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DVD Review: House, M.D. Season Five

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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 worthwhilecourtesty fox flash 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.

More interesting is a peek at the “House Divided” teaser sequence narrated by director Greg Yaitanes. Featuring a story about a deaf teenage wrestler, the episode takes a look (not necessarily accurate) at deaf culture played against the backdrop of House really beginning to fall apart after Kutner’s suicide—and preparations for Chase’s bachelor party. But the teaser takes place in a high school wrestling tournament, and Yaitanes look at the casting of the episode and the elaborate setup of the teaser gives us an insider’s peek at production values of those little and often elaborate pre-credits sequences.

Also an interesting behind the scenes peek is an interview with the casting directors for the series. They talk about casting for the show, including Hugh Laurie’s, as well as hiring the guest cast. There is also a featurette on Cuddy’s long quest for a baby, and bits about “Huddy,” featuring a nice interview with Lisa Edelstein.

The House season five DVD set is certainly something I’d recommend for series fans to prep for season six, who will now be able to clear their DVRs and hard drives to make room for the next season. And one lucky reader of this space has actually won a copy of the DVD…(insert drum roll): Casey Stoner of Seattle. Congratulations Casey! The DVD will go out sometime next week. Enjoy—and thanks everyone for entering the giveaway!

Season six begins September 21 with a two-hour season premiere. More about that next week, but in the meantime:


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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her debut novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse comes out October 11 from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Orange450

    Great review of the DVD set, Barbara. Thanks!

    I’m not yet sure whether I’m going to buy it – somehow, being post-wedding makes me a little more conscious of my “treat” spending than I was before 🙂

    But your review reminded me once again of what a wonderful season #5 has been. S1 will probably always remain my sentimental favorite, but allowing for that consideration, I think S5 is the best season of the series so far. Pretty impressive for a TV show to hit such heights four years out.

    And given the disgraceful insult currently being dealt to the writers by the Academy, I think this comment of yours deserves to be highlighted:

    “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…”

    While indeed, it’s universally recognized that Hugh Laurie’s acting skills are unparalleled (and if it isn’t universally recognized, it SHOULD be!), this – and other – successful TV show(s) live and die by the writing.

    p.s. Preview Comment works properly!!!! 🙂

  • Val

    Perfect review. I couldn’t agree more. A commercial-free S5 is even more wonderful than the first time through. Viewed through Lucky Thirteen…and a second viewing has quite redeemed an episode I was original not excited about (except maybe the unforgettable minute or two when House discovers his next rival…Cuddy’s baby)as well as a character many have had trouble accepting. It has also made me realize how wonderful Kutner was…and how much he will be missed (he was quite like House with his out-of-the box view on medicine and had a few epiphanies himself during his short time with House). Perhaps this is one other reason his death so affected House…

    I’ve enjoyed the extras, but really do miss the outtakes. My DVD collection is never complete w/o the latest season of House.

  • Awesome review Barbara! I’ll admit, this was the very first season of House where I didn’t see all the episodes. It sounds like I need to get the DVD set (something I skipped with season four) and sit down and watch each one consecutively. There was far better plotting this season and the way I watched the random episodes I didn’t see House’s long spiral. After reading your review, I definitely missed something.

  • Epiphany

    A fair, balanced overview of the season five DVD. However, with regard to this comment: “even 13 and Forman’s story, much criticized within the fan community is much better and less intrusive.”

    Hope springs eternal and all that, but I doubt very much if even a commercial-free viewing of the 13/14 storyline will improve it. Boring, flat, tedious, devoid of any chemistry or conviction it was… and boring, flat, tedious, devoid of any chemistry or conviction it remains. Even as a straight woman, I can see how insulting it would’ve also been to bisexuals and lesbians (dysfunctional with a woman – wanting babies with Foreman. YUCK).

    When I think of all the other avenues that could’ve been explored (or explored better) were it not for the obsession with 13, the bitterness overwhelms me. It’s the reason why I intend to wait a month or two and buy season five used – from ebay or Amazon. Sorry – but I just can’t bring myself to pay the full price when all I’m gonna do is skip every second of 13/14.

  • savta

    At the time that we were watching a very long and somewhat annoying 13/14 arc, I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.

    In retrospect, I think it made Foreman a little more human, certainly less controlled and arrogant than he was portrayed before.

    This arc showed House in a different light when he encouraged Foreman to love and to take risky actions for the person he loved. House actually left the hospital, went over to find 13 and Foreman and also assisted Foreman in zapping the tumor that caused 13’s blindness. He protected the couple from the comments and involvement of the others. This was a different House, a softer House, a caring House and one who didn’t seem to hesitate in supporting and encouraging his fellows outside of their cases.

    These snatches of human-ness amidst the snarky, arrogant, obnoxious House make his character that much more intriguing. What will it be that engages House and draws him to relate to another as a supportive friend? Hard to predict.

  • DebbieJ

    Loved your review, Barbara. Upon first glance (I haven’t watced it yet, just perusing the box), there’s a few things I love about it and a few things I don’t. (This is just my opinion regarding the aesthetics of the physical dvd set.)

    Love the front jacket photo of Hugh/House. Perfect! I wouldn’t change a thing.

    The inside cover photo, well, that’s a different story. I love the colors they used, but the photo of him is awful! His head is misshapened! He looks like he’s got a tumor on the side of his head!

    But on the inside centerfold, is another wonderful photo of Hugh/House, and get this…. in a field of daisies! LMAO Talk about oxy moronic! LOL

    But another thumbs down is that this is the second season in a row with no BLOOPERS! Boooo.

    Can’t wait to sit down and watch commerical-free in an all Season 5 marathon! With the tightly woven character development throughout the whole season, it’ll be like reading a novel!

  • Casey in Seattle

    I was just told about winning this DVD! I am SO excited! Thanks so much, I appreciate the opportunity to enter. Your articles and reviews are the BEST!