HOUSE M.D. SEASON SIX Studio: Universal Original Airing: 2009-2010 Length: 21 episodes (16 hours, 7 mins) Genre: Medical Mystery/Comedy BD Resolution: 1080p BD Video Codec: VC-1 @ 20 mbps Color/B&W: Color Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish Rating: Unrated (TV-safe injuries, blood, medical procedures and innuendo) Release Date: August 31, 2010 Rating: 3 ½ Starring: Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Olivia Wilde, Jesse Spencer, and Peter Jacobson, with appearances by Andre Braugher and Jennifer Morrison Creator/Executive Producer: David Shore Written by: Various Directed by: Various House, M.D. Season Six is a five-disc Blu-ray set that holds the full 21 episodes of the show’s most recent season. The basic premise of the series – the medical and diagnostic investigations conducted by the irascible title character and his team – continues to operate here, although it’s starting to get a bit creaky in more of the episodes. The usual scenario of a patient showing symptoms of one disease, getting meds for that disease and then repeatedly showing all new symptoms to trigger all new meds and treatment before the case is solved in the final act doesn’t always ring completely true. (In the first place, this idea [multiple meds and treatments within a two day period] is a recipe more for a dead patient than a solved mystery. And in the second place, some of these situations start to get a bit melodramatic. An early episode called “The Tyrant” has the team openly debating whether to save an African despot, which is a bizarre situation to imagine for any doctor.) However, the series continues to show strengths in dialogue and characterization, as well as a solid acting ensemble. The season opens with a particularly daring risk. The double-sized opener, “Broken” finds the title character, Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), having committed himself to a psychiatric hospital. Aside from a brief phone call with Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), there are no appearances by any of the regular characters other than House. Instead, we are presented with the doctors and patients of Mayfield, which include several colorful psych cases and the great Andre Braugher as the lead psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan. Watching Laurie and Braugher fence with each other is a true pleasure – it’s akin to watching two skilled athletes competing on the field. They each bring out the best in other. And the episode ranges from truly odd moments that misfire (a talent show by the patients) to some astonishingly moving ideas. (House’s attempt to help a delusional patient achieve flight, along with the results of that idea; House’s attempt to help a long-silent patient and her sister) After this episode, one might expect great and different things from the show. Instead, things return to normal as of the second ep, where House returns to the regular setting and essentially rejoins his team. Within six episodes, he’s essentially back in the same working situation with the same team he has had for years, which tends to result in episodes riding more on the snappy dialogue and performances than from the kinds of risks seen in the season opener. Jennifer Morrison leaves the series as of the seventh episode, but this has very little effect on the goings-on. Two eps along the way focus on the characters of Wilson and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), and one episode essentially locks the team in different parts of the hospital to explore their characters a bit further. The final two episodes take a few more risks. The penultimate ep, “Baggage” explores a typical team case from the perspective of a psychiatric session with Nolan, which allows the usual diagnostic scenes to have the twist of having Andre Braugher commenting on them from within each moment. And the season finale, “Help Me” involves House in the rescue of a patient from a collapsed building – using a Canon 5D digital still camera rather than the usual film cameras. The result is visually interesting as a one-off, but not something you’d want to see every week. (There are clear limitations on the depth of field, and the range of what you can normally see – and that’s to be expected from a still camera on “movie mode”. But for this episode, the use makes sense in such close quarters.) The Blu-ray set includes all of the episodes in 1080p HD picture and DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, along with audio commentaries on four episodes, several 1080i HD featurettes, and a PIP U-Control feature that provides “A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine”. The Blu-ray set also includes the usual BD-Live and pocket BLU functionality. Given my affection for the series, as well as some nice extras here – particularly a group focused on the season opener, this is an easy set for me to recommend for fans to purchase. I think that new viewers would likely do better to watch some of the earlier episodes before getting into this set – but established fans will have a great time. Even in the less successful episodes, there are still great moments of character and humor to carry you through. VIDEO QUALITY 4/5 House, M.D. Season Six is presented in a 1080p VC-1 transfer that is pretty solid throughout, with a nice amount of facial detail in a variety of lighting situations. The one episode I must exempt from this, of course, is “Help Me”, which suffers from the limitations of the digital stills cameras used for its production. The transfer itself is fine, but the image quality betrays its source a bit – there’s a reason we make movies with motion picture cameras and not personal DSLRs, and this episode simply strengthens that case. I should note that I am viewing this season set on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone with a larger HDTV (60” or more) notices a problem with the picture quality, please comment within this thread. AUDIO QUALITY 4/5 House, M.D. Season Six is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that mostly focuses on the front channels, but has a satisfying amount of life in the surrounds, both in terms of music and atmosphere. DISC BY DISC: As I normally do with TV season sets, I think it will work better here to account for what can be found on each disc, in order. To save time, I’ll restate that every episode has a U-Control “A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine” function. The discs also contain the usual My Scenes bookmarking and BD-Live functionality of all Universal Blu-ray releases. The discs also feature the pocket BLU app for iPhones. DISC ONE: Episodes: Broken, with scene-specific commentary by director/producer Katie Jacobs and writers Garrett Lerner and Russell Friend. This commentary is pretty in-depth and informative, as the group discusses the evolution and production of this double-sized departure episode. And the episode itself is a pretty daring risk for the series. Epic Fail – Things return more or less to normal with this episode, which features a significant amount of CGI game animations, some of which are incorporated into live action scenes. The Tyrant – James Earl Jones guest-stars as an African despot depending on the team to save his life. But the question quickly becomes – will the team members simply let him die in order to keep him from killing his own people? This disc also contains: Before Broken (1080i, 9:53) – Introduced by Katie Jacobs, this is a collection of shots done with Hugh Laurie at the New Jersey location of the psychiatric hospital on the last day of filming there for the Season Five finale. As an exercise, the company filmed some silent vignettes of House as a patient on the property grounds, and Jacobs cut them together. A New House for House (1080i, 22:40) – This featurette covers the design and construction of the sets of the psychiatric hospital in Broken, as well as the use of the actual location for exteriors. New Faces in a New House (1080i, 8:45) – This featurette covers the casting of the doctors and patients seen at the hospital in Broken, including interviews with the various actors, clips from the episode, and on-set footage. Crazy Cool Episode: Epic Fail (1080i, 22:29) – This featurette covers the extensive CGI and vocal work done for the game-centric second episode. Pre-visualization footage is juxtaposed with finished CGI and video of the actors recording their voiceovers. And the usual interviews and on-set footage are included to boot. A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine – This U-Control function is a series of PIP clips that discuss whatever illness, symptoms and medication the doctors are discussing in the scene at hand. It’s actually pretty clinical information, and not as light as the title might lead you to think. DISC TWO: Episodes: Instant Karma Brave Heart Known Unkowns Teamwork - As of this episode, House regains his medical license and retakes control of the team. This episode marks the final regular appearance by Jennifer Morrison. Ignorance is Bliss This disc also contains: A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine – This U-Control function is a series of PIP clips that discuss whatever illness, symptoms and medication the doctors are discussing in the scene at hand. It’s actually pretty clinical information, and not as light as the title might lead you to think. DISC THREE: Episodes- Wilson, with scene-specific commentary by Robert Sean Leonard and writer David Foster The Down Low Remorse Moving the Chains 5 to 9,with scene-specific commentary by Lisa Edelstein and writer Thomas L. Moran The disc also contains: A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine – This U-Control function is a series of PIP clips that discuss whatever illness, symptoms and medication the doctors are discussing in the scene at hand. It’s actually pretty clinical information, and not as light as the title might lead you to think. DISC FOUR: Episodes: Private Lives Black Hole Lockdown– this episode is noteworthy for having been the directorial debut of Hugh Laurie. It features what is likely the final series appearance by Jennifer Morrison, and an initial use of the Canon 5D stills camera later used for the season finale. Knight Fall This disc also contains: A Different POV: Hugh Laurie Directs (1080i, 7:22) – This brief featurette shows video footage of Hugh Laurie directing his episode from the pre-production meeting phase through the actual filming of the episode. A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine – This U-Control function is a series of PIP clips that discuss whatever illness, symptoms and medication the doctors are discussing in the scene at hand. It’s actually pretty clinical information, and not as light as the title might lead you to think. DISC FIVE: Episodes- Open and Shut The Choice Baggage Help Me, with a scene-specific commentary by producer/director Greg Yaitanes and technical advisor Larry Collins. The episode is a good one, but the commentary is surprisingly bubbly for the episode’s content. Greg Yaitanes offers some interesting thoughts about the artistic choices here, but spends much of the time enthusiastically discussing the on-screen procedures with Larry Collins. It’s truly odd to juxtapose the high-energy commentary with the episode itself. The disc also contains: A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine – This U-Control function is a series of PIP clips that discuss whatever illness, symptoms and medication the doctors are discussing in the scene at hand. It’s actually pretty clinical information, and not as light as the title might lead you to think. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish for the episodes and for the special features. Standard chapter menus are not exactly included here – instead, each episode is itself a chapter. There are four chapters within each episode, but they are not itemized in a menu – which means you may have to hunt through an episode if you stop the disc and restart it later. Personally, I find this kind of thing a bit annoying, but other viewers may be fine with it. The usual Blu-ray pop-up menus work fine. Regarding the packaging, as with the BSG releases, there’s a really odd setup here that did not make me a fan. Essentially, the discs are packed on top of each other, two at a time. To get the bottom one out, you must remove the top one, and doing that is a bit of work, as you must press down on either side of the plastic. I constantly worry about breaking the discs in this kind of a situation. I really have to ask – does it have to be this complicated to take the discs out of the packaging? IN THE END… House, M.D. Season Six provides a nice batch of episodes to bring series fans up to date on their collections. Not all the episodes are as strong as they have been in the past, and the essential formula of the series is getting a little, well, old, but there’s still a lot of life here. And the opening and closing episodes show a lot more creativity left to be tapped in this well. The high definition picture and sound transfers, coupled with three out of the four commentaries, and a generous amount of material covering the opening episode, make this an easy package to recommend for fans to purchase. Kevin Koster August 31, 2010.