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Playing 'House' in Hollywood

June 13, 2008 12:14 PM

An enthusiastic audience gathered Thursday to show "House" some love during its crusade for Emmy nominations, part of the Los Angeles Times' screening series at the ArcLight Cinemas. After screening the Emmy-bait conclusion to its two-part season finale, "House's" cast and creators chatted with the Times' Mary McNamara and took questions from the house.

Turns out the two-part season finale was supposed to be the episode that aired after the Super Bowl, but that annoying writers strike messed up that plan. However, series creator/executive producer David Shore said, "It worked out very nicely. It gave us more time to establish the Amber-Wilson relationship."

House

Moderator Mary McNamara, Hugh Laurie, director of photography Gale Tattersall, Omar Epps, executive producer and creator David Shore, director Katie Jacobs and Robert Sean Leonard.

For non-"House" fanatics, that would be "the excruciatingly tolerant James Wilson," as described by Ms. McNamara and played by Robert Sean Leonard, and his girlfriend and former House protege Dr. Amber Volakis, played by Anne Dudek. (Turns out Leonard is less tolerant than his character, however; he was heard on the way out asking irritatedly, "So there were seven panelists and six microphones ... what was the point of that?")

Anyway, "We were in the midst of shooting when the strike hit," said executive producer Katie Jacobs, who also directed the two-parter. She credited Fox for deciding "to slow down production" and choosing a different episode to air after the big game.

Amber was part of the fourth-season shift from the original three-doctor team that worked with House, the crankily brilliant doctor played by Hugh Laurie. The time had come for their three-year terms to be up, and, as Mr. Shore put it, it wasn't realistic that they would put up with House's crap any longer. So he rolled out of bed one day with the realization, "House is not the kind of person who would interview 42 people and hire three. He's the kind of person who would hire 42 people and fire 39." So that's what happened. Also, Mr. Shore said, "With all the reality shows on television, it just seemed a natural thing to do."

Amber was among the finalists for the job -- "We made deals with eight of the actors that could have been series deals," Ms. Jacobs explained -- but just missed the cut. However, "Everyone loved Annie," as Mr. Leonard put it, and that led to her return. When the producers called Ms. Dudek to say they had good news and bad news -- her character was coming back, only to die at the end of the season -- "she was so excited that we almost thought she didn't hear the second part," Mr. Shore exclaimed.

No one was willing to discuss what's coming up in the show's fifth season. Mr. Laurie quipped, "We just finished our 90th episode. In England it would take about 300 years to do that!" It was clear that the House-Wilson relationship, damaged by Amber's death, will be addressed.

In fact, as Mr. Shore put it, "In some ways it's not a medical show to us. The meat of it is the human relationships." It's also, as he said, "about that pursuit of knowledge, writ large. As 'The X-Files' used to say, 'The truth is out there.' That's what I love about this character [House] -- his pursuit of the truth."

—Lisa D. Horowitz

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