• Fri, May 20 2011

Fan Service: Why Lisa Edelstein Leaving ‘House’ Has Nothing to Do with the House/Cuddy Breakup

This week we learned that Lisa Edelstein, who plays Dr. Lisa Cuddy on Fox’s House, won’t be returning for the show’s eighth (and probably final) season. The big question, of course, is how House (Hugh Laurie) will function without his boss/ex-lover, and if Edelstein’s exit may have hastened along this season’s House/Cuddy breakup.

Edelstein’s official statement was frustratingly vague:

“After much consideration, I am moving onward with a combination of disappointment at leaving behind a character I have loved playing for seven years and excitement of the new opportunities in acting and producing that lie ahead.”

Already rumors have swirled that the producers planned the breakup of the show’s most dynamic couple (“Huddy” as the fans call them) around Edelstein’s decision. But this is probably not the case. Showrunners David Shore, Katie Jacobs, and Greg Yaitanes have been managing fans’ expectations for close to five years, throwing out hints before sweeps episodes and taking Twitter abuse after Huddy’s many stops and starts.

I can’t track down the exact link, but I clearly remember an interview with Shore on a House fan community where he said something along the lines of, “Even if we put House and Cuddy together, they may not stay together.” That was seasons before their first kiss, and when they broke up this year, Shore basically reiterated what I remembered:

“We knew it wasn’t going to last forever. We knew it couldn’t last forever. We had it mapped out since the beginning of the season that it was going to last almost exactly this long. It’s like anything else we do on the show. We go, ‘Let’s explore that. And once we’ve exhausted the exploration, let’s move on.’ …House is not a good boyfriend. House is not a good spouse. He’s got deep issues, and the reasons Cuddy breaks up with him are very valid. Taking House down an ultimately happy road just seems unrealistic.”

Michael Ausiello at TV Line reported that Edelstein, who had been fully expected to renew her contract for season 8, bowed out because she was asked to take a lower salary due to budget cuts for the entire show. So it seems that it was solely her decision, and one that will be difficult to translate within the world of the show.

No matter what the producers do, it’s going to look contrived when Cuddy just ups and leaves. The season finale airs Monday, which means it was written and shot a few weeks ago. Because we don’t know where in the season the contract negotiations came up, this may have been too tight a window to write a proper exit for Cuddy. So, will she be explained away with a few lines of dialogue in the season premiere this fall?

No word yet on if Edelstein will appear in season 8 to tie up any loose ends.

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