“House, M.D.” is, without a doubt, a runaway TV smash hit. Critics and fans alike point to the excellent sets, the world class acting, and the intriguing plots as the keys for the shows success. However, the music from the show plays just as large a part in winning the hearts and minds of its fans. Music can be a powerful force; while often overlooked, it can bring listeners to great heights of emotion, both good and bad. The producers of “House, M.D” have used musical numbers and songs during the episodes to great effect. Here is a list of three songs from past episodes of “House, M.D.” which are fantastic examples of how music can be utilized to influence emotions and further both plot and character development. (Click the names of the songs to play them in a web browser).
1. “Ain’t no Reason,” by Brett Dennen, from the episode “Family” which was the twenty-first episode of the third season. This episode saw Dr. House develop a fondness for Dr. Wilson’s dog, Hector; House watches the dog for his friend for several days until other arrangements can be made. It is a rare glimpse of House in a vulnerable moment, as Wilson eventually comes to take the dog back. “Ain’t no Reason” begins to play at the end of the episode as House watches his new canine friend be taken away. House pretends to be gruff and uncaring, but it’s obvious that he cares very deeply and is hurt by this turn of events. The lyrics of the song are particularly appropriate:
“Prison walls still standing tall, some things never change at all…”
House is emotionally closed-off, and always has been, since the start of the series; he puts up barriers to others who come close.
“There ain’t no reasons things are this way, it’s how they’ve always been and they intend to stay…”
House has friends who try to reach out to him, but he’s too set in his ways, even to his own detriment.
“But love will come set me free…”
This is a haunting foreshadowing for the love affair between House and Cuddy, which begins to develop as the series progresses, and which will finally break House out of his self-imposed loneliness.
2. “Who took the Merry out of Christmas”, by the Staple Singers, from the episode “It’s a Wonderful Lie” which was the tenth episode of the fourth season. This episode focused on a mother who claimed she always told the truth, which naturally drove Dr. House to distraction, as his central tenet is that “Everybody Lies”. However, more interesting was the side plotline with a clinic patient, a young blonde woman who has developed a rash on her throat and face. It is one of the great examples from the series where Dr. House is perfectly correct as to the illness, but due to his lack of social understanding and “people skills”, is completely wrong as to the surrounding circumstances. The woman is a church leader in charge of a youth program, and is leading the children through practices for a Christmas Nativity performance. She plays the role of Mary, and has caught the rash from the donkey used during the Nativity. Dr. House accurately diagnoses her, then jumps to the conclusion that she is in fact a sex worker. The patient is amused by this, seeing as she’s really a church leader, and does nothing to dissuade Dr. House but invites him to her “show” on Christmas Eve. At the end of the episode, we see Dr. House arriving at the address, only to find it’s a church; as he takes his seat with a smile, “Mary” enters on her donkey to the music of “Who took the Merry out of Christmas”. This is a catchy, fun-filled song with appropriate lyrics for Dr. House, who is known to be a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the holidays.
“Who took the merry out of Christmas? People all over the world forgot about merry…
Too busy fighting wars, trying to make it to Mars, searching for light and can’t seem to find the right star.
Come on everyone, come on and join the fun, let’s put the Merry back in Christmas”
3. “Good Man”, by Josh Ritter, which played at the end of the finale of Season Three. This was very emotional episode, as we saw the team of Dr. House fall to pieces as members quit and / or were fired. The episode ends with a scene of Dr. House alone in his apartment, unpacking a new guitar, with hope for the future in that perhaps – just maybe – he would change his ways and become more personable and nice to people. The audience keenly feels his pain as they know he’s fundamentally a good person, but he has so much pain and hurt inside that it’s hard for him to get close to anyone. The song “Good Man” plays to the credits, with fantastically appropriate lyrics.
“They shot a Western south of here, they had him cornered in a canyon…
And even his horse had disappeared. They said it got run down by a bad bad man”
The themes of abandonment and loneliness really shine through, but then comes – at long last – a plea for help from Dr. House, who until this point had never really acknowledged that he needed anyones help or assistance:
“Babe, we both had dry spells…hard times, in bad lands…
I’m a good man for ya. I’m a good man.
There’s so much where we ain’t been yet…so swing up on this little horse,
The only thing we’ll hit is sunset”
This song is a plea straight from the heart of the Dr. House character; he acknowledges that he’s the cause of the bad things in his life, even as he desperately pleads that deep down, he’s a good person. The audience is therefore primed for the premiere of Season Four, where we see Dr. House follow up on his promise and take in a whole new team of student doctors. He’s hurting and incomplete without them.
Music is a marvelous tool for invoking the emotions of the audience. The show of “House, M.D.” uses it to perfection, and future episodes will no doubt continue this trend.
Lyric sources: As transcribed by the author from the linked audio sources.