POSTED BY STUART LEVINE

Hughlaurie1_3There’s enough reason to be taken with Hugh’s Laurie’s performance on "House" by just watching him on Tuesday night. Listening to him at the TCA panel on Monday makes Laurie’s mystique even more impressive.

Born and raised in the U.K., Laurie is as much a Brit as Winston Churchill or Benny Hill. And hearing his strong Blighty accent in person makes one really admire the way he’s able to turn that off when the cameras go on.

"I don’t know if there’s a secret to it or if other people use dialect coaches," he sheepishly explains, remaining incredibly humble.

Laurie’s role as the good doctor back in 2004 was the start of a trend of English actors coming to primetime. This fall there’s Damian Lewis on NBC’s "Life," Kevin McKidd — most recently of "Rome" fame — leading the charge in "Journeyman," Michelle Ryan as the title character in "The Bionic Woman" and Lena Headey in Fox’s "Sarah Connor Chronicles."

"I can only apologize," Laurie said of the British invasion. "I can’t explain it."

But will House use that Americanized acerbic tongue to lash out at a new team of docs this season? With his team — Cameron, Foreman and Chase — tired of taking House’s abuse and saying goodbye, how does the show’s tone shift as it enters season four?

In the season opener, 40 applicants are in line for the the three vacated positions. Unable to remember any of their names, House has each of them wearing a number. So, he’s basically just as warm and personable as ever.

"We’ll be playing a ‘House’ version of ‘Survivor,’" says executive producer Katie Jacobs. "I’m hoping viewers will be satisfied. David (Shore, co-executive producer) and I talked a long time about not want to cheat the audience."

Among the new actors who are vying for positions at the prestigious Princeton hospital and who might turn into regulars are Kal Penn ("Harold & Kumar," "The Namesake") and Peter Jacobson (most recently he played Debra Messing’s husband in "The Starter Wife), who is a plastic surgeon and is able to look at patients much differently than House.

As for the regulars, Foreman has left and is in charge of his own staff of researchers, while Cameron and Chase have also said goodbye, moving to Arizona.  But, this being broadcast television where the boat can rock only so much, each will return eventually, though it’s still unclear — filming is currently two episodes in — when they will come back and for what reasons.

"We know we’ll be back, but we don’t know in what capacity," said Jesse Spencer, who plays Dr. Chase. "I don’t things will ever be the same (for the characters). It kind of feels like a new show."

Not going anywhere is Dr. Wilson, played by Robert Sean Leonard. And despite the fact that Wilson might receive more abuse from House than anyone else, where other people feel House is insufferable, downright mean and often antagonistic, Leonard considers him a great guy.

"I don’t see what’s so wrong with House," Leonard confided. "I think he’s extremely likeable. As a friend, I would seek out someone just like him."

Laurie can see Leonard’s point.

"Though House can be awkward and abusive, people are entertained by him. He’s a character worth putting up with. I don’t claim to know him well. He’s as enigmatic to me as he is to the audience."

– Stuart Levine

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