GAH! Hugh Laurie's “House” Contract Runs Out Next Year

“House” has been on the air for six years, and in that time actor Hugh Laurie has sacrificed quite a bit to play the title character and soak in all the money and adulation that comes with having made that role his own. Since he’s in virtually every scene of every episode, he’s on set at all hours. He spends half the year away from his family in London. He’s openly admitted to suffering from severe clinical depression. It’s enough to make you wonder: Just how long does he plan on keeping it up?

The answer may be: Not much longer. Michael Ausiello at Entertainment Weekly says Laurie’s contract is up at the end of next year, and Laurie won’t commit on playing the character beyond that.

“I only hope we’ll know when the time is right [to close up shop]. When people blunder on for five years after [they should have called it quits]… it gets taken out of your hands. Someone will say, ‘That’s it.’

“But for now,” he adds, “I’m immensely proud of the things we did this season…”

Laurie maintains that the idea of hanging up House’s stethoscope for good isn’t something he’s had time to dwell on — not yet, anyway. “This sounds like I’m trying to avoid [the question]. I’m not,” he insists. “I have the brain of a hamster and I can’t think beyond 5 o’clock this afternoon. I really am that stupid.

“I can only say,” he continues, “I think we’ll have a sense next year at some point” about whether to keep going.

It’s hard to think of a TV more dependent on its leading man than “House” is on Hugh Laurie. Maybe Glenn Beck’s show, but perhaps comedians-turned-apocalyptic-nutjobs are more common than you realize. Anyway, Laurie IS “House.” The show suffers any time it veers too far away from its irascible scumbag addict doctor namesake. I heard people say this past season of “House” was uneven, but I don’t really buy that. “House” is always “House,” as long as Laurie is around. He walks in, insults everyone, then sees a playing card on the floor 50 minutes in and magically solves the diagnosis. It’s edgy yet comforting all at once. I still happily watch it every week. Laurie always keeps it interesting.

Perhaps Laurie will suffer from burnout and choose to leave after next year. I don’t think anyone would begrudge him that. Unlike some actors who are more defined by the role than how they defined it (Matt LeBlanc, take a bow), I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t think Laurie could easily transition to new roles after “House” and be just as effective.

But I don’t think he’ll do that. Laurie has already been willing to put up with so much as the lead of that show. If he quits, the show ends. No one would be dumb enough to keep it alive without him. Something tells me the polite Englishman in him won’t let people lose their jobs just because he’s tired. Expect Laurie to re-up, and “House” to keep going for as long Fox will welcome it.

Now someone needs to tell me how the short bald doctor gets such lovely lasses to woo him.

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