Release Date: August 19, 2008
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Morrison, Jesse Spencer, Peter Jacobson, Kal Penn, Olivia Wilde and Anne Dudek
Created and Executive Produced by: David Shore
House, M.D.: Season Four is a 4-disc DVD collection of the most recent season of the Fox Network series covering the diagnostic investigations of Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) and a team of doctors. Having never seen the show before this season set, I was pleasantly surprised to find it an effective medical drama with a lot of offbeat choices designed to keep the viewer off balance until the final act. When done well, this formula makes for thoroughly addictive television – and House, M.D. certainly fits that description. This is helped by the fact that while Dr. House is a brilliant doctor, he is also an admittedly terrible human being – and the viewer gets to see him say and do pretty much every wrong thing he can before each hour is up. (There’s a running joke in the series about Dr. House being punched out by his patients – with justification…) For this season, the show’s creative staff have changed up the basic situation by having Dr. House assemble a new team, while the previous team appears around the edges of the episodes. (One team member, played by Omar Epps, does return to the bunch, but the others are given different jobs in the hospital and tend to comment on the cases rather than participate in them.) As with the other television series affected by last year’s WGA strike, House, M.D.: Season Four comes with a smaller number of episodes, 12 from before the strike and 4 from after, for a total of 16. On the other hand, several of the episodes, especially the closing two-parter, are quite effective. I am happy to recommend this season set, both for the quality of the series, and for a number of extra features on the final disc.
The DVD set comes with a group of extras on the fourth disc, including a commentary on the first part of the season finale, and several featurettes about the season and the season finale in particular. It’s not a lot, but the material does scratch a bit beyond the surface compliments you normally see, and all the featurettes on the fourth disc are presented in anamorphic widescreen, which at least spares the viewer from having to repeatedly change the settings on the TV when watching them. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish both for the episodes and for the featurettes.
As with my earlier series reviews, I will take the discs in order, detailing what episodes and features can be found on each. THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE, in the interest of letting fans of the series know where they can see key developments.
This disc contains the first five episodes of the season:
“Alone” – The premiere episode of the season finds Dr. House without a team as he tries to diagnose a woman who was pulled from a collapsed building. (When all else fails, the janitor is apparently a good option for Dr. House when he needs a second opinion…) Dr. House is also blackmailed by an associate when his most prized possession is kidnapped and apparently tortured.
“The Right Stuff” – Dr. House plays an elimination tournament with the room full of potential team members, pitting them against each other to diagnose an astronaut with a neurological disorder.
“97 Seconds” – Dr. House plays “Survivor” with the final ten candidates, making them compete over the case of a wheelchair-bound man who gets worse with each treatment. A subplot involves a man who deliberately electrocutes himself to experience death before being revived.
“Guardian Angels” – The team candidates have dropped to seven, and they deal with a woman who talks to the dead.
“Mirror, Mirror” – The team candidates deal with a John Doe patient who mirrors their behaviour back at them. This episode sees Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) rejoin the team as an advisor.
-When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see non-anamorphic trailers for DVDs of Heroes: Season 2, Life: Season One, Crossing Jordan: Season One and a promo for the upcoming season ofHouse.
There is also a “Previews” menu, which brings up non-anamorphic trailers for the season sets for Battlestar: Galactica, Coach, Eureka, The Incredible Hulk, Murder She Wrote, Northern Exposure, Quantum Leap, and The Rockford Files, along with a combined trailer for The A Team, Knight Rider and Magnum P.I..
This disc contains the sixth thru the tenth episodes of the season:
“Whatever It Takes” – Dr. House is taken by the CIA to treat an agent, while Foreman argues with the remaining team candidates about how to treat a stock car driver.
“Ugly” – Dr. House and the team candidates deal with a reality TV crew while trying to diagnose the issues of a teenager having craniofacial surgery.
“You Don’t Want to Know” – The final five candidates deal with a magician with an illness. And Dr. House comes up with a contest to see who gets fired next.
“Games” – Dr. House gives the final candidates the case of a punk rocker. By the end of this episode, the new team has been named.
“It’s a Wonderful Lie” – Dr. House finds a great new use for Christmas – dividing his own team members – while dealing with a mother and daughter who don’t lie, or do they?
There are no special features on the second disc.
This disc contains the eleventh thru the fourteenth episodes of the season, including the final two before the WGA strike, and the first two after it ended:
“Frozen” – Dr. House and the team diagnose a doctor at the South Pole, while House tries to figure out who Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) is dating.
“Don’t Ever Change” – Dr. House and the team deal with a converted Hasidic Jewish woman who is stricken at her wedding. And we learn that Wilson is actually dating former team candidate Amber (Anne Dudek).
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” – Dr. House is suspicious that an emergency room patient’s niceness is actually a symptom. Dr. House also competes with Amber for Dr. Wilson’s attention.
“Living the Dream” – Dr. House is convinced that one of the actors on “Prescription Passion” has a serious illness, but his team disagrees with him.
There are no special features on the third disc.
The fourth disc includes the two-part season finale, along with a host of special features:
“House’s Head” – The first part of the season finale begins with Dr. House realizing he’s been in a terrible bus accident, for which he now has no memory. (And typically, he comes to in a strip club) He quickly becomes convinced that someone on that bus is going to die if he can’t remember what happened. He gets the team to treat the bus driver but realizes he’s just cured the wrong person. (This episode gets the only commentary in the set – a scene specific talk between creator/exec producer David Shore and co-exec producer Katie Jacobs, who directed the second part of the finale. They’re clearly having fun watching and talking through the show, but they do get some details wrong. As one example, they get confused between the Universal and Fox backlots when describing the bus crash site, repeatedly saying that the wide shots were done at Universal when they are clearly happening at Fox.)
“Wilson’s Heart” – Dr. House and the team freeze their patient while they try to figure out what the problem is and whether there is a solution. (This is a particularly wrenching episode – the gut punch was strong enough that my dog became very worried about me while I was being affected by it…)
And on the fourth disc, we finally get to some special features, all presented in anamorphic widescreen:
House’s Soap: Prescription Passion - (6:44, Anamorphic) – Several scenes from the soap opera from “Living the Dream” are presented here in their entirety.
New Beginnings - (26:00, Anamorphic) – SPOILER ALERT – LOTS OF SPOILERS IN THIS FEATURETTE! - This is a collection of the usual intercuts between interviews, set footage and episode clips. It covers the choices made to bring in a new diagnostic team, and the glee with which the creative staff had Dr. House cleave his way through the contenders. (One joke gets brought up that this wasn’t a matter of watching House find the three people so much as it was a matter of getting to see him FIRE twenty-seven people!) The former team members comment on the change in their situation (in that they rarely have scenes together anymore) and the new team members talk about the competition, as they say they didn’t know right away which people would actually land on the team.
Meet the Writers - (14:45, Anamorphic) – This is a sit-down discussion with Thomas Moran and two of the show’s writing staff, covering the basic construction of an episode of the series. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff, in that the scripts are mysteries and need to be constructed backwards from the solution to the question.
The Visual Effects of House - (15:26, Anamorphic) – This segment features the visual effects designers from Encore Hollywood, who discuss the show’s early fascination with doing CGI explorations inside the human body, and the current season’s challenges. The building collapse from the premiere episode is shown in detail, and various other effects are discussed.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Bus Crash - (5:45, Anamorphic) – This brief segment focuses on the season finale’s bus crash, with on-set footage of the bus mockup being spun in place while stuntmen tumble around inside. The cut-ins with the cast members, of course, get done with a stationary set and the camera and effects being blown around them. Greg Yaitanes, director of the first part of the finale, is interviewed here.
My Favorite Episode So Far… - (6:47, Anamorphic) – The cast members weigh in on their favourite segments to date. Given that this featurette looks like it was done fairly close to the finale, there’s a lot of attention given there.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½
House, M.D.: Season Four gets a fine anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that blends the various CGI effects in to the real scenes pretty seamlessly. Given that this is a new season of a network series, the transfer is quite nice: Whites and blacks and flesh tones all look good. The transfer is really a pleasure to watch.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
House, M.D.: Season Four is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that, as usual, mostly lives in the front channels. There are occasional moments where more is called for – the collapsing building in the first episode, the bus crash in the season finale. But the overwhelming majority of the episodes is taken up with the diagnoses and discussions between the doctors in the front speakers, while the music lives in both the front and rear channels.
As I have mentioned in other season set reviews, the various episodes here each have a few chapter stops, but there are no chapter menus, meaning that the viewer must step through them on their own. This is annoying, to say the least. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
IN THE END...
House, M.D.: Season Four is a great way to experience the shortened fourth season, and see a few extra features on the fourth disc. Given my pleasure with the series, and the extra features as presented, I am pleased to recommend it as a purchase.
August 24, 2008
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