In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, Sky 1. Starts 4th October
The biggest accusation that can be levelled at House is that it's formulaic. Every episode, someone comes down with the lurgi after a fake out sequence at the beginning where you're not exactly sure who's going to get ill. They turn up at House's hospital. House and his team try to work out what the problem is, they misdiagnose a few times, then House (or someone) has a sudden moment of inspiration and the mystery is solved. All of this takes place while House makes various nasty and/or politically incorrect comments, messes around with his team and pops back the Vicadin.
Yes, they've messed around with that formula a couple of times, but that's basically what happens each and every episode.
So I have to wonder what's going to have to the show from now on, given this season premiere appears to be mucking around with the formula quite a lot.
Unlike with every other House episode, this is entirely about House himself. Of the other regulars, only Wilson gets a look-in and that's for a brief phone call. That makes it feel a little unsatisfying but necessary in context.
Instead, House is stuck inside an asylum with only patients, psychiatrists and visitors to interact with. He's been weened off his pills within about five minutes, so the rest of the episode is dedicated to chief psychiatrist Andre Braugher's attempts to turn House into a normal-type person who won't relapse as soon as he's on the outside.
Six seasons in, that's obviously a harder task than normal. You'd need a two-hour premiere to convincingly come up with a way to turn House the curmudgeon into a happy type, particularly after all the previous attempts.
So Braugher has to be as stubborn and as clever as House; House has to be shown that his quest for the truth can cause serious problems in a way it's never seemed to in the show proper; he has his heart broken by Franke Potente; and his defiance of authority ends up making him more miserable and incapable of getting that all-important recommendation letter that will allow him to become a doctor again.
Basically, this is the anti-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, in which House learns to conform and be a good person.
I'm not entirely sure that it's a 100% plausible transformation for the character or even whether it'll work out well for the show itself - will House slowly revert to type and the House formula? Maybe, but at least we have a bit of variety. I'll be curious to see if the show is as interesting while House is nice though.
But at the very least, it does promise some changes for at least the first few episodes. Where the producers will take the show now remains to be seen.
- September 13, 2012: Preview: The Last Resort (ABC) 1x1
A preview of the first episode of ABC's The Last Resort