11.05.2007

Housecall

The Angry Young Bostonian takes television-watching very seriously. It provides an escape from the mundaneness of the workday; it keeps the mind off the monotony of running on a treadmill; it gives a frame a reference when reading columns and columns of commentary about TV online.

Most shows that debuted in September have now broadcast over 25% of their episodes and it's time to check in with what works, what doesn't work, what still has a season pass on the DVR and what doesn't deserve disk space.

Some of the shows reviewed are returning series, others are in their freshman year. All reviews are written after the viewing of the fifth episode.

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I'm still a week behind in viewing episodes of House MD, but I just want to write it down that it is probably the best season for the fourth-year drama, and it just may be the best show on television right now.

House has often tried to be two shows in one, and usually has not done a good job about it until this year. In season one, Chi McBride spent five episodes as the hospital's new chairman, bent on forcing House to lose his eccentricities and go about his job as a good doobie. Season three had David Morse as a slighted cop, for six episodes, attempting to throw House in jail for illegal (and rightfully so) drug possession. Both of these guest-actor stints failed as plot lines because they were too predictable -- they would give Dr. House some trouble, but since House is the name of the show, you know that in the end, Dr. House will come out on top. It also didn't help that the trade papers would announce exactly how many episodes would feature these new actors.

Cut to season four and we finally have a long-running B-story that meshes perfectly into the A-story of each episode: House's new staff. At the end of season three, two members of House's three-person team quit, while he fired the third member. Season four opens with House's team consisting of 50 applicants, all vying for three spots.

As the applicant pool shrinks and the team gets closer and closer to its required size, we see some great interactions between applicants and House and between House and his bosses and colleagues over his unorthodox hiring methods. House's palpable disgust with the newbies (he calls the group's Mormon "Big Love") further spices up the mix -- and by mix, I mean "Big Love" stands up to House by socking him. That's good TV when a Mormon punches a disabled person in the face.

A great aspect of all this is that the applicants are so intent on working for House that they will put up with his disparaging remarks (rather than call applicants by their names, he uses nicknames like "Cutthroat Bitch" and "The Prettier Twin") and commands that cross far over the line that his usual breaking and entering M.O. would -- episode four had his team illegally digging up a grave.

I think eventually House's old team will return to him, but it will be interesting to see if any of the new applicants make it on to the team as well. The dynamic of the show had been getting a little stale and this new season-arcing subplot has really breathed some new life into things.

You can catch up with the show here.

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Bottom line: The best procedural show on TV right now.

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