Last year, House did something unusual for a hit TV show entering its fifth season: the creators looked at its weaknesses and did something about them. The medical-mystery scripts were still witty but had become painfully predictable (three wrong diagnoses from Dr. House every week each before he figured out what was going on). So the medical dramas received a skin graft: an ongoing plot about who would be the new members of House’s team, giving the program a weird game-show kick as various cast members got exiled one by one. As a bonus, it relegated the two most boring members of the cast (Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer) to the sidelines in favor of the far more entertaining Olivia Wilde, Peter Jacobson, and (especially) Kal Penn. I had previously given up on the show (only interviewing the charming Wilde got me to check it out again–if Fox could somehow arrange for her to have brunch with everyone in the United States, I’m sure it’d goose the show’s ratings), but I’m now looking forward to the new season (starting September 16).
Two years ago, I interviewed the show’s star, Hugh Laurie, who was equally charming: he called me an hour before our appointment to let me know that dinner with his family was running a little late. He had the thoughtful mien (and British accent) that one would hope for from a Cambridge graduate: we had an interesting exchange about whether self-consciousness was a virtue or a flaw in a television show. (I’ve never watched Blackadder or his work with Stephen Fry, by the way–would you describe them as self-conscious?) Rolling Stone only had room to print about half of our conversation; I think you’ll enjoy the extended version.