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House, M.D. Season One DVD Review

Gary Hotze | Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The glory days of “E.R.” are long gone, as the former ratings goliath has fallen victim to repetitive “life-threatening” storylines and “explosive” endings “that will leave you breathless.” Many were left wondering how many times Chicago County’s General Hospital could be under siege from a tank or have a helicopter crash on its roof.

There is hope, however, in the form of “House, M.D.” “House” was a hot new entry in last year’s primetime line-up that – along with “Grey’s Anatomy” – revived the medical drama. With these two shows, the beleaguered genre has seen a bit of resurgence. While “Grey’s Anatomy” (on ABC) has taken to a little more light-hearted ongoing story arc format, “House” (on Fox) resembles what might be called “CSI: E.R.”

The show centers on Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie). House may very well indeed have some of the worst bedside manners in TV history. He avoids contact with all patients at all costs and is addicted to pain medications for his bum leg. His quirkiness and bizarre nature help fuel some of the more interesting sub-plots that are sharply written and funny.

House works with a team of doctors that include Drs. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison). In each episode, they diagnose the strangest and most rare medical mysteries. Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) plays a straight-laced businesswoman who continuously butts heads with House.

Some of the standout episodes from the first season are “Occam’s Razor,” “Detox” and “Kids.” Although very entertaining, the show does get a little monotonous after a while.

In true fashion, it follows the ever-popular CSI formula – each episode is its own self-contained story. The obstinate House is convinced to take on a mysterious medical case, then he and his team brainstorm for possible causes and they guess at a treatment. The treatment fails, they try other treatments, which also fail. With just a few seconds left in each episode, the eluding true illness is discovered, and miraculously, the treatment works and everything is tied up in a neat little bow. This redundancy, along with the episodic nature of the show, prevents it from being a genuine addiction.

Patients and their X-Files-like sicknesses are easy to care about, but what “House” does really well is writing sympathetic characters – they have a real sense of humanity to them, yet are not too perfect. The top notch acting from Laurie and crew also adds redeeming value, and the dialogue is some of the best written on television.

The DVD release was initially advertised as containing anamorphic widescreen presentations, but they are actually in non-anamorphic 1.78.1. This by far is the most disappointing aspect of this release and a real problem for anyone with a 16:9 widescreen television. The non-anamorphic treatment has also left noticeable stretching in some scenes.

Additionally, the menus for the show are static and are not up to the caliber of the show’s production values. Both of these facts point to a very rushed release from Universal in order to get the set out before the show’s second season premiere.

Despite these major drawbacks, the video itself is pretty good. The show is very colorful, and the transfer does a generally good job of showing the vibrancy of the medical monitors and the maladies of the various patients.

Overall, this release is recommended for at least a rent and possibly a buy for those looking for a less serialized show than “Grey’s Anatomy” and a more compelling show than the recent seasons of “E.R.”