Hugh Laurie, <EM>House</EM> Hugh Laurie, House

What happens when you have 40 medical-fellowship candidates competing for three coveted staff jobs at one famous hospital? If you're Dr. House (Hugh Laurie), you let them battle it out reality-show style until every last ounce of their dignity is gone.

Season 4 of the Emmy-winning Fox series kicks off Sept. 25 with House putting a gaggle of fellows to the test just to watch them squirm (he even makes them wear numbers). "It's classic House sadistic behavior," says executive producer David Shore. "No other character on TV — aside from maybe that guy on Survivor — could get away with hiring practices like these."

Over eight episodes, House will winnow down the group of fellows with his usual grace and sensitivity — which is to say, expect him to be a heartless boor. "At one point House just fires the entire back of the room," says Peter Jacobson (The Starter Wife), who plays a Park Avenue plastic surgeon hoping to bring fresh meaning to his life. "Boom, gone! Except one woman he thinks is hot."

The side effect, of course, is that House gets a new cast of characters. Olivia Wilde (The Black Donnellys), who plays a fellow House can't quite figure out, says, "With new people being eliminated each week, we half-expect Ryan Seacrest to pop out and say, 'If you like No. 13, text 13 to.... '"

Other candidates are played by Kal Penn (24), "who thinks the whole game-show thing is cool," Shore says; and Edi Gathegi (Lincoln Heights), who plays a black Mormon.

What's funny is there really is a competition to become a permanent member of House's team. "We're adding another couple actors to the regular cast and we haven't figured out who they'll be yet, so we figured we'll do it this way," Shore says. "We think House would definitely approve."

Check out lots of House clips in our Online Video Guide.

The Aug. 27 issue of TV Guide features an exclusive look at the Grey's Anatomy spin-off Private Practice — plus behind-the-scenes details on the new Survivor: ChinaTry four risk-free issues now!

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