The nominees for outstanding drama series managed to take even the savviest experts by surprise this year. Yes, "The Sopranos" was expected to be there, especially given its controversial final season, and last year's medical drama nominees "Grey's Anatomy" and "House" were recognized again. But the inclusion of newcomer "Heroes," NBC's comic-book series, and ABC's 3-year-old "Boston Legal," never previously nominated for drama series, was unexpected. All things considered, the competition in this category may be the most wide-open in years -- or maybe not.
"I think it's the last season of 'The Sopranos,' which has been a remarkable show that has done a lot in changing what dramas look like on cable and network TV, so I sort of think they're going to win," said Katie Jacobs, "House" executive producer.
"House" earned three major nominations, including Hugh Laurie for lead actor in a drama series and David Morse for guest actor. "It came as a thrill and a huge relief. I mean, there are so many good dramas on TV right now that we felt here at 'House' that it could go either way," said Ms. Jacobs. "We would understand if we weren't nominated, because there are other good candidates. This is our second nomination [for drama series] and it's a huge boost to everybody here."
Another boost for the "House" company was seeing Mr. Laurie, who stars as the prickly doctor Gregory House, nominated this year. Many experts deemed his being left out of the 2006 Emmy nominations a major error in the selection process. Some observers think he may be rewarded this time, partly to make up for last year. "We'll have to see," Ms. Jacobs said. "I think there's no more extraordinary performance on air today than Hugh Laurie's."
The success of "House" is due in large part to the title character. "He's not warm and fuzzy at all. I think it's his irreverence, his sense of humor, and then I think it's also that head writer David Shore is very careful to let you see parts of the character that are vulnerable and wounded," Ms. Jacobs said. "And Hugh Laurie is so talented that, even though he can be saying mean and curmudgeonly things, we see behind his eyes to a wounded soul in there. So he's not as simple as just being nasty and curmudgeonly. He's funny, he's entertaining, he is sexy ... and physically, Hugh has a great sort of masculinity to him, so it's not that he's simple to get. I think the most important thing is the split between his sense of humor and the wounded, everybody-wants-to-repair-House kind of sentiment."
In the past season "House" dealt with major challenges, in particular Dr. House's addiction to pain pills. "We felt it was time to deal with the issue, not just because it's the responsible thing to do, but we were interested in discussing this because it's fascinating," Ms. Jacobs said. "The pain in his leg is real, and you cannot function at your best with constant pain. Nevertheless, can you function at your best while taking God knows how many Vicodin?"
Emmy nominee David Morse played Tritter, the police detective determined to stop House. "The Tritter character is a guy who can't let go," said Ms. Jacobs. "Who is House really hurting? Well, that's not how Tritter saw it. He was as much as a dog with a bone as House is when he's trying to diagnose a case."
According to the creators of the show, there's a link between Gregory House and Sherlock Holmes, especially in their relentless need to uncover the truth. "House is, at the end of the day, a great doctor," Ms. Jacobs said. "When you don't know what's wrong with you, it's not about a doctor who's warm and fuzzy. It's about somebody who can figure out what's wrong with you.
"The thing about House is that he's the ultimate diagnostician. He wants to figure out the answer to the puzzle," she added. "I'd like to be in his hands if I was on my deathbed."
Dr. House will face a new challenge when the next season begins because his three assistants all left him in last season's finale. "You'll be surprised by what House decides to do. At the end of episode one, Cuddy has left all of these resumes on his desk, and he brings them all in. He decides to play a game of 'Survivor' with all these doctors over the first nine episodes," Ms. Jacobs said.
"It's just very ambitious as far as casting and writing. And we have a new set to accommodate all of these characters. It's ambitious and we
didn't have to do it, but -- not to sound corny -- it turns us on. Once we started having these conversations, David [Shore] and the whole writing staff and all the actors got very excited about expanding in this way. We hope our enthusiasm and excitement will translate into good episodes and the audience will follow us along."
Viewers have been on board with "House" since the show premiered in 2004. "It took all of us by surprise," Ms. Jacobs said. "One of the statistics I'm most proud of is that our audience has grown over each season; that is just very unexpected.
"When we were casting the pilot, Hugh Laurie wore on his lapel a little button that said 'sexy' on it. At the time, that was a joke because 'The OC' and 'North Shore' were on and, you know, we were not sort of the typical path for Fox to take. Now, in hindsight, he's obviously incredibly sexy. He couldn't wear that button now.
"The other thing is that our teen audience is huge," she added. "Last year at certain times our teen audience was bigger than 'American Idol's' teen audience. So we actually built on teens from the 'Idol' lead-in, which is a shock."
Even though "The Sopranos" is the odds-on choice to snag the drama series Emmy, "House" is tough competition. "I say let the chips fall where they may," said Ms. Jacobs. "I wouldn't change our show and I wouldn't want to be on any other show. ... To me the phenomenal thing is we have the ratings that 'Grey's Anatomy' has and a lot of critical support at the same time. It really is an honor to be nominated in that group of shows, and I hope that we just continue to grow and that next year we're talking about the fact that we have even more nominations."
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