'House' writers' room: The fix is in
First, congratulations on the show being renewed for an eighth season. What’s the atmosphere like over on the lot?
TM: Thank you very much. Right now the atmosphere on the lot is quiet because the "House" writing staff is on hiatus and hopefully enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation (and hopefully not renovating their house like I am).
House is a genius. I can understand a genius sliding into addiction (Vicodin), because, after all, he’s trapped in a human body like the rest of us. But it’s a big step for him to do something like experimenting on himself. That’s an intellectual choice, not a physical reaction. How did he get to this point?
TM: House is obsessed with keeping up to date on the newest medical breakthroughs and discoveries, even going so far as to read medical journals in foreign languages. He’s also clearly not someone who feels the need to wait for any “official” seal of approval before using what he concludes is a promising new theory or treatment, on his patient or himself. So he’s been following Dr. Riggin’s research for a long time, fully understands the risks, and decided to roll the dice. And I’m not sure I blame him. Thankfully, I have never had to deal with the kind of constant pain House has been struggling with for so many years, but I can guarantee if I had I would be willing to do almost anything to make it go away.
House becomes obsessed with why a boxer had lost the last five of his bouts after winning his first 20. But Patient of the Week Wendy Lee (the weapons designer who collapses before the credits) presents with enough symptoms to stump even him. Lee is hovering near death, while the boxer is safe enough, mopping floors at the gym. Why stalk the boxer?
TM: That’s a good question. House is definitely not a guy who always makes good choices. I prefer not to intrude on our audience’s interpretation of some of House’s decisions, other than to say that complicated people in complicated circumstances often make complicated choices, and it’s often the most confounding to the people who are closest to them (I’m one of the few writers on the "House" writing staff with teenagers at home. Quite a few of the others will soon know what I’m talking about).
House really takes a powder on the Lee case, not even answering his team’s pages. Yet Cuddy washed her hands of the situation. Why weren’t there more severe repercussions?
TM: I’m not sure Cuddy has any good options when it comes to dealing with or trying to control House. She’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. It’s kind of like dealing with a teenager, but I digress…
Is Thirteen becoming the moral compass of the team?
TM: No, I don’t think so. Personally, I don’t think we have a singular moral compass on our show. We have a bunch of different individuals who each have individual moral compasses that often come into conflict with the moral compasses of the people they are forced to deal with on a daily basis. This, by the way, is not at all like raising a teenager because in that case there is a clear moral compass. Mine. I just wish I could get my kids to understand that. (Or at least my wife).
What was the purpose of the bar scene?
TM: Hmm. That was one of my favorite scenes in the script (written by David Shore), but I guess since you’re asking that I can assume its allure was lost on you. It had a sort of Cyrano quality to it that I really enjoyed, and I guess we were hoping the audience would enjoy it as well.
So House has pinched several cellophane envelopes of CS-804 and no one has noticed. Seems a pretty lax trial, even if it is just on rats so far. Is this an indication that Cuddy is no longer running a tight ship?
TM: I guess I would say that I’d like to think that Cuddy is a brilliant administrator; Dr. Riggin is a brilliant research scientist; and House is a brilliant thief and experienced con artist. I think we should assume House knows enough about the Research Center’s record keeping and clinical procedures that he is able (and willing) to take the necessary steps to cover his tracks.
Spanish Fly? I haven’t heard that in years. Where’d that idea come from?
TM: You know, I too thought Spanish Fly was a myth, but I was wrong. One of our medical advisors, Dr. John Sotos, set me straight when he pitched the idea. The concoction is made from extracting the active ingredient cantharidin from blister beetles. It’s nasty stuff; clearly doesn’t live up to its advertiser’s claims, but can in fact cause your genitals to become painfully engorged before it kills you. Not cool at all. And that’s something on which my kids and I completely agree.
It's good to know the teen years haven't changed since I was there ... at least, I think it's good to know. Thanks for your time, Tom, and good luck with Season 8. And those kids.
-- Linda Whitmore
Photo: House (Hugh Laurie) works out with the heavy bag in "The Fix." Credit: Adam Taylor / Fox