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House, M.D.'s future is still up in the air as Universal and Fox debate costs

Will House be Back for an Eighth Season?

Monday afternoon, the always-delightful Lisa Edelstein held a conference call with entertainment reporters to discuss the show and her current character arc. During the call, I asked a follow-up question from my October interview with her. Back then she told me that only Hugh Laurie was signed for next year, having long ago contracted through season eight. At that point, contract extensions had not been discussed with any of the cast (not unusual for that point in the season). On Monday, she responded to my question, saying that the cast still had not been signed for next season.

She noted that NBC, which produces House, M.D. for airing on Fox wants Fox to pull more of the weight in producing the series. “There’s a whole complicated structure of who pays for what when you make a show,” Edelstein explained.  “I believe NBC wants Fox to take over the cost of production, and Fox doesn’t want to.”

This crucial issue is still unresolved as we head into second half of season seven.  “Until that’s resolved, they can’t even begin to talk to any of us.” So that leaves most of the cast, including Edelstein (Cuddy), Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson), Omar Epps (Foreman), Jesse Spencer (Chase) and Peter Jacobson (Taub) in a bit of limbo (and Olivia Wilde, who plays “13” if she plans on returning next year). It has already been reported that Amber Tamblyn (Martha Masters) appearance will end with this season.

Not being a TV executive, I’m not sure how much of this is simple posturing by studio (NBC-Universal) and network (Fox), and how much is the real deal. However, some of this undoubtedly is fueled by cost issues related to the recent Comcast-NBC merger. It’s likely that NBC-Universal would be examining ways to cut costs post-merger, and Fox is unlikely to want to accept the additional burden of producing the expensive drama show. Understandably, the costs of putting together a show that’s acquired increasingly complex production standards over the years—and now having to negotiate new contracts with the series regulars might give both studio and network a bit of pause, particularly now.

But would either Universal (who sells the DVDs and owns the rights for all those cable rebroadcasts and more) or Fox want to jettison a still-popular, well-made series? Although House’s ratings numbers are not quite as impressive as they were a couple of years ago, for a series in its seventh season, it is doing quite well, particularly in the all-important 18-49 demo. I can’t imagine either entity wanting to cut House at this juncture.

I certainly wouldn’t want to see House crawl to its end, prolonged way past its prime to squeeze out the last penny, but it’s not there, not by a long shot. And hey, TV by the Numbers scores House as highly likely to be renewed in its January 25, 2011 “Renew/Cancel” column.

I’m with them. I would bet that neither Fox nor NBC are willing to let one such a highly-rated, successful vanish. In any event, do let the network know how you feel.

And a question for you, my dear readers: what do you think? How many more seasons might we have left of Dr. House and his crew? Let me know in the comments below!

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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