As House makes what could be its final rounds on television, series creator David Shore is determined to get the heart of the show beating again. That means putting the focus back on the weekly medical cases and, more importantly, Dr. Crankypants himself. But first, there’s fallout from events both onscreen (carmageddon) and off (farewell, Lisa Edelstein) that must be dealt with. In the following Q&A, Shore reveals why he’s sending House directly to jail, previews the new blood coming to Princeton-Plainsboro, and answers the question that’s been bugging me since May: Will Cuddy check back in before House checks out for good.
TVLINE | Word has leaked [via TVLine] that you will be replacing the now-vacant Dean of Medicine post with a character familiar to House fans, as opposed to foisting someone new on the audience. Is this your way of acknowledging that those are some mighty big shoes to fill?
It is. We had a very interesting hiatus. It was not our plan [to lose Lisa]. It is not what we had in our mind. Certain stuff got thrust upon us that I was not pleased with. But we sat down in the writers room and dealt with the challenges we’d been presented with and I think came up with a really interesting way to go into this season, and it’s turned out to be very exciting. The [Dean position] is a tricky role, and it has been since Day One. Lisa did a fantastic job with it and we didn’t want to simply recreate that. And we didn’t want to simply come up with a Colonel Klink. [Laughs] There was a nice balance to that character, so we decided to [go with someone in House’s orbit] instead of trying to recreate Cuddy and put [an actor or actress] in the unenviable position of being compared to her, which will happen anyway. This allows us to put a character the audience has seen before in a new situation and to have House judge them on that. It changes the whole dynamic between the characters.
TVLINE | Was it always your plan to start the season off with House in prison?
No. It was certainly one of the possibilities, but it hadn’t been defined initially.
TVLINE | Did the strong reaction from fans following the finale — specifically that House needed to pay for his actions — play into your decision?
We recognized the truth of aspects of that. [Laughs] I feel strongly that House was not trying to kill anybody. It was certainly an act of violence. And it was certainly an irresponsible act. But I do feel strongly that he was not trying to kill anybody. He was acting out in a violent way, which is not a responsible action. And we feel strongly on the show that actions have consequences. And House has to pay a price. We also wanted to play with the notion of how much does he feel a sense of responsibility [over what happened]. He would never admit it but it’s there.
TVLINE | How much time will he spend behind bars?
Quite a bit. It’s months, not days.
TVLINE | But in terms of actual episodes…
Not a lot. Season 8 is going to start months after Season 7 ended. And we want to get back to the core of our show. Our show isn’t about House in prison. He should be in prison. [Laughs] But the show isn’t about that. So we want to get back to the core values of our show as soon as possible, but obviously with a slightly different set-up.
TVLINE | Do you think the show diverted from those core values last season with all the House-Cuddy relationship stuff?
We had to go down that road and I’m proud of the way we went down that road, [even though] it was polarizing to some extent. But the stuff that I’ve always loved about the show is the House character and how he reacts, not particularly to romance, but to deeper life and death issues and issues of right and wrong and questions of how to live a good, moral life. And how he reacts to the [patients] who are brought in each week and to the regulars. Getting back to the fundamentals of these medical cases and these character cases. It’s not so much about the medicine; it’s about the characters.
TVLINE | Speaking of the characters, I’m intrigued by the casting of Charlyne Yi. That was a surprising choice to say the least.
That was a big part of [why we hired her]. We saw some of her standup and she is a quirky, interesting individual — and yet real and sympathetic. And we had been thinking of [introducing] a character who comes from a bit of an Old World background, and she seemed perfect for it.
TVLINE | I’m guessing the arrival of both Yi and fellow newbie Odette Annable means Olivia Wilde won’t be around much this season. How many episodes will she be in?
Not a lot unfortunately. She’s a movie star.
TVLINE | Are we talking one or two episodes?
Something like that. I don’t want to get too specific but I also don’t want to mislead people. I regret losing her, but, again, this was not our choice. Things happened at the end of last season that I wasn’t happy about and I hadn’t planned for. But I want to say we’re very happy with [the coming season]. This has turned out to be a real opportunity. We’re really doing some cool stuff at the start of the season and it’s pumped some fresh blood into the show — not that we needed it.
TVLINE | Were you able to bring closure to the Huddy storyline?
Simply the passage of time serves as that. There’s closure in the sense that there’s fallout.
TVLINE | Are you approaching this season as if it’s the last?
I am not at this point. Fox wants another season. I think enough of our fans want another season. [Universal Media Studios] wants another season. It may well be [the final season]. And we will know earlier rather then later because I want to do [the ending] right.
TVLINE | Would you want Lisa back for the series finale?
I would love for that to happen.
TVLINE | Do you feel like it’s a realistic possibility?
I honestly don’t know.