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Sixth season premiere transforms House

“Isn’t that the show about that jerk doctor with the limp?”

This is the response I often get when I say how much I love the Fox program House MD. The show, one of the most respected and awarded on television, began its sixth season Sept. 21. While it is widely known as a medical procedural, House is more often an analysis of the human condition.

The program, which chronicles the life of brilliant, cruel diagnostician Gregory House, (Hugh Laurie), follows one patient with a mysterious illness over the course of each episode. These weekly guest stars provide plenty of drama and medical gross-outs, from bleeding from the ears to Alien Hand Syndrome.

However, the show more closely follows House’s co-workers, which include boss Dr. Cuddy, (Lisa Edelstein), only friend Wilson, (Robert Sean Leonard) and his much abused staff. The interaction between the nine regulars is what drew me to the show – everything from romance to risky surgery is portrayed in an innovative and poignant way.

Despite its famously procedural nature, the shocker of last season’s end prompted creator David Shore to diverge from the usual episode format for the sixth season premiere. House, a Vicodin addict, hits rock bottom after debilitating hallucinations, and is taken to rehab by Wilson.

The sixth season opens with House undergoing withdrawals from Vicodin as he detoxes. Despite his anticipation to return to the hospital, the mental ward staff assures him that a detox is not the only thing necessary: he must want to improve psychologically.

The two-hour episode follows him on this (reluctant) journey, as he fights his cynical and misanthropic nature in order to improve himself. House deals with Alvie, an annoyingly manic roommate, and Dr. Nolan, a very strict psychologist who refuses to give in to House’s demands to retrieve his medical license.

Many people have criticized the show for its unlovable main character. However, this episode is a quintessential example of the argument I always present: House is a human underneath his sardonic persona.

Shore and director Katie Jacobs have taken the show through cast changes, broken romances and network demands, and this dramatic change was, as always, handled deftly and with wisdom.

Although House maintains some symptoms of being a prime-time TV show, such as explicit material and constant drama, it also proves that television is not always a mind-numbing medium.

The ethical and relational questions make the show one of the most thought-provoking and profound on TV, as it spans everything from autistic patients to why House cannot form a meaningful relationship.

Despite its reputation for a depressing main character and plot, the new season of House proves that there is merit to its sadness. The episode ends with House, released from the institution, on his way back to the hospital wearing a happy face T-shirt. Shore and Jacobs are always faithful to their characters, and this has obviously paid off with one of the best shows on TV.

House airs on Fox on Mondays at 8 p.m. For more information, check out House at Fox.com.

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