After eight years of popping Vicodin and solving medical mysteries, House went off the air with one last dramatic episode. The finale in the ground-breaking medical drama found Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) faking his death and riding off into the sunset with his cancer-stricken best friend Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard).
We chatted with creator David Shore about what the past eight years has been like and all of the decisions that led to this final hour of his show.
Congratulations on wrapping up the series; it’s been an amazing eight years.
David Shore: Thank you very much.
It first came out when I was in high school and I sort of grew up with the series. It’s really the only medical drama I’ve watched consistently.
Shore: Wow, wow, wow. My kids have grown up with it a little bit as well.
It’s been a crazy eight years for sure. I mean, looking back did you ever think a show about a drug-addicted doctor would be on for almost a decade?
Shore: No. No. I mean, I say that without reservation. It’s weird because you go on the air, you’re on American TV and you might be around. Why not? I just thought other people had things like this. I was there creating a show and I was one of the people doing this, but this sort of success never occurred to me. Huge success would have been that we had good enough ratings to stay on the air. That would have thrilled me. And by stay on the air I mean three or four years.
Was there ever a thought that you thought the series would end around that time? Did you ever think about wrapping up the series around that time?
Shore: No, no. By the third year in I was fairly confident that it was going to go on for a few more years. Once we started following Idol towards the end of season one and then the ratings started going up through season two and I believe through season three, I knew we were going to hang around for a while. And I was happy, too. It was a character that I liked working with and writing stories for.
That was around the time when the original team left and I’ve always been curious about what the series would have been like if that core cast stayed on.
Shore: I don’t know if it would have made that much of a difference. It’s tough to say. We made thousands decisions every week, really, and we certainly made many, many decisions throughout the show. It’s impossible to know. It all worked out and each one of them you could debate whether it would have worked out better or worse. I think obviously on the whole it worked out well. I think that’s a decisions that is indicative of something we did well which is we weren’t just reactive. We didn’t wait for people to tell us we should do something.
That felt like the natural story to tell. We’re not clamoring in any way to get rid of any one. People were happy with that team and I was happy with that team, but it felt like the right thing to do and the right story to do. They were on a three year fellowship; they’re working for a curmudgeon and who’s going to put up with that forever? So I think that is one of the things we did right: being driven by the stories.
So you’ve always been on the ball with making decisions, but was there ever one where you definitely wish went the other way?
Shore: Many. But I’m not going to tell you them. (laughs)
Of course! Have to keep them secrets, right?
Shore: There are many people who think many things we did we did wrong. I don’t want to tell those people I agree with them.
Of course not. And shifting to last night’s finale: it looks like it’s gone over well with fans. Have you been keeping up with the response?
Shore: A little bit. Not that much. I’ve done it more in the last twelve hours than I ever have done during the show. Still not that much. I’ve read just enough to know that it looks like enough people are happy with the way things ended. The problem with looking at that is even though if people are really happy about it, there are plenty of people who are unhappy about it. It’s always been that way and it’s just the way it is. It’s never fun to go online to find someone calling you an idiot.
Was this always how you imagined House ending?
Shore: No, no. The way I imagined it ending was a Fox executive giving me a call telling me the show is over and I could go home. In the first few years it never that I’d be able to dictate how it would end; I just thought it would happen. Obviously in the last year or so when we’ve gotten closer to what seemed like it was going to be the ending we decided we should do it on our terms and how we wanted to do it.
It was probably six months ago that we really started wrapping our head around it.
Did you ever thing about killing House (Hugh Laurie) off?
Shore: Yeah, we thought about that. We thought about a lot of things, but we weren’t really happy about any of them. All of the endings didn’t seem quite right and not quite good enough. Then this idea came up and the more I thought about this idea the more it seemed like a great idea.
Obviously House and Wilson’s (Robert Sean Leonard) relationship played a vital role in the series right up to the very end. What were Laurie and Leonard like working together?
Shore: They were fantastic working together. The two of them have a really nice rapport as actors and as people. They actually didn’t act together that much in this final episode. Just the scene in the cafeteria which the two of them were great in. Whenever it comes to the House/Wilson scenes I sort of just go, “Look, these guys are going to be great.”
And how was it directing the final show? Especially the final scene?
Shore: I was up in a helicopter when we wrapped the final scene, and I was nauseous.
At least you got a good view of the last moments of your creation, but if there was one more season, what would it have been like?
Shore: I don’t know. If there had been one more season, this season wouldn’t have ended this way. What will happen after this season for the characters? That’s one of the things I find satisfying about the ending. Planting the seed in the audience’s mind of House and Wilson on the road together and the fans can do what they want with this seed.
If you could sum up the entire House experience in five words, what would they be?
Shore: I can’t. (laughs) I mean, I’ll tell you a little story. At the beginning of the show in interviews I was constantly asked to describe this character. I would find myself trying to be brief and failing. I would just start rambling. I was beating myself up because I was just rambling and not giving any good answers. Then I realized the reason I couldn’t do it was because it couldn’t be done. When I reach a point when I can describe a character in one paragraph then the character is no longer interesting.
The character is complicated. The character is a real person in my mind. Well actually that’s a stupid statement because by definition a character is not a real person, but I treat him as if he were a real person. I can’t describe myself in one paragraph and I can’t describe House in one paragraph. And I can’t describe the show in five words.
It was a long shot. Can you tell me what’s next for you?
Shore: Nothing yet, but I will develop something else. I look forward to it, but this has been the experience of a lifetime.