Only two things can sidetrack me from watching movies and writing reviews:
1) Life in all its jagged facets
I am a poor man’s television geek. Neither Showtime nor HBO are a part of the DirecTV package I have at home simply because it would have eaten into the money used monthly for my Netflix account. So I go without “The Wire” and “Weeds”, waiting until those featured seasons come out on DVD. It’s a long wait of course, but to watch all the episodes without interruption is a far more satisfying experience than waiting weekly, specifically because it gives into a new feeling toward each show. I’m more emotionally invested in all the characters. Suspense on other shows like “24” is felt more sharply.
But in the past two weeks, another show has caught me by my brain and shaken it up in a mix of emotions, humor, stunning dialogue, fully-drawn characters, and all this on network TV. I speak of “House”, which I didn’t catch on to when the first season premiered, simply because I wasn’t as interested in TV then as I am now, having been more wrapped up in what was coming out in theaters during the awards season that screamed “quality” and of course old movies of directors who deserve more time today than they are given. Film noir directors, musicals that are actually musical, that kind of jazz.
But when advertisements started spreading for the DVD release of the second season of “House”, I just decided to go for it.
I was well aware of Hugh Laurie’s career arc, having found success in Britain with “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” (and Stephen Fry is no slouch in his work) and “Jeeves & Wooster.” Then came the “Stuart Little” movies for Laurie and now this, being one of those rare actors from the other side of the ocean who can find success here.
Netflix was obviously handy for this and had apparently struck some sort of a deal with Universal where none of the discs would be double-sided as they are in the actual set. Six discs, two for each side of the three discs.
Whenever I start a new show on DVD, I only bring in the first disc, because there’s always that chance I won’t like what I see. But in watching Dr. Gregory House try to investigate mysterious ailments that besiege patients at the Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital—that which cannot be solved by a conventional doctor and House is made even more unconventional by his extreme dislike for his patients, which mellows out towards the end of the first season, with all forces of the show turning toward discovering why House shuts himself away from relationships—it was a rareified, astonishing experience. We learn that a five-year relationship ended so badly that this is why he lives like this. Who was the woman in the relationship? What part of it scarred him so badly?
A good TV show keeps you asking questions. A great TV show involves you in those questions. House’s best friend, Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) is surprised at the sole condition that brings one of House’s former staff back into his employ, but worries more about the consequences that may follow if the situation isn’t dealt with as delicately as possible. All the while, before the important emotion crops up, House spars with the head of the hospital, Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) and soon finds an unsettling foe in Edward Vogler (Chi McBride) who donates $100 million dollars to the hospital and elevates himself to chairman of the board, and quickly doesn’t like House or his methods. He’s a moneyman and wants to run the hospital as a business and it’s tension that’s usually rare on network TV, but since we are essentially in a new golden age of television that allows these dramas to be more and more, it’s an enormous pleasure.
And the real delay in doing any writing comes when the discs of any given TV show’s season can come to you right away via Netflix. It was certainly true early this morning after finishing the godawful Radioland Murders. Sleep used to be important before I was into movies and I still complain at the start of each college semester when getting up early is part of pursuing a degree. But towards two in the morning, it didn’t matter. Four episodes on the second-to-last disc of “House” and I was going for it. Little did I know that what came after the Edward Vogler story would involve me far more than being awed at how well Chi McBride is framed on camera. The way they use his broad shoulders nearly touching each side of the widescreen frame symbolizes very well the seemingly endless power the man has. But where I sometimes get tired of characters slowly becoming romantically attached to no satisfactory avail, this had me watching. It didn’t matter that it was close to 5 a.m. when I finished. It was worth every minute and in some instances, the medical case House and his team (which includes Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison, and Jesse Spencer) investigate became a minor annoyance as I wanted to see the personal side of House. I wanted to know what was going to be with this potential relationship. Creator David Shore and his writers and directors are well-tuned into those feelings and know how to bring out each moment as slowly and apprectiatively as possible because the talent has obviously not run out on this show yet, judging from the third season premiering soon, and hopefully it won’t. Not at least until I get through the third season on DVD.
That might seem strange, considering the show is on FOX and I can Tivo it. Maybe. Maybe just the first episode, since it’s a family Tivo unit, so I’m not the only one to use it. Disappointing, especially if the second season turns out to be even more engrossing. But I’m addicted beyond a healthy amount, so whatever I can get is good enough, as long as the repeats come soon after.