I can remember taking out the first season of House M.D. from my library and quickly blowing through all of the discs. It wasn’t long after that I was into season two and within weeks I had watched the entire series in time for the second season’s finale. After being exposed to that much House in a few short weeks the wait till the start of the third season seemed obnoxiously long and watching it in only one week installments seemed strange.
House follows Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital and the medical team led by Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie). House’s specialty is diagnosing cases that other doctors are unable to do so and through brainstorming sessions with his team of three doctors, Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) and Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer), are eventually able to deduce the ailments of the patients—although, as this season proves, they aren’t always able to diagnose in time. On top of the hard cases, Dr. Foreman, Dr. Cameron and Dr. Chase have to deal with House’s “unapologetically prickly bedside manner”, which, while annoying, has to be put up with due to House’s annoying ability to save hundreds of lives that otherwise would have been lost.
If the above description sounds oddly stiff, it’s because it’s almost hard to write about the show from a technical standpoint—I know what the shows about and while the medical mysteries are the thing that all of the episodes revolve around, the outside elements of each of the stories are sometimes more engaging to view than others. The third season of House was on par with past seasons and the character interactions, always the shows strongest point, remained as great as ever throughout the season. Laden with cameos from TV talent, including an appearance by singer/songwriter Dave Matthews and Kurtwood Smith in one of the stronger episodes of the season, “Half-Wit”, the third season of House turned up the intrigue factor and threw some increasingly odd patients our way. There are a ton of great episodes in this season and there isn’t a single episode I found dull, even the out-of-office “Airborne” episode was excellent.
Obviously the strength of the show stems from Hugh Laurie’s superb performance as Dr. House. His snarky attitude throughout the series and interactions with the staff inside of the hospital always brings about golden moments in the show. The third season progresses the relationships with all of the doctors in the hospital, notably between Wilson and House who slowly become closer friends towards the end of the season.
Of course the downside to the series is that once you know the medical mystery of the patients in the show there isn’t much to look for on a repeat viewing. The character moments are wonderful, even on extra viewings, but while re-watching the season it quickly became evident that House works best with single viewings. Not to say the shows writing is poor by any means, it’s just that with shows involving mystery or intrigue, there’s never much to see again once you’ve watched it all.
Despite the shows one-time-viewing issue (well, it’s an issue with me anyway), this season still comes Highly Recommended. Even if the seasons ending of all of House’s staff leaving him creates a widely different show next season (for the first few episodes, at least—writing out three of the shows stars is a bit too gutsy of a move), the series will no doubt continue to be one of the highlights of Fox’s TV lineup.
Having never done anything but look at previous seasons of House on DVD in stores, I never realized that the plain outer packaging mirrors the inside perfectly. While other Universal releases, such as Heroes or the third season of The Office have colorful disc art and tons of images and other related notes from the series, House is the complete opposite. While there’s an image of the crew behind the middle dual-layer digi-pak panels, the majority of the set is just made of various reds and all of the discs sport the same disc art (a red band with lettering). Purely from a visual standpoint, the packaging and DVD menus are extremely underwhelming. For a show such as House you’d expect a bit more, but it gets the job done I suppose.
Video and audio for this season is superb. Having watched quite a few episodes of this season in HD the DVD transfer lacks the same sharpness as Fox’s HD signal, but it still looks great for the most part. In addition, the audio is a solid 5.1 mix that uses the rear channels throughout the season with background noises in the hospital and the like. The two offer up a solid presentation of the series that certainly won’t disappoint—and for the curious, yeah the episodes are in anamorphic widescreen. Why the first season was released in a 4:3 frame still remains a mystery to me, but like the second season, the third is in an anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer.
Moving onto the extras we have slim pickings. The first disc has an alternate version of a scene where Jennifer Morrison (Dr. Allison Cameron) and Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Lisa Cuddy) curse up a storm (having not seen the previous seasons extras before, I was a bit bewildered as to what I was watching, but quickly found that this was the third installment in the “Valley Girl” series, where Morrison and Edelstein act like…well, Valley Girls). It’s hilarious to watch and after watching the other two from past seasons is definitely the funniest—though that may just be due to the incredible use of the bleeping sound that’s used throughout it.
Three featurettes, “Blood, Needles and Body Parts” and “Open House” take us on tours of the prop department and the production office, while “House Soundtrack Session” shows us some footage of the band “Band from TV” performing and discussing their goal with the band. The band was started by Greg Grunberg (Parkman on Heroes) and Hugh Laurie was recruited when Grunberg approached him during the second season of House, of which Grunberg guest starred on. The band is simply a group of guys from TV shows that want to play music, so don’t expect Grammy award winning music, although Laurie is quite impressive on the piano. The prop featurette is a lot of fun to watch, especially when the fake blood props are shown, which quickly cause a spraying mess on the racks and other equipment nearby. The production office shows us who everyone is in the House staff and while it’s great to watch, there really wasn’t anything of great importance seen. Except that they have a pool table with the House logo on it.
“Anatomy of an Episode” covers “The Jerk”, the second to last episode of the season. This is a lengthy extra and goes into great detail with the origin of the episode as well as the progression of the cast and crews obsession with chess. Nearly the entire cast is interviewed and it’s interesting to hear Laurie talk while on-set as he hovers between full-American and full-British accents. Plenty of cool information is culled from this extra and even a few spoilers for the next season (oddly enough they talk about the next season in this episodes extra and not in a separate featurette).
There is only one commentary on this set and it’s on the episode “Half-Wit.” I previously mentioned how great this episode was and watching it with commentary basically backs up that statement—the crew on the commentary are nothing but praising of everyone’s work on the show and there are a few neat tidbits thrown into the commentary, but for the most part it’s a bit dry.
A short blooper reel wraps up the extras on this set and I must say I don’t think I’ve been so thoroughly unimpressed with a TV on DVD box set in a long time. The series and this season in particular are part of must-watch TV, but the packaging and extras on this set are rather sparse. There’s so little to view and having only one commentary out of a twenty-four episode season is rather insane, especially when the season finale had so much packed into it.
Overall this season comes Recommended, but those who don’t think they’ll be re-watching the show much may just want to give it a Rental. It’s really hard to gauge TV shows sometimes, as some are really just not made for repeat viewings. However, Hugh Laurie is always entertaining to watch as House and, if nothing else, that is worth the price for this set alone.
House M.D. – Complete Third Season is now available on DVD.