One of the most anticipated season premieres airs tonight: House (Fox/Global, 8 p.m.). I've seen the first two episodes and they are typical of the series, which has a high standard of excellence and rarely offers a clunker.
Dr. House's relationship with his one and only friend, Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), is the B-story through much of these two episodes. Wilson, still broken hearted after the tragic death of his girlfriend Amber in last season's two-part finale, seems done with House. At the end of tonight's "Dying Changes Everything," he packs his bags and checks out of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. The split seems irreparable but how long can this Sherlock function without his Watson?
House has quietly become the most-watched scripted series on television in the U.S. (it was edged last season in Canada by Grey's Anatomy). Star Hugh Laurie was rewarded with a new contract that pays him William Petersen/Kiefer Sutherland money (a reported $400,000 per episode) and also locks him up for another three seasons.
With big money comes high expectations. Look for House to continue to deliver. Creator and showrunner David Shore, by his own admission the "second most famous writer from London, Ontario" (he counts Oscar-winner Paul Haggis as No. 1), seems determined to keep pushing the series into surprising and challenging corners. Last season's mini-makeover--where House's diagnostic team was disbanded and a reality show-like lottery was used to find their replacements--was a blueprint for fourth season shakeups, even during what became a strike-shortened season.
The other good news is that Shore and Laurie both seem determined to keep House mean and nasty, like a real, live M.D. When we first see him again tonight, he is playing video games on a patient's monitor, using the old dude's feeble hand as a cup holder.
He's a complete dick toward Wilson, mocking his bereavement and calling him an idiot. When Wilson says he needs a change of scenery, House tells him to buy a house plant. Wilson finally has enough after one last insult. "I'd need a flow chart," he says, "to explain all the ways that was ridiculously insensitive."
Many viewers, I'm sure, keep coming back for the medical who dunnits, to see how House pulls another last-minute, life saving diagnosis out of his ass. After all, you wouldn't keep watching just to see all that pain and misery build up behind those pale blue eyes, unless you were also looking for clues to a disease we all share--the human condition.