a PiP pop-up with video tutorials explaining the show's medicine and, as they're diagnosed. the diseases.

Three bonus audio tracks have been included for Season Seven: commentary on "Bombshells" with director Greg Yaitanes and series star Lisa Edelstein, commentary on "The Dig" with writers Sara Hess and David Hoselton, and commentary on season finale "Moving On," with Yaitanes creator/executive producer David Shore. Of particular interest will be the commentary with Edelstein (recorded before the determination that she would not return for Season Eight) and the Shore commentary (recorded after Edelstein left the show). While neither contain any "bombshells," the tracks serve as a last chance to hear from Edelstein about her character and her work on the show, as well as Yaitanes' and Shore's thoughts on Edelstein's contributions. All three tracks discuss how the show is produced, with an emphasis on the tricky scheduling and the work of the casr, so fans will eat up these relatively detailed behind-the-scenes features.

In the featurette "Meet Martha Masters" (7:06, HD), Amber Tamblyn, Olivia Wilde, Hugh Laurie, Edelstein, Peter Jacobson, Jesse Spencer, Omar Epps, executive producer Katie Jacobs, Shore, and casting directors Stephanie Laffin & Amy Lippens discuss the creation and casting of House's latest team member.

"Huddy Dissected" (8:33, HD) allows Laurie, Edelstein, Jacobs, Shore, Jacobson and Epps to comment on the season's pivotal relationship, between House and Cuddy.

"Anatomy of an Episode: 'Bombshells'" (23:21, HD) is the best of the featurettes, providing a reasonably thorough look at the season's most complex production. Amongst behind-the-scenes footage, we get interview clips of Shore, Laurie, writer/co-executive producer Liz Friedman & writer/supervising producer Sara Hess, Yaitanes, Jacobs, Edelstein, Robert Sean Leonard, costume designer Cathy Crandall, Tamblyn, Jacobson, Spencer, Epps, production designer Jeremy Cassells, property master Tyler Patton and choreographer Mia Michaels.

"Thirteen Returns" (4:45, HD) features Olivia Wilde, Shore, Jacobs and Laurie discussing Wilde, her character and the return of both after a long absence.

The set is also tricked out with BD-Live accessibility, as well as Pocket Blu interactivity with smartphones and computers.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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