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'House' writers' room: The Huddy breakup and all that jazz

DipThe “Bombshells” episode of “House” this past Monday shocked (and dismayed Huddy shippers) a lot of viewers. It was written by Liz Friedman and Sara Hess. They’ve taken a little time out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions about  this critical and unusual episode.

“Bombshells” had two major, major plot points: The breakup of Huddy and the re-addiction of House. What was the rationale behind tackling both of these game-changers in 44 minutes?

Sara: Well, for us the two things went hand-in-hand.  A major theme on the show is that people don't change.  House has been clean for a year and a half now, but addiction isn't something that just goes away.  When Cuddy started dating him, she told him she could accept him just the way he was ... but remember, he was sober at the time.  And while she's a doctor and knows the reality of his situation, I think she was able to convince herself for a long time that things would turn out OK.  But when someone with House's drug history starts using again, it's a seismic event.
That said, Cuddy doesn't break up with him because he took one pill.  We used House's addiction as a symbol of his inability to deal with pain. He's spent so much time and energy trying to insulate himself, but being in a relationship basically means making yourself twice as vulnerable.  And he can't accept that.  He won't let himself really experience what Cuddy's going through; selfishly, he uses the drug to protect himself, and that leaves her--in any real emotional sense -- alone.  Maybe Cuddy thinks she doesn't need him to change, but she does at the very least need him to be present.  And in the end he can't do it.

Whose decision was it to incorporate the dreams/nightmares as a plot device?

Liz: That idea came out of the writers' room at House.  The staff collectively hatched the notion of Cuddy contemplating various futures with House, each of those futures being a different genre, and those visions ultimately leading to the end of their relationship. In the original pitch, each act was a different genre ... but as we got into it, we realized that the break-up really needed to be grounded in reality, so we re-approached the dreams as a way to show what our characters were really thinking/worrying about.

How did you feel about the results of the fantasies? I still can’t get over the timing of the “Two and a Half Men” sendup, on the day Charlie Sheen is fired. Winning, duh!

Liz: We couldn't be more thrilled about the fantasy sequences.  As a long-time horror film fan, I had the best time writing House vs. zombies, using all the tricks I absorbed from endless viewings of "Evil Dead," as well as working for Sam Raimi. And the musical sequence was incredible.  It's a rare occurrence for writers when you get to pick a song and write a half-page description and then have more than a hundred truly talented people including the brilliant choreographer Mia Michaels work their butts off to turn that into a completely mind-blowing, unforgettable sequence. It was awesome.
Sara: The Charlie Sheen thing was just a major coincidence; we wrote this long before the meltdown of the last few weeks. It actually wasn't conceived as a direct send-up of that particular show, but in the execution it definitely ended up coming pretty close. 

Did this episode take especially long to film, considering the parodies of the specific shows?

Liz: We had one extra day, which is really nothing considering that each of the five dream sequences was a totally different world and look.  Production-wise that's the equivalent of doing five teasers.  Most directors couldn't accomplish that, let alone have each sequence be better than the last.  Our hats are off to Greg Yaitanes, our super-talented and resourceful exec producer director and our stellar crew for that.
Sara:The sitcom and the "Butch Cassidy" sequence were actually shot the same day.

Were you on the set as the fantasy sequences were filmed? Are the writers, as a rule, generally present on set, and if so, are there a lot of last-minute adjustments?

Liz: On "House," writers are on set the whole time their episodes are filming, so we were there for the fantasy sequences. I spent most of the time gawking at the set, the costumes, the actors, completely thrilled and dazzled at what the departments had done to make this crazy idea work. As for script adjustments, those get dealt with ahead of time, not on set.  

On a collaborative teleplay like “Bombshells,” do you all sit in the same room and scream at each other until you get the 44 pages?

Liz: We generally divide up the acts, each taking half of the script.  Then we swap halves and do a pass on each others material. Then we get in a room together and start screaming. 
Sara: Well, there's also some screaming in the early phases, when we're putting together the outline for the script.  This was the sixth script Liz and I have written together, so we've developed a pretty good system wherein we try to kill each other for a few hours, then clock out like the sheep and the wolf in that old Warner Brothers cartoon and go get Chinese food.
Liz: Funny thing is, I hate Chinese food.

Do you solicit or accept any input from the cast?

Sara: As an executive producer and our lead actor, Hugh certainly has the ability to weigh in and make suggestions.  Which he actually does surprisingly little of. He's a writer, and his respect for the script and the room sets the tone for everybody else. If an actor has a strong opinion about something, we will definitely consider that. But it doesn't happen very often.

Finally, how much, if ever, do you follow the fan feedback on the Internet, and if so, does it affect the direction of the series?

Liz: Sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me and I take a peek to see how people are reacting to what we're doing.  But I personally don't believe in letting fan reaction dictate creative decisions; not out of disrespect for the fans, but because as a TV writer you have to stay true to the core vision of your show, whether it's coming from you or your showrunner. You let go of that, before long you won't know what you're writing and no one will be happy.

Sara: We certainly appreciate and are grateful to our fans, but scripted shows aren't -- and can't be -- about audience participation.  That's what "American Idol" is for. If we bent to every opinion out there -- and there are a lot of them -- we wouldn't be writing "House," we'd be writing a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-type thing.  Which, come to think of it, isn't a bad idea. I'm going to call my agent.

Show Tracker thanks these busy writers for talking about their craft, and a fun episode of their highly ranked show.

-- Linda Whitmore

Photo: In the big musical finale, House (Hugh Laurie) dips Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). Credit: Adam Taylor / Fox


Comments () | Archives (107)

Dear writers of “House”- EPIC FAIL!!!! If you don't have an audience (a.k.a the “fans”), you don't think you need to listen to, Huddy fans or non-Huddy fans, you don't have a show. Shows need an audience for it to continue. If you continue on this way, you will lose your show. Many of us feel that you are ruining “House”. Your writing does need our imput—more than you want to admit. Well too bad. Those will be your famous last words if the show has to cancel due to ratings falling. You might have great ideas, but your execution is terrible. Fans are leaving left and right. I am teetering on the fence, along with my mother. We have felt tortured by all the acts of attempted suicide by House himself. You may think that your “artistic juices” are clever, and many may be, but in this case you are failing miserably. Think about it- House needs to be a part of the show. It was named after him after all. And as for Cuddy, stop creating her character as a pansy woman. She is the Dean of Medicine for goodness sake. She is independent, now a mother of her adopted daughter Rachel. And most of all, she loves House. Regardless of his addiction. He may relapse here or there, but she is a doctor herself. Love conquers all. And he loves her, and Rachel, as you have depicted. Fans like those episodes. Don't take us back to square one, episode one. We are so ever that.

Cuddy's decision doesn't make sense on the surface, if you only take the situation between House and Cuddy. But the decision makes perfect sense for a mother. Love can make everything happen, but for mothers, romantic love isn't everything and can be sacrificed for their children. All Cuddy's trying to do is to protect Rachel from an addict.

Honestly: Who are you guys kidding? You will watch the show again. We all will.

The plot twist isn't a "reset" at all. We do not know what is coming next. Maybe this isn't the end of the "huddy"-storyline and just a major setback? What did you want? Eternal Happiness and Cheesecake for everyone? In my modest opinion exactly that would have been the killer for the show.

To make it short: Just have a little trust in the writers. The evolution of many characters in this show is brilliant. (Take Masters as an Example. Or 13) This show will always be good for a shocking twist and it is one of its strenghts.

It's hard to believe that a great show like "House" could actually "jump the shark", but it has. Unfortunately, it happened years ago. All the writers had to do was stay true to the premise of the show from the beginning... a crabby, middle-aged, pain-ridden doctor, who is good at diagnosing strange illnesses. (Personally, I don't think there was even a need to make him a drug addict. Here's a concept... he was crabby, because he was in pain and wasn't taking drugs. However, too late now).

Instead, the writers had to go off into the personal live of the characters. Who cares? I don't. I didn't start watching this show to see how many drugs House took today, or who he was "dating"... however it is why I stopped watching.

The worst show ever. I usually like house the flash backs were bad enough but to break them up was worse they should be getting married and Rachel call House Daddy. It would have been nice for them to have a baby not this. I don't see any where for the show to go now except down.

I thought the show was brilliantly written however, I was starting to really enjoy the show since House was getting happy. I am very unhappy that he is back on drugs again. Having some painful situations in my own family it is not great to see House not being able to win against his own addiction. Nor is this a good thing for people struggling with addiction to see House not being able to win with this problem. If the show is going down this addiction path again I will have to find another way of amusing myself. I don't want to watch a show about a person who cannot win against drug addiction. I wanted to watch a show about a quick witted doctor. I liked the humor in the show. I don't need more sorrow. Hope this changes soon.

Great episode House is back! Dream sequences brilliant way to wrap up this (imo dull) arc,

Hugh laury is a very talented actor. Multy talent person. He sings, and dances, and composes lirics, and is a writer.Also he is a comediant. For me, the outcome of Bombshells, was the joy to see him fulfilling more of his abilities in acting then we usully see . He got the oportunity , through those fantasies of his and of Cuddy's, to show us to what extreem can he reach. So the character Dr Hous' maybe in retreat, but not Hugh Laury . I think that "bombshells" is a genias product, a breakthrough the ordinary character of Dr. House. So he is sad and miserable, but look to what extend can Hugh laury can reach as multy-talent actor. Zehava

What a bunch of crap! Why is it that TV writers always think it is better to have characters who can't get their lives together. STUPID!

I have yet to see Bombshells, no choice of my own, our cable company is negotiating with Fox and I'm really mad!..I didn't want to read this because I ahven't seen it. I chose to read it and I'm pleasantly okay with my understandings of what happened. I thought for sure that he was never with her and was on the pills the whole time and all of this was another hallucination and I would've been so mad!Being that I read the end of choosing to write the show creatively, rather than fan input, has earned my utmost respect. Especially, knowing that Hugh (as a writer, producer, and all of his talents) respects most of the writers decsions. I didn't want them to be over and I don't foresee that it can ever be truely over between the two of them because they always had a certain type of relationship behind it all. They are just so cute together, no matter what. I still can't wait to see it, even though I'd prefer that they didn't break up. I knew he'd turn back to pills because that's just whom he has been for so long and that has a powerful impact on how people live their lives. I'm still hoping that this means the show isn't ending because that, was also, a huge fear of mine. Anyway, keep going on with the creativity of House. I can't wait to see what's all going on!

I hope we have seen the last of Cuddy. She is soooo stupid and a slut to boot. Her clothes are so awful, I can't stand to look at her. Do they put them on with spray paint. Lisa Edelstein is way past the age when she can get away with that. Plus, she's a lousy actress

Now if we could get rid of House and have a show about Wilson, The Team, and Cuddy's mom, that would be worth looking at.

FWIW, I found it hard to believe that someone as smart and elegant as Candace Bergen could have a daughter that dresses like Cuddy. Yecch.

Wow, I can't believe there are House fans who have been watching for seven seasons and are surprised to hear that the theme is that people do not change. Sure, they create the illusion of change for their loved ones or to benefit themselves(much like House got stoned so he didn't truly have to deal with Cuddy's situation, in this episode), but fundamentally, a person is set in their ways. House has said this since Day 1; David Shore, the creator, has stated this interviews; and now, Sara Hess says it.

Another thing is all these strawman arguments on why the break-up was bad. "Cuddy knew how House was going in?" Well, yeah, she did, and says so in the sixth season finale, "Help Me", but was willing to take the risks. And guess what? We've entered risk territory. I don't think it's truly fair to label her a b!tch because she's realized she doesn't want to babysit a grown man. There's an episode in the second or third season, I believe where Cuddy's maintenance man falls off her roof, and at the end, House muses that her need for everything to be just right will inevitably keep her from being happy. I believe both of them are flawed and it's not entirely one person's fault. I decided not to make any comments on the relationship in the beginning, because I just want a good show and have never cared who's dating who, but is it really surprising this didn't work out?

If I had to really complain about the show as it is now, and that Bombshells was a victim of, is the distance between the drama and the patients. The kid's Columbine-esque plotline felt sloppy with Taub's flip-flopping and became another mess to follow along with the dreams and House. This has been an ongoing thorn since maybe the fifth season, and I think the writers should take notice. A little more connection goes a long way. Maybe it's slightly unrealistic that every week we meet a patient that has similar problems to one of the cast, but that's at least something instead of filtering it like white noise.

I really loved it!!!! so much! great performances by all the team cast.Great script writing. Yeah ,really cool episode.

I hope Cuddy gets back together with House. They are so great together.

Just for everyone who seems to be for some reason confused:
Huddy is House and Cuddy combined. The word people are using to describe House and Cuddy as a couple.

People do change especially smart ones. House and Cuddy do deeply love one another. They should have gone to couples counseling. They might not have ended up together but at least we'd know why.

I havent seen this episode yet as i am in the uk and am not looking forward to it (not because of the break up as that was inevitable) I am as my friends say addicted to HOUSE i continuously watch seasons 1-6 i watch atleast 1 episode everyday. I absolutely love it.

Season 6 and 7 have not been of the same quality as the rest. I still watch and there are certain episodes that i love and rewatch, but there is definately something missing. :( Whoever wrote seasons 1-5 should come back. It seems to have become a bit of a soap opera. i mean 'dream sequences' is this DALLAS.

I love the characters and the medical dramas and seeing more of houses character coming out , ive loved seeing him happy, unhappy, in pain not in pain, on vicodin and not on vicodin - but maybe its the way they are doing it thats daft.

This is a TV show you guys you act like this is a personal assault against all of you! It's a show called "HOUSE". If your so upset by it don't watch it anymore! I personally think it was clever and I am glad House is back and no longer with "Cuddy" that is how the script was written. Screenwriters don't personally write for each and everyone of you so if all you have to do is complain about it and be so personally offended than you must have nothing better to do! Talk about a bunch on entitled spoiled grown-ups get a grip!!!

I was glad to see house and Huddy break up and see house back to his old self I did not like the new house I like troubled house not happy in love house. I like bad boy troubled single house I hope the episodes get back to the old way I liked those episodes much better than the more recent ones.

Look... i HATE that huddy is over, and it really needs to get back togeather, because house and cuddy, just like i guess fit with each other, and if you were watching you'd know that because of the way they acted, they really love each other, and if you can see that, you really haven't been paying attention the last 7 years now have you, haters.... ??

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