The doctor who was the inspiration for ‘House’ as well as the hit show’s technical consultant has revealed she didn’t know her star Hugh Laurie was English, until the party for the 100th episode, when she head him speak for the first time.
Dr Lisa Sanders had a New York Times column called ‘Diagnosis’, which “treated medical cases like detective stories, which they essentially are”. When producers initially approached her about a TV show based on an irritable, arrogant, drug addict doctor who hates his patients, but loves to diagnose them, she admits she thought, “Who’s going to watch?”
Dr Lisa Sanders didn't realise her TV star was actually English
It turns out quite a few. By the time 'House' finished its run after eight series, it had won five Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes and made international stars of Hugh Laurie and Co, and attracted audiences in their tens of millions. What made it work? Lisa credits one person…
“As soon as I saw Hugh… you look into his eyes, you feel like he’s crusty and ornery, like a snake on the outside, but inside he’s the doctor you would wish for. He has this wonderful duality.”
Dr Sanders stayed with the programme as a technical advisor throughout its tenure, with an unusual day job…
“We had to come up with a terrible disease, and work out how terribly wrong it could go. It’s rarely something I’ve actually seen, often I’ve read about it… absolutely every case is potentially a true one.”
Over eight years, the show’s writers became much more sophisticated, making Sanders’ job much harder to spot mistakes, but she remained sucked in as a fan like so many others. So why was it so successful for so long?
Sanders believes it's the characters that have kept House enduringly appealing, not just the science
“At its heart, it’s about something,” she reflects. “It’s the opposite of that other great success Seinfeld in that sense, at its heart, and it’s always interesting.
“I was heartbroken when he kept firing all those people, but then other great characters, like 13, came along."
So how do you follow a success like 'House'? With a book, apparently, on the subject of drugs. Sanders already has one New York bestseller under her belt – “Hugh was a great help, I can’t help but think his face on the cover helped a little.”
House S8 is available on Blu-ray and DVD now from Universal Pictures UK. Lisa Sanders’ book Diagnosis: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Medical Mysteries is available now from Icon Books. Watch Hugh Laurie in action below, talking about his off-beat character...