In an interview at the start of Season 5, I asked writer/producer Doris Egan about whether House’s abrasive exterior extends all the way to his heart. Egan noted “on one level you want to say that under that hard shell of a man there’s a hard shell of a heart. But he’s clearly a guy with a lot of problems. And a lot of deep feeling that he’s not going to tell anyone about.”
And that’s one of the big challenges in writing the character like House. How do you illuminate his humanity, but keep him in character—without making him a “nice guy”—something David Shore has long contended House is not.
"The tricky thing about the character, writer/executive producers Garret Lerner and Russel Friend told me in a 2008 interview, “is that we have this sort of misanthropic, drug addicted guy. We want to preserve his edginess. Not betray that. But,” they explained, “we always want to see that humanity. There’s got to be something in him that is human; otherwise why would he be saving all these lives?”
In addition to some disagreement about whether House has any humanity at all, there is also the question as to whether House has a romantic streak. Although in our interview last week, Liz Friedman said she doesn’t see House's occasional “desire for companionship” as evidence of a romantic streak, other writers may indeed believe it’s there.
(I’m not sure that Friedman and I don’t simply disagree on the semantics. What does “romantic” mean for a character like House?) In my opinion anyway, several of Friedman’s episodes suggest both the humanity and romanticism lying somewhere deep within House’s layers. Something with which she certainly disagrees. But she wouldn’t be the first writer whose characters don't behave, and instead do what they want, disobeying their dismayed creators and frustrating their designs.) Famously, Chris Carter has said that he never intended Mulder and Scully to be fall in love, but the fans (and the actors—and the characters, evidently) begged to differ. But how can any of the writers suggest a lack of romanticism when you consider his behavior in episodes from "Love Hurts" in Season 1 and "Need to Know" in Season 2 to "Let Them Eat Cake" in Season 5?
In a 2009 interview executive producer/showrunner Katie Jacobs acknowledged House's romantic streak, but added that it’s “covered in fear and pain and a desire not to make himself vulnerable. I think he’s deeply romantic,” she said. “As romantic as he is wounded, and that’s part of the problem.” Is it also why women viewers seem so attracted to someone who is, on the surface, such a jerk? “I think,” she elaborated, “we see the pain behind the eyes…the fact that he has a soul; that’s where this all comes from.” But that comes from beyond the page; it comes from the performance. And sometimes the directing (although not as much in television as in the movies.)