Dr. Gregory House is not exactly what one might call a “sane individual.” Over the past five years, American audiences have watched the mean-spirited diagnostician pop Vicodin and lean on his cane as he roams around Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital saving lives, solving puzzles and shirking as many responsibilities as possible.
As the premiere episode of the show’s sixth season begins, it appears that House (Hugh Laurie) has admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital in hopes of escaping the demons that have been haunting him recently.
For those who have not kept up to date with the show lately, there has been more drama than the typical “House vs. the world” storylines. Patients have come in with even stranger problems, colleagues have been killed and House’s battle with painkillers is getting closer and closer to finally swallowing him whole.
Upon first entering Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, House is determined to get healthy, as dangerous hallucinations have backed him into a corner. However, he has failed to realize what his real problem is. Looking back over the years, the only times that House really seems to feel as if he has a problem is when he has popped a few too many pills. In actuality, there is a much darker and more hazardous problem lurking behind all of the witty remarks and his unapologetic manner.
After initially surviving a Vicodin detox session, House feels that he is ready to return to society, but Dr. Darryl Nolan, his attending physician (played brilliantly by Andre Braugher), believes that there is more to House’s condition than a simple addiction to painkillers. In order to keep House from leaving the psychiatric hospital, Nolan refuses to hand over a letter that would reinstate his medical license.
As anyone who has seen an episode of “House” before can guess, this sort of action does not go unpunished with the narcissistic doctor. The next half hour or so of the two-hour premiere basically plays out as the primetime TV version of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” before House finally comes to the conclusion that perhaps Nolan is not his own version of Nurse Ratched. Maybe there is more to relationships, life and even medicine than House had originally thought.
The premiere, accurately titled “Broken,” is an amazing effort from the creators of this hit show. The directing is exceptional, the acting is haunting and the writing is in a league of its own. The show’s producers could easily have sat back and thought of some outrageous medical scenario that makes for a great TV commercial and every loyal “House” fan would have tuned in. However, they decided to allow the story to evolve, a very dangerous idea for a show that has stuck to a pretty basic formula for five seasons.
Some fans might complain about the idea of trying to “fix” House, but how many times can they show a guy solve a case of Sarcoidosis or Wilson’s disease? Eventually, all of the interesting medical cases will be gone and the audience will only be left with the characters. Likewise, there can only be so much tension created by House’s Vicodin addiction.
Perhaps change is not always good, but the writers behind “House” have successfully delivered one of the most powerful episodes in the show’s history. Time will tell if their gamble paid off, but anyone can check out how the story goes down Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX.

5 stars.