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John Doyle: Television

Why is Dr. House in the big house? Add to ...

When we last met the deeply irritating Dr. House, he’d been even more obnoxious than usual and deliberately crashed his car into Cuddy’s house.

It is many months later when we meet the doctor anew. In tonight’s season opener of House (Fox, Global, 9 p.m.) he’s in the hoosegow. Yes, somebody finally locked up the nutbar. Not for his manipulating ways and savage sarcasm, as should have happened years ago, but for using his car as a weapon. Nobody was injured, it seems, but Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) is doing time in the big house.

He is, mind you, as moody and peevish as ever. He’s up for parole and meeting some people who will decide his fate. He gets in some nasty digs, which is generally not advised, but he’s told he’ll get out soon if he behaves himself. Thus, his task is to behave nicely for few days. And then, this being network TV and all, he’s given a separate test – a person of the alpha male persuasion who thrives in prison, sets House a task he must perform before he leaves. And it is not a matter of coming up with interesting insults to be aimed at third-rate doctors and fussy nurses.

For a while, this is all mildly entertaining. Then it isn’t any more. Clichés of prison life abound. And along comes a situation allowing Dr. House to use his medical genius. He just happens to be in the prison hospital. Naturally he spots a misdiagnosis. Naturally the young doctor on duty, one Dr. Jessica Adams (Odette Annable), slowly falls under his spell.

Perhaps the point is to see Dr. House punished for all his weirdness, rudeness and general intoxication with himself. If so, the hopelessly contrived prison setting undermines everything. It’s a Disney prison with stock characters and yes, Dr. House is roughed up a bit, but if he’s to be punished, plausibility and natural justice would demand a hospital setting, not this nonsensical contrivance.

It’s the eighth season of House we’re watching now. Cuddy is gone, as the gloriously watchable actor who played her, Lisa Edelstein, has moved on to The Good Wife. The series already has an air of tiredness. Many involved, including Hugh Laurie, are on the last year of their contracts. What we’re probably watching, then, is House limp through the end of the show’s life. Good, because this thing just ain’t working.

Some other returning shows aren’t working, either. Glee (Tuesdays, Fox, Global 8 p.m.) is now so self-involved with the internal dynamics of Broadway musicals that the plotting has gone awry, the musical numbers have no zest and the characters are limp versions of their former selves.

CSI (Wednesdays, CBS, CTV, 10 p.m.) has shifted gears with Ted Danson as the new lead investigator for the team of forensic experts in Vegas. The Danson character has an aw-shucks quality that, to date, doesn’t mesh with the generally gloomy atmosphere. Besides, the plotlines have become thin little mysteries closer to hoary Agatha Christie than contemporary crime thrillers

ALSO AIRING TONIGHT

Black Books (Vision, 6:30 p.m.) makes a welcome return in reruns to TV hereabouts. The classic Brit comedy is allegedly about bookshop owner Bernard Black (Dylan Moran, who co-created the show with Graham Linehan, who in turn co-created Father Ted), his disastrous assistant Manny (Bill Bailey) and their only friend Fran (Tamsin Greig). Really it’s about Black’s sublime hostility to the world, especially his store’s customers.

InSecurity (CBC, 8:30 p.m.) is back and, maybe my memory of the first season is dubious, but it looks a lot better. A spoof of the Canadian spy world when it began, it now seems more focused on being a deadpan workplace comedy. Deadpan-goofy, that is. And it has a much more settled comic tone than last season. It’s still not a work of genius but it zips along, all office humour and silliness that amounts to a light and airy concoction. There is plenty of comic material to be mined from the bizarre world of CSIS and whatever the Mounties are up to these days and, in its first outing, InSecurity went too far into that realm. Now it’s more about the chipper civil servants trying to get through another day of slightly ridiculous government business. Natalie Lisinska steals the whole darn thing, striding around all tall and leggy confidence, as the (often clueless) spy-team leader Alex. Tonight there is some business about the agency’s work being exposed by WikiLeaks and veteran agent Claude (Rémy Girard) turning up for work dressed as a guy from a seventies action movie. Slight, but enjoyable drollery ensues. This is working.

Check local listings.

Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

 

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