The 'House' That Even-Handedness Built

The 'House' That Even-Handedness Built

Yesterday, the creators of the hit show “House” announced that at the end of this, its eighth season, Dr. House and his cast of characters would fade into the distance.

“The decision to end the show now, or ever, is a painful one, as it risks putting asunder hundreds of close friendships that have developed over the last eight years,” said executive producers David Shore, Katie Jacobs and Hugh Laurie, “but also because the show itself has been a source of great pride to everyone involved.

The producers have always imagined House as an enigmatic creature;  he should never be the last one to leave the party.  How much better to disappear before the music stops, while there is still some promise and mystique in the air.”

Now’s as good a time as any for a post-mortem on one of the quirkiest, most interesting character shows of the last decade. “House’s” focus on a thoroughly unlikeable character was risky, and it paid off; the creators’ decision to make him a thoroughgoing atheist constantly at conflict with others subtly made the case for the bankruptcy of his ideology.  Or, at the very least, it offered philosophical contrast.

Most famously, “House” featured a very pro-life episode in 2007, “Fetal Position,” in which an unborn child reached out of the womb and touched House’s hand, mirroring the famous photograph. That was mirrored by a pro-choice episode that same season that made the case for abortion for a religious rape victim. That was House’s style.

When I interviewed Shore for my latest book, Primetime Propaganda, here’s what he told me about the abortion episodes: “As you can imagine, we’re in Hollywood, we’ve got our share of rabid left wing Democrats here. And … our writing staff has the makeup you’d basically expect of a Hollywood writing staff, and I remember when we were doing ‘Fetal Position,’ there is that image of that little finger of the fetus clasping Dr. House’s hand. And it was a powerful image. And we recognized at the time that’s going to go up on billboards and websites for pro-life organizations. But it was true, and it was accurate, and it was real. And the last thing I want to do is, I happen to be pro-choice, but the last thing I want to do is to give false information or convince people of my argument. I think that’s just not the way to approach things. It’s a difficult choice, and it is a difficult issue.  And I think treating it as anything different than that is dishonest and ultimately counterproductive.”

Shore’s honesty on politics meant that he admitted there was bias against conservatives in Hollywood. As he told me, “there is an assumption in this town that everybody is on the left side of the spectrum, and that the few people on the right, I think people look at them somewhat aghast, and I’m sure it doesn’t help them.” Those are the words of a truth teller. And in its own way, when it wasn’t burdened down with the typical hallmarks of leftist Hollywood (hot bisexuals, open marriages, and the like), “House” was a uniquely truth-telling show.