At the recent William S. Paley Television Festival, about 600 people filled the Directors Guild Theatre in Los Angeles to watch an upcoming episode of the FOX medical drama House. Despite that drama classification and the gripping patient mystery at its core, it provoked more laughter than the average multiplex comedy feature. Listening to the entire cast and all four executive producers answer questions about the show afterwards, House's comedic sensibility comes as no surprise: these people are funny.
Creator and executive producer David Shore; executive producers Bryan Singer, Katie Jacobs, and Paul Attanasio; and cast members Hugh Laurie (Dr. Gregory House), Robert Sean Leonard (Dr. James Wilson), Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Lisa Cuddy), Omar Epps (Dr. Eric Foreman), Jennifer Morrison (Dr. Allison Cameron), and Jesse Spencer (Dr. Robert Chase) fed off each other's responses with teasing rapport, and showed a facility with one-liners that Dr. House would envy, if he didn't firmly believe he was superior to others in every possible way ... and, if you want to get picky about the distinction between fiction and reality, if he weren't simply a product of these funny people.
At one point, the actors were asked what they'd like to see for their characters in the future.
“Perform Hamlet in its entirety,” contributed Broadway veteran Leonard.
“Do a differential diagnosis in interpretive dance,” said lithe Morrison.
“Disappear,” offered the overworked Laurie.
“Have sex,” responded quirky Edelstein, before adding slowly: “Oh, you meant my character?”
“And I actually thought that would be helpful to me,” writer Shore sighed, mock-exasperated.
In the Beginning
Shore announced at the beginning of the session, to applause but no great surprise, that FOX had renewed House for a third season. The panel then delved into the genesis of the show. Producers Attanasio and Jacobs decided to pitch a medical series inspired by the Diagnosis column in The New York Times, and turned to Shore to write it. When asked how he conceived the character of the hostile doctor, Shore said: “I tend to take all characters and attach the word 'hostile' to them.”
“I'd still be practicing law if I didn't have to deal with clients,” he continued. “It's not just me — we all have to deal with idiots. We never think we are the idiot, but we often are.”
He recounted an anecdote about going through with a doctor's appointment even though the hip pain he'd been suffering from had already disappeared. He imagined the doctors whispering about him behind his back, and used that as the inspiration for a doctor who had no qualms telling patients exactly what he thinks to their faces. Combined with the vision of a doctor attacking medical cases with Sherlock Holmes-like deduction skills, the character of House was born.