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'House' calls for a few good doctors

It sounds like Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is about to find out something many Western New Yorkers have being dealing with recently -- the difficulty of finding new doctors that make you feel comfortable.
Of course, the sarcastic, abrasive, enigmatic Dr. House doesn't exactly specialize in comfort, does he?

His difficult behavior is part of the attraction of Fox's "House," which is one of the most popular series in Western New York and the nation. Its series finale in May ended with the difficult, pill-popping doctor losing the entire young elite team that has helped him solve medical mysteries for three seasons.

Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), a neurologist frightened at the prospect of becoming too much like House, resigned. Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) was fired. Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), resigned. The charade over the possibility that the actors would actually exit the show was over once the cast appeared here for a press session.

"It is obvious that everybody is back," said executive producer Katie Jacobs. "The truth is everybody is back eventually. Everybody is back having changed and in different capacities."

Epps acknowledged that most fans realized they weren't leaving for good. "People kind of know that the writers are smart enough that if they were to entertain us exiting the show, it wouldn't just be that, you know, splat, it's done," he said.

Jacobs said the season will start with House trying to solve cases alone before his boss, Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), insists he hire a new team. "But he will do it in a very 'Housian' way," said Jacobs. She said he'll have 40 resumes on his desk.

"We're going to play a 'House' version of 'Survivor' and see what candidates really will make the best part of House's team," said Jacobs.
As he did when he hired Foreman, Chase and Cameron, House will be looking beyond the candidates' medical skills. Jacobs said the change in the team is "organic" for a show looking for something new heading into its fourth season and getting the post-Super Bowl slot.

"This felt the most, sort of, truthful," said Jacobs. "How many years can you stand working beside House? Or how many years can he stand working with you and getting close to you? And does he really want that intimacy?"

Being totally truthful, one critic wondered why Dr. James Wilson, House's friend, puts up with his often demeaning and demanding behavior.

"I don't really see what's so unattractive about House," protested Leonard. "Maybe I've just been playing Wilson too long. He's extremely self-effacing, he's extremely funny, he's brilliant, he's scathingly honest, he's incredibly candid . . . I think he's extremely likable. I'm not sure what people mean. He's shocking and he's bold and he can be unnerving. But as a friend, I would seek out someone like that, I think."

Laurie defended his alter ego. "Though House may appear to be an abrasive and awkward and occasionally abusive companion, I think people are, as Wilson is, entertained by him . . . He's a character . . . worth putting up with. First of all, the fact that he saves lives, that's a pretty endearing quality."

Jacobs believes Laurie is vital to the audience acceptance of House. "If we had not cast Hugh in this role, I think we wouldn't have felt the same forgiveness towards the character," said Jacobs. "While he's saying all this caustic, nasty, in-your-face stuff, you actually get to see behind the eyes, and you see the wounded quality. That's why every woman in America probably wants to rescue him."

Jacobs' summary of House's state of mind at the start of the season suggests he may even have a conscience and a heart. She suggested that House believes he visually sees the team members who left him, but it might be his imagination.

"Wilson is saying, 'you are just feeling guilty and you are out of your mind,' " said Jacobs. "And Chase is working in Arizona in a hospital and Cameron's with him. And Foreman is at Mercy Hospital running his own diagnostic unit."

House, meanwhile, is giving prospective replacements numbers because he can't -- or won't try -- to remember names. The five new actors aren't big names but recognizable faces -- Peter Jacobson, Olivia Wilde, Kal Penn, Anne Didek and Edi Gathegi. Jacobs said Jacobson's character is a very successful New York plastic surgeon who is willing to give up the big paydays to work with House.

"What House discovers about him, is having done plastic surgery, he has amazing insights into human behavior," said Jacobs.

Of course, if the extreme makeover of "House" doesn't work, it wouldn't be surprising if the script doctors stopped the bleeding by putting his old team back together by the Super Bowl.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com.

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