|House: Season Two (2005)
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Chi McBride, Robert Sean Leonard, Jessie Spencer, Omar Epps, Lisa Edelstein, Jennifer Morrison
The sophomore season of this captivating drama finds its cantankerous lead, Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) grappling with a whole new series of problems, both personal and professional. His feelings for his married ex, Stacy (Sela Ward) – presumably the only woman on the planet both strong and shortsighted enough to put up with his infuriating ways – are heating up, and appear to be returned. His only real friend, Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), is dealing with a crumbling marriage and needs a place to stay. And two key members of his staff, Eric Foreman (Omar Epps) and Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), are barely speaking to one another as a result of a professional spat.
True to form, House avoids the shiny, happy, up-with-people solutions to each of these problems. He chases Stacy away just as she’s about to leave her husband, recognizing that even a man she doesn’t love will make her happier in the long run than House himself could ever hope to. Rather than offering new roommate Wilson the proverbial shoulder to cry on, House tortures him with juvenile pranks. And instead of taking any steps to reduce the tension in his workplace, he lets the issues between Cameron and Foreman fester until they erupt with shocking, life-threatening results.
“House” is not a show about the neat, the simple, or the smooth resolution. It is gloriously messy, and complicated, and rough around the edges – both in its primary, “puzzle of the week” storylines and in its back stories. Season Two of the series builds on these strengths, already established during its debut season, by deepening our understanding of the wounded genius at its core while revealing unsuspected flaws in the supposedly more likable characters that surround him.
And then there are those puzzles. Never shy of controversy, “House” in its second season touches upon such hot-button issues as the use of performance-enhancing drugs by pro cyclists (a particularly timely issue, given the results of this year’s Tour de France); the avoidance of traditional medicine by faith healers; the health-care rights of Death Row inmates; and the seamier side of certain Hurricane Katrina victims. Helped out by a stellar guest cast that includes LL Cool J, Ron Livingston (“Office Space”), Cynthia Nixon, and Michelle Trachtenberg (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), the series educates as it intrigues, shedding new light on prickly topics while House and his team explore each new set of symptoms from every angle…methodically working their way towards the one path that will lead them out of the maze.
The one drawback to the Season Two DVD set is its so-called extras, which consist primarily of two exceedingly boring commentaries by the show’s executive producers, plus two ill-advised “Valley Girl”-style versions of unmemorable scenes. “An Evening with House,” an on-stage interview with the entire cast, is the lone, thoroughly entertaining exception…but as such it only serves to emphasize one point: with actors this articulate, funny and engaging, why on earth wouldn’t you include them in your commentaries?It’s a puzzle that, apparently, even House himself can’t solve.