Is Dr. James Wilson a McGill man? Rumour and speculation abound since he was first seen sporting a McGill University sweatshirt in season two of the popular medical drama House, which airs on Fox TV in the U.S. and on the Global network in Canada, attracting some 20 million viewers per episode.
The show is now in its fourth season, and the sweatshirt has reappeared, this time on Dr. Wilson’s girlfriend. And it wasn’t just a brief glimpse – the McGill logo was plainly visible for at least 15 seconds, the kind of product placement any university would die for. “Can’t tell you how excited I was to see a McGill sweatshirt being worn on last night’s episode! We Canadian fans LOVED IT!” enthused a fan on TV Guide’s message board.
So how did McGill do it? “It was serendipity,” explains Tara Shaughnessy, a communications officer at McGill. She says House representatives approached the university in 2005 to ask for some McGill items for the show. The university was told only that the Wilson character, played by actor Robert Sean Leonard, would wear the clothing. The university requested that the items be used in a respectful and appropriate manner but otherwise had no say in terms of when or where they might appear.
John Semley, arts editor for the McGill Tribune student newspaper, says his parents are quick to tell him when the shirt shows up, but he claims it’s no big deal. “Still, it’s nice to see something other than Harvard, Princeton or Yale,” he says. The latest segment has been posted on YouTube, introduced by a McGill logo and a montage of the shirt set to the song “Be true to your school.”
No one at McGill seems to know exactly what the connection is between the show and the university. Several House writers are from Canada and the show’s creator and executive producer, David Shore, was born in London, Ontario, but studied at University of Toronto.