On the heels of strife between Fox Network and NBC Universal, negotiations between Lisa Edelstein, Fox Broadcasting and NBC Universal related to her Season 8 contract have failed and she's stated she's not returning to the show.
Lisa Edelstein, a fan favorite and People's Choice Award winner, is an amazingly talented actress who has flawlessly portrayed the strong and determined Dean of Medicine as Dr. Lisa Cuddy on [H]ouse, M.D. for seven years. In addition, she's always been there to promote the show along with her fellow cast, most often Hugh Laurie, with a huge smile on her face. The cast and crew, who are much like family, adore her as do the fans. Lisa is a very important part of the show.
None of us are privy to the details of the negotiation but we do know Fox and NBC Universal have been working to reduce costs on the expensive-to-produce show, going into its 8th and final season. In a bid to reduce costs Lisa was asked to reduce her salary and number of episodes. It is true they also asked Robert and Omar to reduce salary, but Lisa declined, possibly for more than just reasons related to salary. Could it be the lack of development of her character as well? Losing Lisa is a huge blow to the series moving into its final season. When the finale was completed everyone, including Lisa thought she would be returning for the final season. Just a month ago Lisa made remarks about being excited to return for Season Eight so imagine the shock when it was announced she was not. No doubt right now, TPTB are trying to figure out what to do next. The hope among fans is that Lisa and Fox can still work out a deal and she'll return.
[H]ouse is the most popular television show in the world earning billions worldwide and gaining new fans every day. While some fans have abandoned the show because of a lack of character consistency especially in Season 7, many millions remain devoted. There have been changes this season that have displeased many critics and fans alike. What started out great at the end of Season 6 and beginning of Season 7 soon blew up in our faces and should be noted that this was not due to poor performances because the performances have been consistently brilliant. Rather it was the sudden inconsistency in characters and lack of development and growth. This led to a drop in ratings despite the show's popularity worldwide. It is not difficult to link the decisions about the direction of the story and characters to a decline in ratings, loss in revenue and eventually the need for budget cuts. Had TPTB not made certain creative blunders, perhaps there would have been no need to ask two of the show's three vital players to take a cut in pay and reduce their screen time (while simultaneously increasing screen time for actors in supporting roles).
The big question for creator David Shore when he finally brought his two main characters from longtime friends and colleagues of over twenty years into a romantic relationship (which has been in the making on-screen for seven years), was if he worried the show would go the same route as others by placing the two lead characters into a romantic relationship, only for it to ruin the show. Shore was adamant that [H]ouse would be different, it wouldn't make that mistake. He insisted "people don't change" and that they would keep House as House and Cuddy as Cuddy.
That may have turned out to be his first mistake. The characters of House and Cuddy have a history going back more than twenty years to their days in college together. That history intertwines them both personally and professionally and is a part of who they are. These two characters have had feelings for each other for a long time, but they also have a special friendship that transcends their work and private lives, and it means a lot to them. That friendship has been a very important part of their personal and professional lives and to the fans for the last seven years. Great writing has been a good part of that but even more was Hugh and Lisa's chemistry and joy of working together that really brought out the dynamic that is House and Cuddy.
By not letting the dynamic duo of Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein do their thing and bring the relationship to life, (with the aid of course of some good writing) in such a way that would have easily intertwined the relationship into the show and allowing it to really play out in true House and Cuddy fashion (which could have been done while maintaining character integrity and interesting patient of the week stories), TPTB essentially initiated the decline of the show. Instead of working the relationship into the show gradually, it was thrown together hastily, with the idea from the very beginning that it would not last. Thus, it was never given a chance and TPTB fell back on the old standby--House screwing up--and blowing it to pieces after only a few months (magically stretched into a year's time by the end of this season). Unfortunately, in their quest to doom the romantic relationship between House and Cuddy, they also ruined the friendship. They have successfully undone many years of banter, antics, and laughter and fans are left feeling like the last six years was just ripped out from under them. The actors were robbed of the chance to really put this fabulous story to the test and the fans were robbed of of the chance to see these two dysfunctional but lovable characters make a real go of it, all the while keeping pace with the POTW and other stories going on at PPTH.
The second mistake was a lack of challenging stories. There is so much great material for more suspenseful POTW stories as well as House's interaction with Cuddy's daughter Rachel, House's dysfunctional background and emotional issues related to his deceased father, Cuddy's dysfunctional family and the story behind her relentless perfectionism. Essentially Cuddy and Wilson are the glue that holds [H]ouse together and without one of them, [H]ouse doesn't seem complete. There was so much great material which could have been easily written into the episodes so as not to look forced in, but just a natural part of the characters growth. Instead of growth this season, we were once again subjected to the old recycled storyline of House being hopeful for a brief moment in time then falling into miserable, rock-bottom, self-destructive, behavior. There's nothing challenging about that, we've seen it time and time again. While both Hugh and Lisa performed exceptionally they deserved better.
The third mistake was vastly under-utilizing Cuddy as well as inconsistency in character. The inconsistency was most evident in Cuddy's character. Lisa Cuddy is a strong and determined woman who, while somewhat dysfunctional and a bit of a perfectionist, knows what she wants and knows how to get it. She became the youngest Dean of Medicine ever and only one of a few female Deans in the country. She doesn't back down from a fight and has never been afraid to go toe-to-toe with the obnoxious Gregory House, or anyone else for that matter, except maybe her mother. In fact, Cuddy is the only person who can keep House in line. This season we saw her reduced from the strong and dominant Dean of Medicine of prior seasons to and angry, whining, bitter girlfriend. The Cuddy we saw this season was not quite recognizable when compared to earlier seasons. Though Shore & Co. reduced Lisa's dynamic presence this season, she still played her character flawlessly. But damn we missed the former tough-as-nails and confident Cuddy we came to know and love. Given her importance to House and his world and the fact that Robert will be spending more time on Broadway, Lisa's screentime should have been increased to reflect both. The interaction of all three characters is an integral part of the show and that dynamic is about to be sacrificed.
It is because of this great dynamic between our three leading characters that I do not believe the show cannot survive the loss of the Lisa Edelstein. Gregory House, the brilliant world-renowned diagnostician is a very flawed and complicated man and he needs his two best friends. While Wilson is his conscience, Cuddy keeps him stable, she sets his boundaries. After having been fired from four different hospitals, the only reason House is at Princeton-Plainsboro is because of Cuddy and he hasn't been fired yet because of her respect, admiration and love for the man, despite the fact he's a pain in the ass who drives her crazy. Without Cuddy, House has no job, but more than that, he has no life. It is because of their long history that Cuddy is able to keep House in line. They need each other. House challenges Cuddy to be better and he pushes her to her limit, which in fact, she likes and in turn Cuddy gives House the boundaries he so desperately needs.
As a way of justifying her departure, it has been suggested by some that perhaps what House needs is to be forced to make a go of his life on his own without using Cuddy as a crutch. Perhaps that is true but Shore has told us time and time again, "people don't change" in fact he has built the whole show on this premise. This was an important factor in his decision to ruin the House and Cuddy relationship before it ever got started. Shore has stated, "House isn't designed for comfort" and that no matter how much he wants to change, he can't. If we go along with Shore's philosophy which he has so brutally thrown in our face this season, then House will not change in Cuddy's absence, therefore the logic of House making a go of his life without her makes no sense. In contrast to Shore's consistent "people don't change" I think most fans would agree that House has changed, as have Cuddy and Wilson. Experience begets change, it's inevitable. Sometimes people move forward, sometimes backward, but there's always change.
Without Cuddy, I fear [H]ouse is going to be lost and by that I mean the character and the show. Her absence in House's life both personally and professionally will be significant. Season 7 is over on May 23 and Lisa was expected to be back next year. You can bet that her absence will never be accepted and could never be adequately written into the show. Any chance of a new start for House and Cuddy, even resuming their old friendship is gone and any chance for House to finally have what he's really wanted all this time--happines--or at least less misery in his life--is gone with it. Given the fact that we know House wants to change, as he indicated to Wilson in "After Hours" we all hoped for a rebound in the finale and in Season 8. It was possible. However, without Cuddy I don't think there is any light at the end of the tunnel.
The cast and crew of [H]ouse have always been like family and it has been wonderful seeing them all together at events and group interviews over the years. The dynamic they have has been truly awesome and unusual for a cast that size in a television show over a period of years, but they made it work effortlessly. Hugh and Lisa are good friends and they work wonderfully together, making it seem as if portraying House and Cuddy comes second-nature to them. You can tell they genuinely enjoy working together. Hugh and Lisa make their characters come to life and for seven years we have enjoyed watching the banter, fights, laughter and tears they have shared. I can't tell you how much that will be sorely missed.
The eternal optimist in me holds out hope that somehow Fox and Lisa can work out some kind of compromise so she can return to the role which was made for her and which she has played with amazing grace and talent for so long. She has been there supporting the show for seven years always with grace and a smile promoting the show and its causes. Regardless of what happens, Lisa knows she is loved and respected not just as an actress but even more so as a person. She is a kind and compassionate person who gives so much of herself to charitable and humanitarian causes for people and animals. It is because of that and so much more that makes her an amazing person and a success.
I can't imagine tuning into Season 8 knowing Lisa isn't there. Without her it's like there's a big gaping hole in the show and it will never be the same. House, Cuddy, and Wilson are three completely dysfunctional characters who, despite how much they drive each other insane, need each other. Without one, the others are incomplete. Lisa's departure is a great loss...for the cast who have worked so well together and been like family for so long and...for the fans.