Misanthropic medico in superbly bad form
House 8.30pm, Ten
I AM a fan of this American medical drama series, but the early episodes of season three had me worried that Gregory House MD had lost his edge. Recent episodes, including tonight’s, have allayed such fears and I’m delighted to see the Fox network has renewed House for a fourth season.
The turning point for me was the June 20 episode, Half- Wit , in which a subplot had House ( Hugh Laurie) encouraging his adoring staff to think he had brain cancer, because he was trying to score experimental drugs. I’m hoping it was the start of House’s descent into true darkness, a place where his lovable curmudgeon persona will falter, leaving him shunned by all.
Tonight’s episode, Fetal Position , does more to buttress this hope than to undermine it. The problematic patient du jour is Emma Sloan, a famous photographer who suffers a stroke. She is 42, divorced and pregnant via a gay sperm donor with what she hopes will be her first child.
As with all of House’s patients, Sloan ( Anne Ramsay) starts dying as soon as she is admitted. ( A health tip: if you ever feel off- colour in New Jersey, drive straight past PrincetonPlainsboro Teaching Hospital.) House diagnoses a rare condition known as maternal mirror syndrome in which the fetus effectively kills the mother.
This provides the central drama: medical maverick House wants to play it safe and abort the fetus to save the mother. ‘‘ It’s not a baby, it’s a tumour,’’ he says. His usually by- thebook boss Lisa Cuddy ( Lisa Edelstein), also in her 40s and childless, wants to pull out all stops, page Dr Frankenstein if necessary, to save mother and child.
Caught neatly in the middle are House’s team, Eric Foreman ( Omar Epps), Allison Cameron ( Jennifer Morrison) and Robert Chase ( exNeighbours pretty boy — and fine actor — Jesse Spencer). As Foreman puts it when Cuddy fires up the reanimator: ‘‘ Somebody’s got to be Cuddy’s Cuddy.’’
It’s good to see Cuddy’s character move beyond being the well- groomed and graceful butt of House’s jokes ( often about her butt). And the ‘‘ just sex’’ relationship between Cameron and Chase, both of whom are trying to make House jealous, is another welcome diversion from the intensity of the title character.
But of course there is no House without House. Laurie, who has won two Emmys and been gonged by the Queen since taking on this role, is the damaged heart of the show. There is a key scene tonight, in which he performs fetal surgery, that is corny and emotionally manipulative, but deeply moving nonetheless.
Hospital horrors: Hugh Laurie as House, centre, with fellow cast members