And so House enters its seventh year, a period which has proven to be the undoing of many a series (here’s looking at you, 24). After the ups and downs of Season 6, the team had more than a little bit to prove.
Perhaps the one big problem with the sixth season was that it strayed a little too far from the traditional formula of the programme, with the whole ‘House in a mental institution’ story dragging on for a touch too long.
This year, they set about fixing that straight away – returning to the formula that we know and love, but this time with a key twist in the form of a burgeoning relationship between House and Cuddy. As a set-up, it’s both familiar and intriguing, as seeing quite how the relationship affects the working environment of the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital is genuinely intriguing.
There’s the usual gamut of guest patients – ranging from a patient whose OCD manifests itself by giving her a perfect memory, to a family accidentally contaminating themselves with smallpox – and whilst some of them feel a little forced, they’re all competently played out and interesting enough to engage with. A few of the subplots don’t really end up going anywhere, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s fairly easy to ignore these.
A highlight episode actually saunters along relatively early in the form of ‘Family Practice’, which sees House forced to treat Cuddy’s mother and inevitably sees them clash. It has the same problem as the rest of the series in that there’s a couple of inconsequential plot threads, but some dark, moody visuals – made all the more stunning if you opt for the crystal-clear Blu-ray transfer – combined with some of the best performances from the core ensemble we’ve yet seen result in an electrifying episode that stands as a character-defining story for both Cuddy and new-to-the-fold character Martha M Masters (Amber Tamblyn).
As you may have come to expect, Hugh Laurie is practically faultless in the title role. Even in the slightly duller episodes, he’s consistently a more-than-consolatory presence, continuing to evolve and develop House as a character even as subplots hit dead-ends all about him. The rest of the ensemble do well too, with the notable exception of the usually-reliable Olivia Wilde, whose sporadic appearances throughout the season could’ve easily been phoned in from the set of Tron: Legacy for all the oomph they have.
But regardless of this, House’s seventh year is something of a return to form, even if it does fall just short of reaching the soaring heights of its triumphant third year. Full of moral dilemmas, fine performances and engaging medical mysteries, our favourite anti-hero is back in the saddle. If the fantastic cliff-hanger ending is anything to go by, he’s got nowhere to go but skyward.
Released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 26th September 2011 by Universal Pictures UK.
Watch the Season 7 trailer…