House, M.D. Season Eight presents the final season of diagnostic investigations by Dr. House and his team. This last collection shows that the series has truly run its course and the creators have been wise to let it end here. The formula at this point is no longer enough to sustain much interest beyond seeing what comments Dr. House will make to liven things up. The Blu-ray set provides solid picture and sound, and a few extras, including three featurettes on the final disc, to keep things interesting.
Original Airing: 2011-2012
Length: 22 episodes (16 hours, 5 mins)
Genre: Medical Mystery/Drama/Comedy
BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p AVC (@ an average 23 mbps)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.3 mbps)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: Unrated (TV-safe injuries, blood, medical procedures and innuendo)
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer, Peter Jacobson, Odette Anable and Charlyne Yi, with appearances by Olivia Wilde
Creator/Executive Producer: David Shore
Written by: Various
Directed by: Various
Rating: 2 ½/5
There’s a telling moment early in the film Dances With Wolves, where the main character arrives at the Fort he’s supposed to command and finds it abandoned and dilapidated. His guide looks over the site and wryly comments “Not what you’d call a going concern.” As with many television series getting on in years, that description unfortunately applies to the creative state of House, M.D. Season Eight. The Blu-ray package is a five-disc set that holds the full 22 episodes of the show’s final season, including the series finale and a few featurettes about the final days. The basic premise of the series – the medical and diagnostic investigations conducted by the irascible title character and his team – has now truly run its course, more than 6 years into the life of the show. The series still has its trademark snappy dialogue, and some great performances by the long-running regulars on the show, particularly Hugh Laurie in the lead role and Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson. But where there once was a Top Ten show with some really innovative ideas and plots that used medical diagnosis in a Sherlock Holmes context, the final season shows the writers really scrambling to find anything fresh in a format that is now creaking with formula and characters that have already been fully mined. The show’s basic format of having a patient show multiple sets of symptoms and receive multiple diagnoses (and meds) before House’s trademark Act 4 epiphany has now reached the point where it’s as familiar as watching a 1970s cop show or a typical episode of “Law and Order”. The viewer can usually stay a good three or four steps ahead of the characters, which is comforting in a way, but doesn’t make for particularly interesting or groundbreaking storytelling.
SPOILERS: The season begins with an attempt to repeat the change-up done at the beginning of Season 6, with Dr. House in a completely new environment with its own issues. In this case, the first episode, “Twenty Vicodin”, has the good doctor finishing a prison sentence for his behavior in the Season 7 finale. But unlike the risks taken in the Season 6 opener, this one just feels a bit stale. We’ve already been down this road with Dr. House, and we know that he will not only outwit the system and the other inmates but will soon be back at PPTH making startling medical breakthroughs before too much time has gone by. And sure enough, in the second episode, “Transplant”, he gets paroled back to the hospital by the new dean, Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps, with a big promotion for his character) and is quickly back to his old tricks. The departure of Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) is quickly dispensed with some perfunctory dialogue, which is probably appropriate, given that the actress was dropped from the series after refusing to take a salary cut as part of the final season’s reduced budget. The series continues along in its traditional manner until the final few episodes of the year, which reflect the decision by the creators and Fox to end the series.
BIG SPOILERS HERE: As of “Body and Soul”, the stories begin to revolve around a terminal cancer diagnosis for Wilson and the ways House reacts to the impending death of his friend. The remaining few episodes cover Wilson’s treatment while addressing the usual patient of the week, and the final episode, “Everybody Dies” is mostly set in a burning building where House confronts his inner demons before finding a simple way to do the one big unselfish thing we’ve never imagined he could do. The fact that his decision is outlandish and wild is probably not that surprising. We’ve seen the series and Dr. House do crazy things before. But faking his own death to allow him and Wilson to literally drive off into the wilderness together is one that almost no viewer would ever expect or imagine. The final episode features multiple actors who had previously appeared on the show, both as hallucinations of House in the burning building and then as commentators at his funeral. Included in the laundry list of returning alumni are Jennifer Morrison, Anne Dudek, Andre Braugher, Kal Penn, Sela Ward and Amber Tamblyn. It is interesting to note that this list does not include Lisa Edelstein, whose Cuddy is noticeable in her absence, particularly at the end. (I have a strong suspicion that if her character had remained, the cancer story would have been written for her. The loss of her character forced David Shore to switch the victim to Wilson, making the ending more of a story about buddies going off together than a romantic ending.) There is a nice sense of closure to the ending, nonetheless. As an appropriate Warren Zevon song (“Keep Me in Your Heart” plays, we see brief clips to show us where the characters have ended the series journey. Foreman continues as the dean of PPTH while Dr. Chase has inherited the mantle of Dr. House’s position, retaining what is left of the team House assembled. Dr. Cameron has apparently moved on to a new hospital and has a husband and child. And House and Wilson ride off into the distance to the tune of the old ditty “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think”). And that, as they say, is that. Not quite the big finish fans of the series might have expected after the best episodes of the past (“House’s Head”, “Wilson’s Heart”, “Broken”, etc.), but maybe more of a wink and a nod. Probably the best thing about it is that they knew it was time to stop and did so in a responsible manner. That is, if you can get past the idea of House suddenly and radically ending his professional life in this manner.
The Blu-ray set includes all of the episodes in 1080p HD picture and DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, along with three 1080p HD featurettes. Unlike prior season sets, this one does NOT have any commentaries or the PIP U-Control “A Beginner’s Guide to Diagnostic Medicine” feature. The clear intention is simply to present the episodes with the featurettes thrown in as a nice afterthought to wrap things up. The Blu-ray set includes the usual BD-Live and pocket BLU functionality.
VIDEO QUALITY 4/5
House, M.D. Season Eight is presented in a 1080p AVC transfer that accurately presents the HD imaging captured by the Alexa cameras used on the show. Detail and color range continues to be strong, and I really didn’t have any problems with the picture. It’s a nice presentation of a current television series.
AUDIO QUALITY 4/5
House, M.D. Season Eight is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that, as usual, mostly focuses on the front channels, but has a satisfying amount of life in the surrounds, both in terms of music and atmosphere. This aspect is unchanged from the prior seasons. I note plenty of subwoofer activity once an appropriate song comes up on the soundtrack.
DISC BY DISC:
As I regularly do with TV season sets, I think it will work better here to account for what can be found on each disc, in order.
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.
Twenty Vicodin – The season opener finds House in prison, on what he hopes will be the final five days of his stay there. His attempts to do more radical work in the prison hospital don’t do him any favors, and he is repeatedly harassed by the other inmates.
Transplant – House is paroled back to PPTH on the request of new dean Foreman (Omar Epps), and immediately gets back to his old tricks. An early scene with Wilson indicates that House’s friend definitely holds a grudge about the behavior that landed House in the slammer.
Charity Case – Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) returns for what was meant to be the final time as part of this episode.
Dead and Buried.
Perils of Paranoia
Man of the House
Love is Blind
Blowing the Whistle
We Need the Eggs
Body and Soul
The C-Word – This is the second and final episode of the series to be directed by Hugh Laurie.
Holding On – Thirteen returns to give Wilson advice in this penultimate episode of the series.
Everbody Dies – The final episode of the series, directed by series creator David Shore, finds House confronting his inner demons in a burning building.
The disc also contains:
House, M.D. Swan Song (43:40, 1080p) – This longer featurette, narrated by Hugh Laurie, is an affectionate look at the cast and crew who made the show, with pretty much every department getting some attention. The material was recorded during the making of the final episode, at which time it must be noted that some of the crew had already moved on and been replaced.
The Doctor Directs: Behind the Scenes with Hugh Laurie (47:13) – This longer featurette is actually the most interesting thing to be found in the Blu-ray set. Ostensibly a second look at Laurie’s direction of a series episode (following the brief featurette found on the Season 6 set about Laurie’s episode then), this one gets much more into depth about the work done in prep and production. It is acknowledged that this episode, “The C-Word” is the one where the cast and crew began to realize that the series was really ending. Multiple members of the cast and crew are interviewed, particularly 1st Assistant Director Robert Scott, who discusses multiple aspects of his work. (Scott’s farewell from the series at the end of the episode is also shown, including Laurie’s thank you to him and Scott’s compliments to everyone.) In addition to this material, there is one fairly astonishing section wherein executive producer Katie Jacobs comes to the set and asks Laurie some fairly pointed questions that I’m frankly surprised were included here. This is the moment where you really do see under the hood – and it’s something that rarely happens on DVD featurettes. This featurette is presented in two parts, which can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” function.
Everybody Dies: A Postmortem (18:41) – This featurette covers the cast’s reaction to the final episode and includes extensive interview material with creator/director David Shore. Shore makes the point that he doesn’t want to exaggerate the importance of the final episode as he feels it’s the journey getting there that is more important. Frankly, that doesn’t completely wash. Final episodes of series can be great summations of what has gone before or they can be tremendous disappointments. They either live up to the story that we have seen being told over several years or they just whimper into the darkness. In the case of the current series, we could probably say that this one falls somewhere in the middle.
Ultraviolet Copy – Instructions for downloading or streaming an Ultraviolet copy of the episodes are included on an insert in the package. The deadline to access the material is April 30, 2015.
Subtitles are available in English and Spanish for the episodes and for the special features. As with the prior season sets, 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. As I’ve noted before, 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, there’s once again a really odd setup here that did not make me a fan. As with last year, the discs are just double stacked onto the holder, which means it’s a lot more likely the top discs may become scratched. I continue to not understand how the packaging is always a headscratcher. Perhaps Dr. House could figure this out when the next season…oh. Forget that last statement.
IN THE END…
House, M.D. Season Eight provides a decent batch of episodes to wrap up the series, some of which are better than others. The show is definitely showing its age at this point, and it’s for the best that they decided to end it when they did. The high definition picture and sound transfers, coupled with the three featurettes make this a package that fans will likely want to purchase, just to complete their series set. More casual fans will likely be happier watching the earlier seasons before getting to this one.
September 24, 2012.
Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:
Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode
Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)
5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)
2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)
Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer