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New Season of House Rises to the Challenge

Stephanie DePrez | Monday, September 29, 2008

The misanthropic, misguided, murderous medical meany is back for the new season of “House.”  Hugh Laurie has picked up right where he left off, leading his new team of doctors into the fray of prime-time television. This season has kicked off to what some may call an odd start, but it promises to be one of the most original seasons yet.”House” has had a great run so far. Four years ago, the television audience was introduced to Dr. Gregory House, a brilliant diagnostician with a gimp leg and a knack for needling everyone from his patients to his boss. “House” wasn’t only a critically acclaimed show, but it also gave “American Idol” a run for its ratings. It premiered the same year as “Grey’s Anatomy,” but unlike “Grey’s,” it has managed to keep its fan base consistently satisfied.The first two seasons were pure gold, with the procedural drama having enough twists to keep the audience guessing every week. House battled corporate takeover of his hospital, forcing his friends to jeopardize their own careers in order to make sure nobody else played in his sandbox. He taunted and eventually tangoed with his ex in season two, convincing her to leave her husband only to tell her it wasn’t going to work.  The third season took a deeper look at House’s addiction to vicodin, which he claims to be taking for the pain in his leg. He managed to get his boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, to commit perjury in court so that he didn’t end up in jail for his abuse of painkillers. Season four led to a survivor-style competition between young doctors to be on his medical team, because a year working with House almost guarantees any future position in the medical world. And, most recently, his drunken state landed him and his best friend’s girl in a bus crash that killed her. Cue season five. This season of “House” is the most important yet, considering that it must make up for ground lost during last year’s strike. Every show on television is scrambling to make up for lost story time, and “House” is no exception. Many viewers complained last year that they didn’t see enough of the old team, the original doctors House started out with. Producers watched the strike rage on with heavy hearts as they were forced to write out a blossoming romance between Dr. Alison Cameron, now working in the ER, and Dr. Robert Chase, House’s go-to surgeon. Season three ended with their first “real” kiss, but season four left them in the background, making quick entrances and exits as House focused on his new team. The writers struggled, since they had to let House pick a new team, and then integrate them into life at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, in what effectively was half a season. But not this time. Both the cast and the creative team behind “House” are fully aware of their duty this year. They are acutely aware of the need to go back to basics and to return to the groove of “House” without being repetitive. Still, everyone seems confident that Hugh Laurie and his crack team of misfit medicine men (and woman) will pull it together. The new actors are visibly getting more comfortable in their respective roles. And the world knows Laurie’s getting more comfortable, as he’s earning $400,000  an episode this season, finding the year’s wages somewhere around $9 million.This season has started with a bang (and if you wish dodge the spoilers, stop reading now). Wilson has experienced a summer of heartache and pain, taking time off from his job as an oncologist. When he returned in the season premier, it was only to pack up his office and ship out.  House used his usual tactics to get Wilson to stay, and even attempted a sincere apology for being involved in the death of Wilson’s girlfriend, but Wilson, sick of baby-sitting House, left with a biting acclimation of “We’re not friends anymore, House. I’m not sure we ever were.”      This would leave any man crushed, angry, or confused, but not House.  Rather than dealing with his emotions, he opted for the less obvious choice – hiring a private eye to spy on Wilson and report back on his activities. Thus the Big Season Guest is introduced. Lucas, a free-lance PI, has stepped into the role of House’s mini-foil, taking the place of Wilson as official listener to House’s whining and provider of guy-talk.  But whereas Wilson could push House’s rudder in the right direction, Lucas just wants to get paid.  Needless to say, when Wilson finds out that his place has been bugged, he isn’t too pleased.  Though he shows no outward signs of wanting to ever talk to House again, it’s clear that Wilson is having a hard time staying away from everything he had at Princeton Plainsboro.Wilson’s MIA, House is scheming, the newbie doctors are still figuring out the ropes. The only person holding it all together right now is Dr. Cuddy, Dean of Medicine, and creator of most of the show’s sexual tension. She and House have been tripping each other up for the past four seasons in a game of you-can’t-have-me-but-I-know-you-want-me. They even alluded to a possible one-night stand they had in college.  It has been confirmed that sometime early this season there is going to be some action to that affect. The jury is still out, though, as to if that will be a boon for the season or just extinguish a storyline four years in the making.It’s a new season, a new situation, but the same old House. This year, the “House” team knows they are playing catch-up, but they seem ready for the challenge. House is on FOX on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.