'House' creator David Shore discusses House in prison and the series' (possible) end

house-s8-premiere.jpg "House" has established a trend over the past couple of starting the season with its lead character not in his usual environment -- one that will continue when Season 8 premieres Monday (Oct. 3).

In Season 6, House ( Hugh Laurie) began the year in a mental institution. Last season he spent the premiere holed up in his apartment with Cuddy ( Lisa Edelstein). On Monday, we'll find House in the big house, a consequence of his having run a car into Cuddy's living room in last season's finale.

Series creator David Shore says the writers haven't made a conscious decision to begin the past few seasons away from Princeton Plainsboro Hospital. The events of the preceding season finales just happened to dictate that.

"There's a natural tendency to end a season big, and if you're going to be true to that and follow up on that in an honest way, you're going to wind up starting the next season a little differently," Shore tells Zap2it. "You kind of have to let the stories lead you where they're going to lead you. ... And it's always nice to put House in different environments and see whether he survives or he flounders. That's always interesting."

Shore also talked with us about how House's world will change when he does leave prison, the new characters in this season and whether Season 8 will be the show's last. Some highlights of the interview:

Zap2it: How long has he been in prison when the season starts?
David Shore: We don't establish it definitively, but [about] six months. That was the number in my head.

Does the fact that a good amount of time has passed allow you to deal better with things like Cuddy's departure?
Going forward, it helps us reset the world and play the fact that the world has moved on. House can't expect the world to stand still and wait for him. It helps with a lot of things that were left hanging at the end of last season -- and contractually in between seasons.

When you write a finale like last year's, do you already have the next chapter in mind?
Sometimes more than others. It depends on the year, and it depends on what happens between years. In this case, we obviously knew we had to deal with it, we had to follow up. We always intended that House would spend some time away and then spend some time probably locked up. But Lisa Edelstein's negotiations [she opted not to return to the series] made things a little more complicated. But to be honest, rarely do we know exactly what we're going to do. We have a general idea, and that gets fleshed out.

There's been some talk about this possibly being the final season for "House." Are you approaching it that way, or do you look at every year as possibly the last one?
Season 1, 2 and 3 I did [laughs]. If this is going to be our last year, we need to commit to that very shortly. It's up in the air, but yes -- I want to end it right. So at a certain point relatively soon, we're going to decide to do a Season 9 or end it [this season].

One of House's mantras is that people don't change, but will his time in prison at least have some lingering effect on him?
The shadow of jail hangs over his head for a while. But you know, House is House.

So he's not volunteering for clinic duty or anything like that.
Exactly. Unless he can get something worth more to him, then that would be an annoyance to him.

Do you have an endpoint for the show in mind, whenever it comes, or things you'd like to do before it ends?
I've done more than I ever dreamed I could do with this show, yet my writers still keep finding more and more interesting things to do, so it's been a great pleasure. Certainly in terms of the end, we've [had] discussions -- but there are no specific stories where I'm going, I've been keeping this in abeyance. Because I never think of this type of series as having a beginning, a middle and an end. It's about a human being and a human being's life, and that doesn't fit neatly into a beginning, middle and end. The whole life does, but eight years of the life doesn't. So it's just about week in and week out, exploring that character and who they are, what they're trying to achieve, what they can succeed at and what they can't.

"House" premieres at 9 p.m. ET Monday on FOX.

Photo/Video credit: FOX