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InHouse: “Larger Than Life”

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Hello and welcome back to App’s Eye View! Some hiatus, huh? The House-less break went on much too long but let’s not quibble. The good news is that House is back with new episodes. To celebrate, InHouse has given us some fantastic behind the scenes material for season seven’s ninth offering “Larger Than Life”.

This could quite possibly be the best episode of the season so far. Kudos to Sara Hess, House writer, producer and Twitterer extraordinaire, for coming up with this gem. We’ll talk more about Ms. Hess a little later. For now, here’s the rundown on the app’s content this week:

In the Dark Room, InHouse offers twenty four behind the scenes peeks at some of the episode’s key scenes. Train tracks play an important part in the teaser: an epileptic woman in the throes of a seizure falls on the tracks and, soon after, the hero jumps down to save her. To see the actors lounging on the tracks when just a few moments later their characters will be inches from death is somewhat disconcerting.

Then the focus is on Peter Jacobson, who is shown throwing paint balloons at Taub’s giant “Face of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital” poster hanging on a brick wall outside Princeton-Plainsboro. We also get some very nice photos of Dr. House and his team by the bus stop outside the hospital. Looking good, guys! Side note: House’s new red cane is fabulous but many a heart will forever belong to Flame Cane (which perished in the “House’s Head” bus crash). We’re just saying…

The final two shots are from Cuddy’s birthday dinner, in which Robert Sean Leonard and Candice Bergen appear. We are especially fond of these shots and wish there were a few more like them.

It’s two times the fun in the Media Room! First there is an interview with guest star Matthew Lillard. Lillard plays Jack Nash, the hero/patient of the week who rescues the seizing girl on the train tracks. Lillard, who is mainly known for playing such lightweights as Shaggy in the Scooby Doo movies, and Stuart in Scream says he is thrilled to be playing a dramatic role this time around, and a hero, no less. With great enthusiasm he describes the filming process in the North Hollywood subway, where the station was shut down in the early morning hours to enable the scene to be shot. “We jumped around the tracks and it was pretty incredible,” he says of the experience.

Lillard’s work has mainly been in film. “I’ve done like two episodes of television and forty-odd movies,” he laughs. “So this was a completely different experience. Television moves very quick. The language and the words in television are much more specific.” He calls it a “humbling experience”. He also discusses how Hollywood tends to pigeonhole actors as either comic or dramatic. Citing Hugh Laurie as an example of an actor who does both and does them well, Lillard hopes this role will prove he can do the same. “A lot of people don’t see me as a dramatic actor. So this is a great opportunity for people in America in one night to say, ‘Oh, maybe he’s not that goofy guy anymore. He’s a forty year old man who can do lots of different things’.

In part two of the Media Room we are given a sneak peek of episode ten entitled “Carrot or Stick: a House/Wilson scene regarding House’s efforts to help Cuddy get Rachel into an exclusive, private pre-school. House professes that Rachel is “dumber than a paste sandwich”, so getting Rachel accepted into toddler Ivy League will be something of a challenge. How House will face this challenge (all to impress Cuddy, we’re sure) is bound to be amusing.

Supervising Producer/writer Sara Hess has worked on the show for the past six years. This week in the Writers Room, we get to hear her thoughts on her episode “Larger Than Life”. Out of all the writers to whom the app has introduced us, Hess is our favorite interviewee. She is animated, enthusiastic and obviously thrilled to be a part of the House universe.

The idea for “Larger Than Life” stemmed from incidents where people have jumped onto subway tracks to save strangers, something Hess has been fascinated by for a long time. “What separates the guy who jumps on the tracks to save somebody from the other three hundred who just stood there (and frankly didn’t want to get their pants dirty)? Is the guy crazy or is he a hero?”

House would never take this sort of heroism at face value and looks at it as a symptom of the guy’s mysterious ailment. “He does not believe that humans are altruistic and do nice things for each other”, Hess explains.

The teaser was shot in the North Hollywood subway station, where the crew had a fourteen hour window allotted to them: from seven in the evening to nine the next morning. People on the track across the way in their “little short shorts and boots were just staring at us”, Hess says with a laugh.

The crew didn’t get all the footage they needed so they ended up shooting a lot of the parts on the tracks at the studio. “Our art department did an unbelievable job of recreating the exact subway station we’d been shooting in”, Hess says, her tone filled with admiration and amazement. “I walked in and I couldn’t believe it. It looked exactly the same, down to the tracks and the ties on the tracks and the tile. I challenge you to find the difference”.

Hess also gives a big thumbs up to the patient of the week. “Matthew Lillard is one of the best guest cast members I’ve ever worked with”, Hess enthuses. “He brought everything to the role beyond what we could have imagined”.

The Taub poster story is something Hess has been trying to do for over two years now. “It’s because I love Peter Jacobson,” Hess says. “He makes me laugh and I just wanted to have a giant blowup of his head”. Then it turned out that Rachel, Taub’s wife, was having this emotional affair with her online friend and Hess found herself writing a more serious episode than she had anticipated. “Taub’s giant head ended up representing his better self…what he knew he should do but couldn’t”. The image of him throwing the paint balloons at the poster was not in the original concept. “When it fit in it did so so naturally and was so beautiful”. Hess then offers a little behind the scenes secret. “In the last scene when Taub was standing on the street throwing the balloons, twenty feet off to the side Kal Penn and Olivia Wilde stood watching. They drove down to Santa Monica to watch their friend do his scene, standing out of the frame to cheer him on.

Hess admits she actually wrote the part of Arlene, Cuddy’s mom, with Candice Bergen in mind. When she pitched it, she described Arlene as a Candice Bergen type. When Bergen agreed to play the role, Hess reveals, “I kind of lost my mind. She’s a legend and someone I look up to intensely. So the fact that we got her was just mindblowing”.

She goes on to say that the dinner was a lot of fun to write. The idea of drugging Arlene and Wilson was, Hess says, producer/writer Russel Friend’s idea. The drugging scene was shot innumerable times because nobody ever made it through all the way without busting out laughing. “In the cut we actually used, Hugh has gotten up and left the room so that they could continue; if he stayed there they wouldn’t have been able to finish”. It was one of the funniest thing Hess says she’s ever seen, not because of anything she did, but for the work of Bergen and Robert Sean Leonard.

And what about the House/Cuddy relationship? “Dating Cuddy and trying to act like a normal human being…must be incredibly tiring for [House] since it’s not his normal persona. Anyone who thinks it’s not going to be complicated hasn’t seen our show and doesn’t understand the problems inherent in dating someone like House. It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks”.

Thank you, Sara Hess. Don’t be a stranger. We hope you’ll visit the InHouse Writers Room again soon.

The Music Room links us to the tune used in this week’s episode, which is “Start a War” by Boxer.

Finally, Houseisms offers up three writers picks from the episode. Our favorite is: “I’d have to act like a decent human being. You know what a strain that puts on me”.

Please visit App’s Eye View again next week when we’ll take a look at what super special extras are in store for the “Carrot and Stick” episode.

The InHouse app is available for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

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About Mindy Peterman

  • Sera G

    HI, Mindy,
    I read your column, but have never posted before. I like what you have to say. Alas, I don’t have a phone with an App, so I have to rely on you.
    You make it sound fun. Thanks.

  • Mindy

    Thanks! You should be able to see these videos on YouTube or at http://www.fox.com/house., as well. Please give it a try.