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Pulling the Plug: 10 Things We’ll Miss About House MD
Alternate intro from the bonus behind the scenes episode Swan Song
After eight seasons of medical espionage, diagnostic prestidigitation, office romance, more moral dilemmas than a human rights activist in a jewelry store and some of the finest writing in television history, the producers pull the plug on the best medical drama on television, House MD.
Since it first came out on FOX (AXN here in the Philippines) in 2004, we’ve seen somebody collapse, bleed out the ear, have a siezure, go blind, see bugs crawling under their skin, come down with some one-in-a-million illness (you know anyone who ever had lupus? Sorcidosis? Kawasaki’s?) followed by the opening credits: medical illustrations combined with 3D CGI of microscopic images of tissue and cells accompanied by Massive Attack’s Teardrop. The first time you see an intro like that you know you’re about to see something different. Then there’s the DDX (differential diagnosis) where House shoots down each theory his team comes up with. He comes up with a long shot, which later proves to be wrong. This happens about two to three times throughout the show. You know that 37-41 minutes into the show that the right diagnosis will be found, usually by some mundane thing giving House a burst of insight. Interspersed with the hunt for the mystery disease/virus/bacteria is the story of House himself, and his team. Wilson will always pop in both for comic relief and someone to cross swords with House and bring out his humanity (like Alfred to Batman).
This image of Amber Tamblyn is here for no other reason than to keep you reading.
The fact that they have to follow this sequence almost every episode creates the challenge of telling the same story in different ways…with an underlying story arc focusing on House and his team’s (which really comes down to Wilson, Foreman, and Chase) personal issues (which is also related to the disease in an allegorical type of way), shows how skilled the writers of this show are. And if you watched this on cable, they also time each climax to come just before a commercial. To fully appreciate the show, watch it uninterrupted on DVD. Or if you’re a cheapskate (like me) download it on Pirate Bay.
The show has been described as formulaic. As this is a show that revolves around science, that is part of what makes it work. The show is predictable, it follows a clear pattern. Just like the disease that House and his team almost always manage to track down at the very last second. And despite that, the show has broken some major rules in the TV series bible, the biggest of which is switching up an ensemble cast after the viewers have become attached to them. Through the eight seasons there have been three casting changes. The original line up: Foreman, Chase, Cameron is later replaced by Kumar, Taube, Thirteen, Foreman; with Cuddy as Dean of Medicine for seven seasons, and then Chase, Taube, Addams, and Park with Foreman as Cuddy’s replacement.
And that brings us to the Top 10 Things we’ll Miss about House MD:
1. The women of House
They’re all brilliant, drop-dead gorgeous strong female characters. And if you think that being so hot and smart (which is proportional to their level of intelligence and ability to stand up to House) is a clear sign that this show’s grip on reality is as loose as House’s brain on Vicodin, you’d be partly right. You’d also be partly a loser whose only idea of a female physician is some unattractive old bag with glasses.
1.1 Dr. Jessica Adams, played by Odette Annable
If this were an article in FHM, it would include some line like, ‘Sorry guys, she’s taken,’ which goes to show just how dumb and deluded men have become. House, on the other hand, promotes another type of ‘real man’ by admitting to the attractive doctors that he hired them for their looks. He also hires prostitutes to give him back rubs during office hours. Dr. Adams is gorgeous, but like everyone on the show, damaged goods. Her character was cheated on by her husband, which leaves her unable to trust men. She’s so hot she accounts for a 300% increase in the show’s popularity when she joined in. I’m just making that up, but I assume it’s true.
1.2 Dr. Remy Hadley played by Olivia Wilde
Nicknamed 13, Remy Hadley is basically a female House. She’s a brilliant doctor with a terminal illness which leads her to make reckless decisions and to be callous. People tend to like her more than House because whereas House only has pain as a reason for being the sarcastic jerk that he is, she is actually dying plus, is really, really hot. I think the show’s popularity increased by 100% when she signed on.
1.3 Dr. Alison Cameron played by Jennifer Morrison
From the original team, Dr. Cameron is your typical good girl who falls for the bad boy and hopes to fix him. Her damaged backstory is that she married someone even though she knew he was going to die soon.
2. Gregory House
That acerbic wit, five o’clock shadow, piercing blue eyes lost in thought, the limp and constant pill-popping, and the complete lack of empathy have made House one of TV’s most memorable anti-heroes. The only reason why it works is because this is a character that saves lives. If he were a real person he’d have been arrested, imprisoned, and killed. Oh, and all three happen to him…some more than once. Even if I were dying, I would hate to have him for a doctor. He wasn’t always this way however, but his parents, failed relationships and losing a big chunk of his leg causing him chronic pain, have made him one really mean, puzzle-solving, pill-popping Head of Diagnostics.
Hugh Laurie really brought this character to life in a way few other actors could, and when he auditioned, David Shore, the show’s creator, saw that he was the one for the titular role. And the fact that he’s British and later becomes the show’s producer, shows that this is an exceptional actor who takes on projects seriously. Aside from memorizing lengthy lines of dialogue and delivering powerful dramatic performances, Laurie’s other talents, such as playing the piano, juggling, riding big bikes, and so on, were all incorporated believably into the character.
Holmes has Watson, Batman has Alfred, House has Wilson.
Head of Oncology at Princeton Plainsboro, James Wilson is House’s only friend and the only real good guy on the show. Divorced more than once, he faces death everyday when he treats Cancer patients. The only one who really understands House, and the only one House tolerates or considers worth sparring with intellectually. Played by Robert Sean Leonard, who was brilliant in Dead Poet’s Society and not much else til he took on the role of James Wilson, MD, Wilson is there with House right to the end.
Played by Omar Epps, Dr. Robert Foreman is a member of House’s first team as well, and later becomes the Head of the Princeton Plainsboro, technically House’s boss. But no one is the boss of House. He was in prison before becoming a doctor, and House openly admits to hiring him because of his criminal record, and insists on making him break laws to solve cases. He is also damaged by his parents and numerous failed relationships, one of which is with 13.
Australian Jesse Spencer plays Dr. Robert Chase, a top notch neurosurgeon, surfer, and former seminarian. Yes, you may pull up your knickers now ladies. A member of the first team, he falls the furthest from grace.
Peter Jacobson plays Dr. Chris Taub, a former plastic surgeon who joins House’s team when his practice starts to go down the tubes. A philanderer, he is used to lying and cheating to get ahead. Ironically, this makes him immune to being corrupted by House.
7. The cool shit (the shoes, big bikes, the canes, gadgets, his guitars, pianos)
I don’t know if Apple, Nike, Ducati are sponsors, but given the amount of product placement on the show, I wouldn’t be surprised. What’s the use of being a highly-paid department head, the top diagnostician in the world with a special legal and insurance fund, and a bachelor and not enjoy the fruits of your labor?
8. The medical jargon
Always wanted to be a medical doctor but just weren’t smart enough? Well after watching 8 seasons of House you will at least feel smarter after hearing numerous technical names of procedures, drugs, diseases, and equipment. And with games like the one shown above, you can even pretend to be House!
9. The moral dilemmas
What makes the series so compelling is how it is able to explore contemporary social issues like race, medical ethics, sex, morality and philosophy within the span of a 40-minute episode. For example, House wants to solve a case involving the mysterious death of a young boy despite his already being dead and buried. For him, it’s more important solving the mystery rather than respecting the parent’s rights to not want have some stranger digging up the body of their dead son to see if his theory about cause of death is correct.
The drama on the show reaches such heights that it’s surprising how they’re able to top themselves. The show has swung and missed, but it has hit it out of the ballpark more times than it has struck out.
10. The Women of House
Because it’s worth repeating.
10.1 Dr. Chi Park played by Charlyne Yi
Hipsters will recognize Charlene as Michael Cera’s ex-girlfriend and co-star on some forgettable indie film. Half-Filipino, she plays a Vietnamese intern who joins House’s team after she punches her superior for grabbing her bum. Probably the smartest doctor on the team, she is unintentionally hilarious and plays the smart Asian stereotype without being condescending to Asians.
10.2 Dr. Martha Masters played by Amber Tamblyn
She is still on her internship when she joins House’s team. Utterly naive and idealistic, House easily rips into her but she leaves the show once she sees herself becoming corrupted.
10.3 Dr. Lisa Cuddy played by Lisa Edelstein
She was the Dean of Medicine at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, and more importantly, House’s lover at one point. However, she broke it off and House took revenge for the heartbreak in his own inimitable style.
10.4 Dr. Amber Volakis played by Anne Dudek
Nicknamed Cut Throat Bitch, Dr. Amber is a cunning, manipulative, and very competitive. Easily exploited by House, she gets back at him by getting together with Wilson, her exact opposite.
Alternate scene: Cuddy & Cameron as Valley Girls
And that brings us to the end of the Top 10 reasons we’re going to miss House MD. Now for those of you who think Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Chicago Hope (which is also pretty good), or Scrubs are the best medical soaps on TV, then you probably aren’t going to miss House at all. But for those of you who can’t get enough of eccentric geniuses (like Monk or Lie To Me) and mysteries, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a new detective mystery starring an investigative genius with no social skills out already: BBC’s Sherlock.
Keep a magnifying glass out for our upcoming review of Sherlock on WhenInManila.com.
So there you have the top 10 reasons why we’ll miss House. Think we missed any? Take two in the morning and leave a comment below.
House Series Finale