This post may contain spoilers and large images that may compromise slower internet connections. Read at your own discretion.
The third week of May marked the very last appearance of television’s cane-ridden curmudgeon. The two-hour-and-two-episode series finale of the “House, M.D.” franchise appropriately wrapped up eight full seasons of the Fox medical drama. Entitled “Everybody Dies”, the very last episode served as a bittersweet homage to the show’s talented actors, excellent writing, incredible guest stars, unique title character — and the ridiculously brilliant man behind him. In other words, the doctor has hung up his stethoscope… though the same cannot be said about his cane.
There is much to be grateful for in the medical profession, and my own similar sentiment has only but escalated to reverence after watching David Shore’s brainchild on a regular basis. The hidden and obvious complexities of the human body are an example of supreme design work. “House, M.D.” gloriously embraces art and medicine, scattering clever design cues throughout various elements of the show.
Attributed to the branding of “House, M.D.” is a sleek sans-serif font, which is visible throughout the show. It is seen most often during the ethereal opening sequence. Over the course of its run, the the half-minute opener has only undergone three minor changes, but has maintained the instrumental snippets of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, and the intimate views of the anatomy.
In 2005, the work was nominated for a “Primetime Emmy Award” in “Outstanding Main Title Design”.
The first version of the opening sequence ran for six seasons. Kicking off the formal start of any episode would be a head MRI, with international symbol for “hospital” hovering over the scan. The face of title character Gregory House gradually appears into the frame, followed with the series title emblazoned across his face. What then follows is an aerial view of the show’s main location, the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Hugh Laurie is introduced first, and his name is placed atop a meticulous depiction of the brain. The title cards of the other main actors follow in alphabetical order, each of their names with their own anatomy illustration, except for Jennifer Morrison’s. Hers is instead superimposed on a view of rowers in Lake Carnegie. Jesse Spencer’s is next, with his name decorated with spine theme. As the “brain of the show”, Shore bags the last frame, with his own name resting above a very detailed drawing of a neck and shoulders.
Even though major cast additions took place during the fifth season, the title sequence did not accommodate fresh blood until the seventh season. By this time, Morrison had left the series, and two new main characters, Peter Jacobson and the gorgeous Olivia Wilde, receive their slots. The new additions are placed in alphabetical order alongside their fellow cast members, and some non-illustration micro shots of the human anatomy are added. In favour of consistency, the views of the hospital and Lake Carnegie are omitted.
The casting of the series met another change in the last season when Edelstein and Wilde both bade their farewells. Two more additions, Odette Annabele and Charlyne Yi join as the newest House fellows. Rightfully, they earn their time in the half-minute introduction, and their very names remain in place up to the last airing of the series.
The official “House, M.D.” promotional collateral are consistent with the slightly dark and occasionally funny storylines. Laurie does a brilliant job in depicting emotional nuances with his eyes and subtle facial expressions, an ability only found in actors of his calibre. The creatives behind the following posters are also no strangers to tongue-in-cheek humour, and some of them are particularly clever.
The two posters both concentrate on Dr. House’s most prized possession: his mind. The above left one features House’s head wrapped in bandages, providing context to the events that transpired in the previous season. The risky procedure he undergoes at the end of the fourth season, at the prompting of his best friend, Dr. James Wilson, proves fruitless when the latter’s girlfriend dies. It memorialises one of the few instances House’s own head fails him.
An alternate depiction of House with clown paint, per the adjacent poster, is a reminder that humour is not always clear-cut. House’s own — and that of the entire cast — can be described as precisely that. On a similar vein, nothing on “House, M.D.” is ever black and white, which is probably why despite their intentions to evoke laughter, a fear of clowns is just as legitimate.
The second pair of posters are promotional material for the eighth and last season, both of which incorporate Dr. House into part of a larger concept. The left poster is a sombre picture. The main character removed as the subject, his shadow remaining. His cane leans on a wall of morose grey, and all text are scrawled in chalk. The art direction depicts the extent of his destructiveness, but also the impermanence of his physical incarceration.
The above right poster is triumphant. Designed akin to the graphics used in war-time propaganda, its persuasion remains consistent to the concept. House does get out of prison, but the authorities impose many restrictions on him. Until the very last episode, he remains as a medical renegade in the eyes of the law.
The two-part last airing contained a “swan song” by Laurie before the hour-long series ender. It is a stark contrast to any other “House, M.D.” episode, because it emanates a straight-forward warmth, fuzziness, and just the amount of sweet. However, what truly grabbed my attention are the lithograph-like illustrations pocked throughout this special episode.
The opening sequence is a derivative of the original, only re-designed to make it appear as though it is a vintage incarnation. Most of the elements have remained intact, from the visual of the head to the spine, with some additions in between. A special touch is added to the space usually reserved for Shore’s credit, and is replaced Hugh Laurie’s name and a cane-shaped caduceus.
As Laurie takes the camera and introduces the viewer to the many magicians behind “House, M.D.”, the documentary is set into various chapters. Each division gets its own colourful visual, each marking a significant period of the show’s milestones. Upon closer inspection, the graphics resemble that of art done for era of Sherlock Holmes. Apt, considering the show’s central inspiration.
Many elements in “House, M.D.” — from bits of dialogue to various scenes — have been disseminated enough to gain status as popular culture references. As a result, searching for re-hashings that pay homage to the medical drama has been unsurprisingly easy. In fact, the term “lupus” could not be more of a “House”ian term.
Although both above focus on two different aspects of “House, M.D.”, ardent fans could easily identify and relate to the elements within. The upper left poster, designed by Austrian graphic designer Albert Exergian, strips the show to its very core by emphasising one of the defining possessions of the title character. Dr. House is known for bouncing a red and grey toy tennis ball off walls and floors when conducting more of his cerebral work. He is almost as attached to it as his cane, or his piano, or his guitar, amongst other material things that have seemingly withstood the test of change.
The upper right poster pays tribute to “the philosopher Jagger” *— as House himself dubs — of The Rolling Stones fame. The English rock band is a favourite of the doctor, and the featured song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, is often heard in the background whenever House faces compromise in his personal life. Created as part of an ongoing project, art director Mico Toledo of Music Philosophy the poster is part of a large array of typography prints celebrating his love for music.
Charis Tsevis‘ mosaic portrait of House is one of two depictions of the character, and is part of the series, “Editorial Illustration 2011-2012”. This Greek mosaic illstrator and digital artist has been featured on this website before, when I compiled a handful of various creative work done during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The above was used as the cover for the May 2012 edition of TV Guide Magazine (USA). A comprehensive selection of Tsevis’ work can also be seen on his Behance page.
Best of House
Tying this post together is one of my all-time favourite scenes of the eight-year run: Hugh Laurie’s and Lisa Edelstein’s performance of “Get Happy”. Now, I’m not usually drawn to dance, but the imagination, the choreography, the creepy nurses!
“House” is not the only television show that has experimented with parody episodes, but the creators certainly did not fall short when deciding to experiment around the usually serious plotline. The dark and twisted musical number is an extract from the fifteenth episode of the seventh season. “Bombshells” employs satirical re-enactments of various hallmarks of television history — including a fantastic zombie scene — all foretelling the end of House’s romantic relationship with former Dean of Medicine, Dr. Lisa Cuddy.
(Apologies for the mirrored view. This is the best possible quality version on YouTube.)
The creative thought behind the performance appears to take inspiration from a combination of sources. “A Clockwork Orange”, “Top Hat”, and even “Silent Hill” seem apparent. However, whether or not it does justice to the Judy Garland song is up to the viewer to decide.
Overall, a brilliant eight years.
So… does anyone have any suggestions on what television shows to watch right now?
(All images are credited to their respective owners. Click on any image to go to its source.)