It’s the end of the road for veteran medical drama House, which will bow out after the end of its current eighth season on Fox in May. The network has granted creator David Shore’s wish for an early decision to allow him to give the series and its characters a proper ending. The move opens the door for renewal of another Fox drama in need of an early verdict, freshman Terra Nova.
Shore originally was hoping for a resolution by end of last year but he and the network “agreed mutually to put it off until after the first of the year,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said at TCA in January. At the time he admitted that he’s been “avoiding” making the decision because “it’s hard to imagine the network without House… It’s going to be a close call.” I hear the network made that call over the past 24 hours, siding with Shore who felt that creatively the series was in a place where he wanted to bring it home. Shore had the support of fellow House executive producer Katie Jacobs and star/executive producer Hugh Laurie. “While it’s with much regret, and a lump in our throats, we respect the decision Hugh, David and Katie have made,” Reilly said in a statement today. “A true original, on the page and amazingly brought to life by Hugh Laurie, there is only one Dr. House. For eight seasons, the entire House team has given us – and fans around the world – some of the most compelling characters and affecting stories ever seen on television.”
The cancellation decision prevents another protracted, bruising license fee negotiation between Fox and House producer Universal Television, which last year stretched into May. Universal would’ve liked to see House continue as it is hugely profitable for the studio with strong international sales (House is one of the most popular U.K. series in the world) and an off-network deal with USA Network. At TCA, NBC Entertainment chairman Greenblatt, who also oversees Universal TV, said that the studio was considering ways to bring the cost of the aging series down so it could continue on Fox. But the studio was facing potential tough renegotiations with star Hugh Laurie whose deal is up at the end of this season. Universal’s efforts to trim actors’ salaries last year didn’t go well, leading to the shocking exit of popular co-star Lisa Edelstein. The studio also doesn’t have a deal with Shore beyond this season.
With House over at Fox, the only realistic possibility for the series to continue elsewhere would be at NBC the way CBS took in Medium and ABC picked up Scrubs, both produced by their sibling studios, after they were cancelled by NBC. But Greenblatt pretty much ruled out that scenario last month, saying that picking up a show “at that cost structure in this situation” wouldn’t be a shrewd business move. Shore, Jacobs and Laurie also closed the door on that in their statement today.
After a slow start and facing cancellation after its first season, House grew into a bonafide hit and was Fox’s highest-rated scripted series for most of its run. Last season, the series’ ratings started to drop off significantly, a trend that continued this season. Still, the medical show remains as one of Fox’s strongest drama series and has been used to launch a number of new series. It will do it one last time this spring with Kiefer Sutherland’s Touch. House went through several rounds of major casting changes, first after Season 3 when it added Peter Jacobson, Kal Penn and Olivia Wilde, then after Season 6 when original cast member Jennifer Morrison left and then again last summer when Edelstein departed, and Odette Annable and Charlyne Yi were added to the main cast. (Wilde too left to focus on her feature career.)
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