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08 November 2010 @ 11:53 pm
David Shore at York University  
David Shore, the creator and executive producer of House, was at York University in Toronto (where I am a student) earlier for a presentation about television, what goes into producing a good show, and House in particular. It was mostly meant for film majors, but all House fans would have enjoyed it. I certainly did, and I'm not even close to majoring in film studies.

I noted down most of the highlights!


Before becoming a writer, he had gone to law school and actually practiced law for 6 years. Two of his friends at law school left for LA to become writers, which planted the seed in his head to do the same - which he eventually did. He worked out a deal with the firm he'd been working for that he would have the option to come back to work for them in two years, if his stint in Hollywood didn't work out, so according to him his venture to the south was not "brave" but in the worst case scenario, an anecdote to tell his colleagues a few years later. Luckily for him and for us, it worked out well! He actually said, "I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was 12 until the second week of law school." FAMILIAR? BECAUSE I SQUEED. XD

He also worked on Due South - apparently after he'd had about 8 months of TV writing experience, he was offered a the position of head writer on it, which he was hesitant about taking because he was inexperienced like whoaaa for that job, and because it was in Canada while he wanted to be in LA. His agent told him to take it, "Because I needed the money and because I would fall flat on my face but no one south of the border would see it." He apologised for telling this story to a Canadian audience but we're Canadians, nothing pisses us off. XD

Regarding the genesis of House: it was pitched to him by Katie Jacobs and Paul Attanasio, who described it as a cop show in a hospital where the germs are the suspects. It's a "whatdunnit" instead of a "whodunnit". They pitched it to a few networks, then DS spent some time figuring out how to make it palatable, because something didn't feel right to him about it. He explained that people usually don't care about the "whodunnit", they watch for the "whydunnit", for the motive. "We don't care that the butler did it, we want to know why the butler did it. But germs don't have motive... one germ doesn't frame another germ or hide the knife under the liver." So they had to make it a show about people - the patients and the main characters.

He didn't want to write the caring doctor because it's not interesting. He referred to the line from Occam's Razor: "What would you want, a doctor who holds your hand while you die, or a doctor who ignores you while you get better?"

House is about deduction - what is the patient lying about and why is he lying. As DS explained, "everybody lies" is not necessarily about explicit lies where "the patient comes in and says black it white" etc. It's more about the way everyone sees the world from a subjective POV. For instance, when he was practicing law, he would have a client come in, tell him their story, and he would say, "Okay, let's go get that bastard." But in court after hearing the other side, he knew that had the other guy come into his office with his story, he would also have said, "Okay, let's go get that bastard." People remember things differently, forget different facts, and generally colour their view of the world with their own experiences, feelings, opinions, etc. House is about "finding the objective reality".

He says he asks the writers on House to write an assignment every week (I think he said every week - could be wrong) - to choose any topic in the world and write a paragraph about it with their own opinion. Then write another paragraph from the POV of the extreme opposite view. He referred to another line, this one from Acceptance:

Stacy: I had to do what I thought was right.
House: It's the only reason anyone does anything.

He explained that bad guys rarely do anything with no motive whatsoever other than to cause harm and suffering. Anyone who does anything, genuinely believes that their view is the correct one and they are doing the right thing. (Aside... this is really well done in Bones too... a lot of the time I sympathise with the killers on that show. XD)

Here the moderator commented that it was un-Canadian to explore such an asshole character. XD Then he asked about the writing process of the show. DS said that generally there is no "writers' room" on House, that they just discuss things broadly - what's gonna happen with House and Cuddy and things like that. "By the way, what is going to happen?" asked the eager mod. DS smiled mysteriously and shook his head. WE APPRECIATE THE TRY BB! WE WANT TO KNOW TOO!

Here I think someone slipped out the back, and David commented, "If you have to leave please do so before 8 because then I'll assume you went home to watch the show." XD

When they're writing an episode of House, they look for a disease that (1) can kill you, so the stakes are high - "a cold that just won't go away" won't really cut it, and (2) has symptoms that can look like any number of other diseases. "This is why you always hear oh maybe it's lupus." So if there's one really "cool" disease out there that turns your nose black it won't do, because there's nothing else it can be and it'll be diagnosed instantly.

After they pitched it as a procedural they wrote an outline about the characters, and became a little worried that they were pulling a "bait and switch" - the network thought they were getting a procedural but they were getting a more character driven show than they were led to expect. One of them said, "yeah, you're right, change it!" and then Paul Attanasio said, "No, just don't show the outline to the network and they'll like the script."

Incidentally this is how Robert Sean Leonard was cast (by fooling the network peeps XD). He read for the part for DS, Bryan Singer and someone from the network, and after he left the room, the network guy said they wanted Wilson to be nicer and kinder. Bryan said, "great idea!" and ran out into the hall where RSL was standing. DS went out after him and said he didn't think it was a great idea, to which Bryan replied, "Oh, it's a terrible idea, but he'll read it that way, get the part, and then we'll shoot it the way we want to." XD

The next question was about the S3 finale, where everyone left, and what he was going to do about writing himself into such a corner then. DS explained that when he wrote the line about them being in a 3-year fellowship in the Pilot he never imagined he would actually still be doing the show 3 years later, so he had to do something. And made a comment about how he really wrote Hart Hanson (BONES W00T) into a corner on Traitors when he knew he was leaving and wouldn't have to deal with it. XD

He also said he respects the audience's opinion, and reads the stuff they we write online thought he tries not to because it's depressing, especially when they're we're right. XD I think this was in the context of not writing for the audience but writing what you think is right for your show. (Fanservice or no fanservice, I'm not complaining about this season. XD)

The mod then referred to a line from Joy where Cuddy says to House, "Why do you even care? It's not like I'm ever going to ask you to babysit," and if he had in mind back then House actually babysitting, to which DS replied no. "But did you think about it now?" DS laughed and said yes. XD

The character of Kutner was written out because Kal Penn decided to go work at the White House, and gave them ample notice to plan this. For this they actually did assemble a writers' room ("Please explain what a writers' room is to the audience members who might not know." "Basically... all the writers get together in a room.") and decided to have him kill himself without any explanation, which served to send House further into his downward spiral and make him lose touch with reality - because this was a man he knew and had worked with, in addition to the lack of explanation and logic in such a thing happening. House is all about logic and this is such a huge thing he can't explain.

House in an institution was something that was always in the back of his mind because House was always just on the edge of sanity. He said Broken was a two-hour episode to explore his recovery fully, even though as it is it was severely compressed (he said it takes place over 2-3 months).

Asked about Hugh Laurie, says DS, "I consider him a friend and he claims to consider me his friend."

A lot of actors auditioned for the part, one of the stars of CSI:NY was actually even offered it but turned it down to go with the safer option. Patrick Dempsey auditioned, about which DS commented, "Grey's Anatomy needs Patrick Dempsey desperately and we need Hugh Laurie desperately!" (I love PD in GA but I don't think I'd've liked him as House.) He was starting to think that he had written something that doesn't occur in nature because nobody captured all the traits DS had written for House. This story was already repeated everywhere but basically they got a videotape sent over from Africa where Hugh was filming a movie, on which he had recorded himself reading for the part, and when they popped it into the VCR Bryan Singer kind of approached the TV and went, "You see, we need an all-American guy, like this guy!" XD

Apparently the networks always push for younger actors because younger = prettier but they needed someone who was a little beaten by life, like House, which I personally think is awesome. As I said, I don't think I'd've liked House if he was played by a pretty boy like Dempsey.

Hugh comes to every scene as prepared as the director, with ideas of how to begin and end the scene and how to block it. He doesn't give notes to other actors XD but sometimes says to the directors afterwards what he thinks could have been done. "He has that English thing, very passive aggressive." LOL. And they finally let him direct!

I missed the context for this anecdote, but DS said he once wrote a teaser for an episode of something where two guys walk by an alcove where a homeless man is sleeping, and they need to unload a truck or something there. One tells the other to get him out of the way, and when they roll him over they discover he's dead. It was then decided that he would have died of a stab wound so he must be bleeding, which led to the set looking like an alcove covered in blood and the poor homeless man "sleeping in it", which made the dialogue idiotic... they're walking by and think he's sleeping in a pool of blood, DS: "They've had a really long day." XD

He talked about subtlety - how a patient can have a rash but it mustn't be noticeable or highlighted until House notices it. Taub must be a good liar so that when House calls him on it, the audience thinks, "hmm, he might be lying," rather than, "of course he's lying."

Of the Q&A I just remember one particular question about House and Wilson's friendship and how proud DS is of it, because it's rare in television that men are more than just buds trying to get each other laid, and House and Wilson are close in a different way. The girl who asked that question very meaningfully kept asking if that friendship/relationship was ever going to progress, haha...

In closing, the mod asked if the leg pain was a metaphor because life is pain management, and House is dealing with pain management, to which DS replied that life is hard and painful and everyone feels it and frankly he's worried about those who don't. House has a very negative view of life, thought. "Do you?" asked the mod. "I don't know, do I?" he asked his wife who was sitting in the audience. "No, I don't, I love people. I love you!"

And we all went AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.
 
 
 
hugh_lover4ever: Huddy Hughugh_lover4ever on November 9th, 2010 05:21 am (UTC)
Hey, I was there too! Although I'm not a York student. I just went as a House fan since it was an open session. Seeing David Shore was amazing. He told some stories that I had already read about but it was so much more interesting to actually see him say it. I found him to be really insightful, funny, and rather charming.

Nice report. I'm probably going to write something too, but on my personal journal.
Dinaun_sedentary on November 9th, 2010 05:43 am (UTC)
Oh, cool! I love that house_cuddy had lots of representation there. XD
Huddy or Love in the 21st Century: uddy happy 7x03cuddylicious on November 9th, 2010 08:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for the recap! By the way, is this the same event that Hart Hanson of "Bones" spoke at too? Labsquint reported on that lecture: http://labsquint.livejournal.com/76973.html?view=987053.
Dinaun_sedentary on November 9th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
No, Hart Hanson wasn't there... darn it, I guess I missed him. He was there the week before. I'd've loved to see him speak too. Bones = <3
Dinaun_sedentary on November 9th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
Wait, it looks like they were both there last night (but in different venues). I hadn't heard anything about HH being there! Fail scheduling and fail annoucing events.

Edited at 2010-11-09 07:09 pm (UTC)