I’m still not sure how I’m going to cope – no more House! After eight years the show came to an end on television earlier this year, completing the remarkable run of one of the best TV shows of the last decade. I’ll have to console myself with the DVD box sets, the final one of which has now arrived.
The six disc set features the sardonic Dr. House’s last 22 episodes, and if you watched Season 7, you’ll know he starts the run in a bit of bother. Having taken not getting over a break-up to the extreme and crashing a car into his ex’s house, the doc begins Season 8 locked up in prison. Even there he can’t stop himself from playing mind games or trying to get to the bottom of a medical mystery that presents itself. Soon former employee and now head of Princeton Plainsboro hospital, Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), helps House get out of the clink and return to work, even if House does have to wear an ankle monitor.
It’s then back to the medical mysteries, which range from a man (guest star Wentworth Miller) whose extreme generosity could be a symptom of his illness to someone who starts crying blood. There are also new staff to contend with, as while ‘Thirteen’ (Olivia Wilde) makes a couple of appearances, she’s largely absent, with House getting new team members in the form of the shy but surprisingly feisty Dr. Chi Park (Charlyne Yi), and House’s former prison doc, Dr. Jessica Adams (Odette Annable). Some of the old guard are still around though, with Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Taub (Peter Jacobson) returning after being absent for the first few episodes.
As the show knew it was coming to an end, it had plenty of time to craft a fitting ending. That’s a surprisingly tough task, as a traditional narrative would suggest the grumpy, sarcastic, often amoral, drug-swilling, hooker-shagging House would have to see the error of his ways and find true happiness. However that would undermine what’s happened over the previous eight years. Instead they cleverly present House with his biggest personal challenge yet and a retrenchment to the fact that what’s held the show together more than anything is the relationship between the doctor and his long-suffering friend, Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). When something very final threatens this one constant in his life, it causes House to have to truly re-evaluate what’s important to him – something that could either intensify his self-destructive tendencies or make him realise he needs to appreciate what he has.
It’s sad that Lisa Edelstein’s Dr. Cuddy isn’t around, as she’s the other person who’s challenged House more than anyone else. However the actress decided to leave the show behind at the close of Season 7, and doesn’t even turn up for the final episode, which sees all sorts of faces from House’s past – even some dead ones – making an appearance.
Although Season 8 never quite reaches the brilliance that House displayed around Seasons 3, 4 and 5 – when it was a truly extraordinary, funny, immensely complex and clever study of one of the greatest characters ever put on TV – it’s still extremely entertaining. The end of Season 7 took things to a point of no return the show may have had difficulty pulling itself back from, and while there is a slight feeling of some issues raised either being put on hold or swept under the carpet, it does a surprisingly good job of keeping things moving forward. It also manages to create a very effective and apt conclusion for the show.
The special features tend to focus on the fact this is the end, and it’s also good they’re fairly lengthy. ‘House, M.D. Swan Song’ is a 40-minute look back over the eight year run of the show, from its creation and the casting of Hugh Laurie, through the evolution of the title character and the various other actors who’ve shown up over the years. Once more it’s a shame there’s no input from Lisa Edelstein, but pretty much everyone else is on hand, including Jennifer Morrison, who played Dr. Allison Cameron for the first fix seasons of the show, but has since moved on to the series Once Upon A Time. There is a slight air of self-congratulation about the whole thing, but at least it’s upfront about it, with a disclaimer at the beginning saying ‘Warning: This programme contains boasting’.
‘Everybody Dies: A Post-mortem’ is a slightly more philosophic 18-minute look back at the show and what it’s meant to those involved. There’s a sadness in evidence, but also a pride that they managed to create something far more complex and smart than it’s often given credit for. Finally there’s the 45-minute ‘The Doctor Directs: Behind the scenes with Hugh Laurie’, which is essentially Hugh’s video diary for when he took the reins on the episode The C Word. It’s a fun look at the creation of an episode, and the difficulties faced when the director is both in front of and behind the camera.
Overall Verdict: A fitting send off for one of the best shows on TV. I’m not sure I’ve quite accepted that there’ll be no more new House on our television screens, but at least it gets to go out in a way that doesn’t undermine one of the most complex character television has seen, given amazing life by Hugh Laurie.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac