When television viewers ask themselves whether to buy the season’s DVD (no matter what the show), it’s no longer such an easy question. A couple years ago, the answer might have always been an unequivocal “yes.” But with easy and immediate downloads available from Amazon and iTunes; and streaming video easily accessible from network website and Internet sites like Hulu, the question isn’t as easily answered. With NBC/Universal’s DVD release of the season five House, M.D. (starring the brilliant Hugh Laurie) just in time for the start of season six, the question comes down to “why buy?”
Of course, as fans of the series know, the show is meant to be viewed multiple times. The dense, layered and intricate scripts can’t be fully enjoyed without a second, third, or maybe fourth, viewing. The nuances of the story, connections and glacial changes in the main characters are easily missed while trying to keep up with the rapid-fire dialogue and fast pacing of each story (whether it’s the medical mystery or character drama) and subplot. And the understated genius of Hugh Laurie’s performance can’t be really appreciated in just one screening. (Hear that Emmy voters?)
House’s fifth season is especially one to be seen beginning to end—commercial-free. More than any other season of the hit show, this past season is a journey for House and the rest of the Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital Crew.
House’s spiral down to where he ends up at Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital begins in episode one. (Actually it begins at the end of season four.) Weight upon weight is applied to his shoulders as House suffers the loss of his best (and arguably only) friend Wilson, the death of his father and the wrinkle of Cuddy’s new baby. But the weight of it all begins to crash down on him later in the season with Kutner’s suicide. And it’s a spectacular crash played out over several episodes.
But it’s not just House’s story that unfolds. Wilson comes to terms with Amber’s death; Cuddy finally after three years becomes a mother; Chase and Cameron marry after a few bumps in the road (and issues with Cameron’s dead husband). In the context of a whole season, even 13 and Forman’s story, much criticized within the fan community is much better and less intrusive.
Guest stars over the season included the legendary Meat Loaf in “Simple Explanation” and Carl Reiner in “Both Sides Now.” As always, some of the best episodes involve stories with parallels to House, himself, and season five had several of those as well (“Unfaithful,” “Emancipation,” “Not Cancer,” even “Last Resort,” with its desperate, hostage taking clinic patient played by Zeljko Ivanek).
The DVD set is on five discs, and the anamorphic picture is beautiful. The colors are sharp (much sharper than my Amazon.com downloads, by the way) on my high definition television (although the set is in standard definition—the series is not available on Blu-ray); the sound is crisp, clear and rich.
The extras are really what make any DVD worthwhile to purchase these days. And the House, M.D. season five DVD set comes with some nice extras—but not nearly enough to satisfy a die-hard fan. There is a writer commentary for one episode, “Locked In,” which guest stars Mos Def as a man with “locked in” syndrome. Alive and brain completely functioning, he is completely paralyzed and unable to speak at all. We see the story through his character’s point of view for most of the episode—and how he views his doctor. It’s an interesting study—and a great episode for a commentary track, especially for the writers. Although the commentary is interesting, and writers Russel Friend, Garrett Lerner and Dr. David Foster give us some nice behind-the-scenes information, I would have liked to have gotten more insight into the story how it connects with the rest of the season (which it does in very elemental ways). But it is interesting watching the episode along with the writers and understand how the episode came to be.