In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Five, Five US, Hallmark, whenever they get round to it and have finished butchering the theme tune
Characters re-cast: 0
Major characters gotten rid of: Three (for now)
Major new characters: 30
Format change percentage: 30%
Number of deerstalkers worn: One invisible one
Oh dear. Another disappointment. That wasn't very good.
With House's staff having left for pastures new at the end of the third season, the temptation would have been to bring them all back in this season opener. That wouldn't have been very realistic but it would at least have made it more interesting. Because it turns out that Holmes without his Watsons (even if he has his Wilson), just isn't as interesting.
Wilson might be more interesting, Cuddy might be more interesting. But House without someone to insult is just a puzzle solver.
The Sherlock Holmes inspiration for/entire foundation of House is pretty obvious, even if we didn't have clues like House's living at 221b to give the game away. Essentially, each episode is a mystery that needs to be solved, using the clues provided. House eventually works out the solution with his miraculous brain, although it's never a solution we could have guessed.
Holmes, of course, had his Watson to talk to, and while Watson was mainly there to be impressed and have things explained to him, he wasn't an idiot. There was a teacher-student relationship there as well: Watson tries to solve things himself and often does pick up a few things along the way that can help Holmes.
This opener of House is pretty explicit in pointing out that House without his three students just doesn't work as well - he needs a team. Although there is a mystery that needs to be solved (one with a solution you might be able to guess for once, although it's unlikely you will), the emphasis is on Cuddy and Wilson trying to get House to put together a new team, using the current mystery to show him his flaws.
This is amusing, let's be fair, and we finally get to see House and Wilson being a true Holmes and Watson pairing, as they investigate together. Wilson also gets to show far more humour and backbone than we've seen before, with his episode-long 'kidnapping'. But the episode's message is its own worst enemy, because the lack of team just makes the episode a bit grim and inhuman.
I'm sure (particularly given the cast list in the credits) that the House team will be back together and there are measures at the end of the episode to be together a team of sorts until then - and they promise to be fun. But it turns out that tampering with the formula isn't a great idea, even if it does break up the repetition a bit, something that can affect House at times.
New viewers probably should watch some old episodes instead, or wait until the gang's back together. Old viewers, we're just going to have to take our medicine and bear with it, until the show gets better.
PS Is it just me or when you watch you watch House, do you just think 'it's Hugh Laurie being a doctor', not some separate House person?