Hugh Laurie, who can be heard on the big screen as the voice of Gutsy the pigeon in the feature-length kiddie cartoon "Valiant," is up for an Emmy Award this month for outstanding lead actor in a drama series. What's perhaps more interesting to note than the British-born, Cambridge-educated actor's nomination is the fact that the television series in which he stars, "House, M.D.," did not get a similar nod from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for outstanding drama series.
That isn't to say that the medical-mystery drama -- whose first season has just come out on DVD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, and whose second season premieres Sept. 13 on Fox -- didn't deserve one. The show, each episode of which centers on the efforts of Laurie's Dr. Gregory House to diagnose a difficult medical condition, more than holds its own in a crowded field of "C.S.I."-style competitors. But what makes "House, M.D." unique, and propels the show forward, is Laurie's portrayal of the caustic, misanthropic, eye-rolling, pain-pill-popping and piano-playing medical genius who has been known to prescribe cigarettes to a patient suffering from inflammatory bowels.
Like other great TV eccentrics -- Tony Shalhoub's obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk comes most immediately to mind -- Laurie's performance goes way beyond mere shtick, with each episode peeling away a little more of House's anger to reveal his broken humanity, in a way that, say, Ted Danson's similar character on "Becker" never really did.
The three-disc, 22-episode set includes a handful of mostly lukewarm extras, in which the cast (which includes Omar Epps and Robert Sean Leonard) and crew (e.g., director-producer Bryan "X2" Singer) sing the show's praises. And although a tour of the set is nice, the place it's most tempting to go is inside the title character's head. But the question of what exactly makes House tick, and what is going to tick him off next, is the mystery that keeps "House, M.D." so haunting.
A DOGGIE DOCUMENTARY
Those who have been following Jim Graham's longstanding efforts to ban pit bulls in Washington -- an issue about which the D.C. Council member has been on a mission since 1999 -- might do well to check out the DVD documentary "Off the Chain" (Ardustry Home Entertainment). At 60 minutes, the short but well-balanced film is, despite its lurid tag line -- "A shocking expose on America's forsaken breed" -- a surprisingly even-handed argument against breed banning, saving its punches for the owners who practice the "sport" of dog-fighting and who raise their pets to be aggressive.
The somewhat limited extras include some very cuddly canine PR, including an old "Our Gang" episode featuring Pete the pit bull and a "Betty Boop" cartoon featuring Pudgy the pit bull. Warning: Though unrated, the film includes graphic footage of mauled animals.