“The more I worked on it, the less able I was to make it work as a procedural, but the more the character started to come alive for me,” said House series creator David Shore on developing Dr. House while writing for the show.
Famous TV series are often sold on the series lead, whether it be the character or the actor themselves. For the hit medical drama House, the show was first conceptualized as a simple medical procedure that combined aspects from other popular television shows.
Fox executives saw the success that procedural crime dramas like CSI were having in the early 2000s and wanted to make the concept their own.
“It evolved over a few months. The series was sold to Fox without the House character as part of the initial sales pitch. The show was sold as a crime/police procedural. But instead of bad guys, the germs were the suspects," said David Shore on the original pitch for the series.
With no names or characters fully written out, the series was picked up on the fact that it would be a medical procedural alone. Following the green light given by the executives, Shore worked on creating the framework and characters behind what would soon be House.
“Once we sold the show to the networks we said, ‘Okay, now we need more to this.’ This is going to get very dry because germs don't have motives. A germ doesn't kill someone and then hide behind the pancreas and pin it on another germ because the other germ was having an affair with his wife. Germs just do what they do.”
Shore would begin working on the characters that would create the stories around the medical mysteries. The more Shore would write the more he would move from typical medical procedurals, primarily with Dr. House. Having a character that would stand out among the crowd of warm and welcoming TV doctors fascinated Shore.
Eventually, the idea would be added to give Dr. House a leg injury that would build around his cynicism. When he was first pitched, Dr. House was meant to work in a wheelchair. The executives turned down that idea and instead offered the suggestion of his now-iconic cane.
“I came at it as a person who’s had chronic back problems, and I know that kind of pain and how it can inform all your behavior."
Despite not being in the original pitch, the executives and showrunners loved the idea of Dr. House enough to make him the lead and title of the series. The idea of a cynical man of medicine would pay off greatly, with the show becoming an instant hit in its premiere and Dr. House himself becoming one of the most-watched characters in TV history.