Unlike some writers who blindly move to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career in television, David Shore came to the city with a plan: If after two years he had not “made it,” he would move back to his native Ontario to dust off the law degree he left behind.
Luckily for Shore, success came before the deadline with writing positions on several series, culminating with his creating and executive producing Fox’s acclaimed medical drama, House, which ends its eight-season run on May 21.
In what seems like another life, Shore practiced corporate and municipal law in London, Ontario, before uprooting himself in 1991 to move to Los Angeles.
“I figured, worst-case scenario, it was a good time for two years,” Shore says. “And I’d go back to law and five years later, it would make for a good anecdote.”
He got both the success and the anecdotes. L.A.’s welcome gift to Shore came in the form of two stolen cars within the first two weeks of his living there and, closing in on his two-year deadline, no job prospects. But after receiving a freelance assignment on syndicated show The Untouchables, “that was when I knew,” he says. That gig was enough to keep him in Hollywood until his second break—writing for the Canadian drama Due South, which ran from 1994-1999. Shore received his first award for that series, sharing a 1996 writing Gemini with Paul Haggis (who would go on to write and direct the Oscar-winning film Crash).
From there, Shore has been “gainfully employed,” securing writing jobs on shows such as the Canadian drama Traders and the more well-known U.S. series NYPD Blue, The Practice, Law & Order and Family Law. Shore also served as executive producer on CBS’ Hack, which ran for two seasons and ended just before House debuted in 2004.
Originally sold as a basic procedural, House, in its first pitch, “got the network very excited,” Shore recalls. “But I thought that long-term, that wasn’t going to work.”
Instead of focusing on the “germs” of the series, Shore says, he developed a central character who would anchor the show—and the enigmatic, hyper-rational Dr. Gregory House was born. While Shore shares creator credits with Paul Attanasio and Katie Jacobs, his creation of the lead character led to the show losing the straight procedural premise upon which it was first conceived.
“I thought it would be a bit of a niche audience, which is what I was hoping for—a large enough niche audience to stay on the air,” Shore says.
The audience proved to be not so niche. House has consistently drawn solid ratings for an aging series, with its current season averaging a 3.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 9.3 million total viewers. But Shore says that after eight seasons, “you don’t want to stay longer than you’re welcome.”
Despite his numerous accolades, including a Humanitas Award, a Peabody and an Emmy in 2005 for Outstanding Writing, Shore still has trouble wrapping his mind around his success. He merely believes that the ability to share his personal philosophies is a “glorious opportunity.”
Garrett Lerner, also an executive producer on House, gives Shore more credit: “David focuses the majority of his time and effort on the scripts, finetuning the stories he tells and sharpening the character of Dr. House. The episodes are always about something deeper than the medical mystery. They examine the human condition, our place in the world, and all through the filter of a complex, sometimes immature, always funny, genius.”
Aside from wrapping up House, Shore is taking a break from the hectic schedule to which the show constrained him. Like many a Canadian, he is looking forward to playing hockey, which he hasn’t been able to play for years, and catching up on some more familyfriendly TV fare with his three children.
Next season’s noticeable absence of House, however, will have some viewers turning to Shore to fill that void.
“I’m sure there will be pressure [about] the next one,” he says of any upcoming work, “[with] people looking at your work and going, ‘Is it going to be as good as his last work?’ That’s a pretty cool position to be in.”
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