House: Season 6 Premiere, “Broken”

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Season 6 begins with House in a mental institution for a Vicodin addiction and subsequent hallucinations. (It also begins with a great dream-like sequence of him shackled to his hospital bed set to Radiohead’s “No Surprises.”) Except for a two-minute phone conversation with Wilson, none of the usual characters are in the episode. Except that they sort of are.

There’s the head of the hospital (Andre Braugher), who’s House’s confidant and intellectual match, and also challenges him, like Wilson. There’s a female doctor who challenges but also enables, embodying House’s former employees: Cameron, Chase and Foreman, plus a little hospital administrator Cuddy thrown in there too, minus the sexual tension. There’s a married woman who’s a love interest (Run Lola Run‘s Franka Potente), who is a lot like Sela Ward’s married, former flame Stacy from seasons 1 and 2. The other inmates are the hapless patients that House normally encounters: trying to absorb wisdom from him, but generally getting rebuffed and rejected instead.

In this strange Cuckoo’s Nest, with House as McMurphy (and sometimes as Nurse Ratched too), the season 6 premiere is the same formulaic story of House as usual, but set in a different environment. Except that then, unexpectedly, the story changes too. Suddenly, House is trying to be a better person. He’s trying to have reciprocal, trusting relationships. And things, for the most part, are magically better in this alternate House world. Ultimately, this new House improves the lives of the people around him and embraces his desire for a better life in order to save himself. And frankly, the change feels saccharine and forced.
What makes House the show watchable is that House the character is so deeply abusive and fatally flawed. But a history with House tells the loyal viewer that he will not stay fixed for long. And that’s a good thing. Because if this episode indicates anything, it’s that no one wants to be in a world where House is all better.

Related Links:
TV Soundtrack Award: House Season 6 Premiere (“Broken”)