Patrick Dempsey as Dr. House? 'House' Creator David Shore Dishes on What Might Have Been
by Aaron Broverman, posted Nov 12th 2010 3:15PM
'House' creator David Shore's life would have been very different had he never left the law firm where he worked as a municipal and corporate lawyer for six years and had never followed his best friends from the firm to Los Angeles.
And imagine if he had returned to the firm after having never found success writing for shows like 'Due South,' 'The Practice,' 'Law & Order' and 'Hack'? Ironically -- as Shore told the large audience at a Q&A session at Toronto's York University -- had he never become a lawyer, he may never have created 'House' at all.
"'Everybody lies' is crucial, but I mean that in a very broad way," said Shore. "I don't mean a patient comes in and says black is black when they know black is white. What I mean is, when a patient sees grey, some patients will say it's black and some patients will say it's white. That's something I learned when I was a lawyer."
Though he'd learned how to write a procedural while working on 'The Practice' and 'Law & Order,' the medical concept for 'House' was foisted on Shore by husband-and-wife producing team Paul Attainsio and Katie Jacobs. They pitched it as a cop show in a hospital where the germs are the suspects, but initially the show just wasn't doing it for Shore. "The fact is, we don't watch whodunits," said Shore. "We don't watch what-dunits, we watch why-dunits. We don't care that the butler did it with the candlestick in the library; we care that he did it because he was having an affair and germs don't have motives."
So after garnering interest from executives at ABC and while shopping it around to other networks, Shore spent the next year and a half making it palatable to his own sensibilities. "I knew I had to make it about people, and I'm hoping that every single episode of 'House' has been resolved not because they stumbled upon a lab test, but because Dr. House made a deduction based on the anatomy of the person," said Shore. "Who is the patient? What makes them tick? Sherlock Holmes was also a big influence, the intellect vs. the emotion. I think the question is asked in the pilot: 'Would you rather have a caring doctor who holds your hand while you die, or a bastard doctor who saves your life?'"
Since the pilot, audiences have voted for the bastard doctor in a big way. But, much like Hugh Laurie's main character, Shore was too cynical to think the show would last past three seasons, which is why he took the risk of firing all the fellows and starting over in season four. He said, "When I wrote in the pilot that they were on a three-year fellowship I never expected the show to last that long, and it seemed unnatural that people would stay working for that man for longer than three years."
Another about-face came when the joked-about finally came to fruition in the fifth season finale -- Dr. House was committed. Many didn't see it coming, but Shore said it was far from a spur-of-the-moment decision.
"That goes back to Kal Penn getting a job in the White House," said Shore. "He gave us significant notice, so we sat down at our Christmas break in one of our few writer's room meetings and we decided to have Kutner kill himself and to never explain that. For House, the man whose life is solving riddles and finding the truth, we wanted him to deal with not having an answer. It was Kutner's suicide that started House's spiral and losing touch with reality. House in an institution was something that had always been in my mind from a very early stage. It seemed that the man was on the edge of sanity, so it seemed like a natural place to go."
Shore also revealed that Laurie almost didn't play the doctor on the edge, as the part was initially offered to Gary Sinise. "He took the safer job, 'CSI: NY,' which was a guarantee. That was going to go on forever and we were going to be the Fox failure."
Other notable actors in the running included Rob Morrow, who went on to do 'Numb3rs,' and Patrick Dempsey. "Had we offered it to him, perhaps we wouldn't be on and 'Grey's Anatomy' wouldn't be on."
Now, Shore considers Hugh Laurie a friend, saying, "I've never worked with a leading actor who has as much love and respect for what I created as I do. If you ask Hugh what the most difficult part of the job is, he will still say the accent."