TV writers know the drill: You paint characters into a corner in the season finale and spend the summer plotting how to get the characters out. If only it had been that simple for House creator David Shore this summer.
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Besides resolving last year's cliff-hanger — which saw House (Hugh Laurie) drive his car into the living room of ex-girlfriend Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) before escaping to a tropical locale — Shore also had to deal with Edelstein's sudden decision against returning to the show.
"I didn't paint the corners this year," Shore tells TVGuide.com with a laugh that suggests he's looking on the bright side. "I have to say, I'm surprisingly excited. With the way things unfolded in the off-season, I thought, 'Oh crap; this is not what I wanted. But I'm very pleased with what [we] have worked out."
Part of the plan involves sending House to jail and jumping the story ahead by a year. Another includes bringing new blood into Princeton-Plainsboro and shifting the power to characters other than House. Read on for more on the new faces as well as why Shore believes this season returns the show to its roots. Plus: Will this season be the show's last?
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Was it hard writing your way out of last year' finale given that you lost a cast member over the summer?
Shore: Well, it was different because we had perimeters set for us that weren't ideal, that weren't planned for, and that we were disappointed with. But the good news is we're so bad at planning that we didn't really know how we were going to start this season anyway. So, we came at it the way you should come at it: We said, "Here's what we've got: What are the opportunities here?"
And what did you land on?
Shore: Bringing in new blood into the hospital is always an opportunity. House is at his best when he's dealing with new people and new situations and making deductions about new people and these situations. So, we're bringing in some new people. We're very excited about it. I certainly think the way we're starting this year is really invigorating and we're going back to our roots a little bit.
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But first you have to get House out of jail. Is it safe to assume his sentence is related to driving his car through Cuddy's house, or is there more to it than that?
Shore: That's a fair assumption. [But] there's always more psychologically to it.
Is he only in jail for that first episode?
Shore: I don't want to give away the specifics. But we felt it was important that he pay a price for the way last year ended and for what he did. He certainly did something illegal and dangerous and, I would say, irrational. House is a rational being, and he has to pay a price. But at the same time our desire this year is to have fun. [We want to] explore that, but also to get back to our roots and get back to the cases and the core of our show. So, we are quickly going to get back to a form of our old House.
Will having served time in any way affect his ability to practice medicine?
Shore: He certainly will be affected, but we don't want to turn this into a legal show. He's got this hanging over his head, but we don't want to turn this into a show about House trying to get his license back and the legalities of all that. Let's get House back in the hospital and get him practicing.
Even though you're looking forward, are you at all going to address Cuddy's absence?
Shore: There's going to be an acknowledgement, but it's not going to be a big story about her because unfortunately we don't have her to do that story with.
Do you think you'll ever have Lisa come back for a proper Cuddy wrap-up?
Shore: Eventually, that may be appropriate. Given that she was gone, we decided it was better to not just have her come back to leave. Down the road that might be more appropriate. It didn't seem right now.
You do have Robert Sean Leonard, who was very much at risk in that final scene as well. How will the Wilson-House dynamic change?
Shore: You'll have to watch the episodes, but certainly Wilson doesn't just simply forgive and forget.
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Let's go back to these new doctors. Tell us more about Charlyne Yi's character.
Shore: She's a bit Old World. Her parents are immigrants and she has respect for their ways. She believes in hard work and earning what you get and getting ahead. She's very deferential, but she also has another side that we'll encourage her to explore.
Charlene's comedy plays off her awkwardness. Will you play use that or go against it?
Shore: That's what attracted us to her. I don't think she'll object if I say she's an unusual character That is her comedy, and that is her. We'd be idiots to not embrace that.
And House meets Odette Annable's character while he's in jail, right?
Shore: They meet in jail and they develop a connection and then the price is paid. ... She's working at the prison. She doesn't have to work at the prison. She's choosing to work at the prison and that says everything about her.
You said this year goes back to basics but also introduces new blood. Isn't that kind of a contradiction?
Shore: I think that's the best way to go back to basics. This allows us to take a fresh look at who House is, to get fresh eyes on his character and how unusual he is. I think that's the essence of it. Through these new characters' viewpoints, we get a jaded view of House.
What about House's non-work relationships? Is he still a married man?
Shore: The green card marriage? We don't deal with that. He may be [married], but we don't deal with that. You know, everything has moved on. The world's changed. House is still House, and he tries to put the world back together.
So House won't be in a romantic relationship this season?
Shore: I don't want [the show] to be about relationships in the sense of who's sleeping with who. At least not in the foreseeable future. It's about relationships in terms of how these people relate to each other. And the impact House's world view has on all the people around him.
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What can we expect from those people around him this season?
Shore: At the end of last year, Taub (Peter Jacobson) had two women pregnant and we are going to deal with that this year. We are also going to deal with how Foreman (Omar Epps) and Chase's (Jesse Spencer) lives have changed over the intervening time. House has been in jail for quite some time, so everybody's lives have moved forward and that gives us opportunities.
Are you suggesting the power dynamics of the team have shifted?
Shore: I think that's a very fair assessment.
How much will we see of Thirteen (Olivia Wilde)?
Shore: You'll see her early this season. You won't see a lot of her. [Olivia] wants to do more movies, and we've acceded to that request with some sadness, but I'm happy for her.
Fox President Kevin Reilly has said this could be the last season of House. What are your thoughts on that?
Shore: I think the show itself potentially has life left in it, but I think a lot of that will depend on a lot of things. There is a chance that this will be the last year. Everybody's hoping it's not, but if it is, we want to do it right.
Have you begun planning an endgame in case this is the last year?
Shore: To some extent, yes. But it's clearly a contingency right now.
Most creators don't stay with a show this many seasons. Are you personally tired after seven seasons?
Shore: I'm tired of the job. I'm not tired of his character.
So, what do you want to accomplish with House's character this season? Will we see any change in him?
Shore: I know this is a crazy answer, but I don't want to see him change. I want to see him striving to change, and that what I've wanted to see him do since Day One. I want to see him striving for happiness. I like him and I find him interesting. What I want to do and what I enjoy doing is seeing him in situations I haven't seen him in before and seeing how he reacts to those situations and see how he takes those situations.
House returns Monday, Oct. 3 at 9/8c on Fox.