L.A. Story: The Producer - David Shore '82

David Shore '82Each morning on his way to work, David Shore '82 walks by a dirty New York police precinct. Not unusual perhaps - except that David lives in Los Angeles. His office at Fox Studio, is just steps away from the set of the hit TV series NYPD Blue. And now the studio is also home to David's very own brainchild, the new TV series House, which the Washington Post hailed as "the best new medical drama since the debut of E.R."

On this day, however, the 45-year old executive producer and head writer for the show is not feeling the glamour. He's recovering from a nasty cold. His wavy brown hair and stripped pull-over make him look more like a university student than a Hollywood success story. He jokes that he has not had time to get a haircut. His schedule is impossible.

On a typical day, he may be juggling an entire series: shooting episode nine while editing eight, doing pre-production on 10, rewriting four. Often daily shooting goes past midnight, making for 16-hour days. The greatest stress, he says, is having to be "on" each day. There's no time for writer's block. And his scripts are constantly being critiqued by studio executives, producers and actors. "When you're working on a show you have to write a new script every day. And it's got to be good."

Then there's always this hanging over his head: a show that premiers one day could be cancelled the next. "Lawyers usually have a pretty good idea what they'll be doing in five years," says David. "Here you never know from one week to the next."

But David, married with three children, is used to working hard, if at his dream job. Law school was another matter. Growing up in London, Ontario, he recalls watching a lot of TV - "I was preparing for my career," he jokes. He was also dreaming of being a lawyer, as far back as age 12, a dream that lasted until his second week of law school. "Frank Iacabucci, who was Dean at the time, said to my parents at graduation, that if I had applied myself I might have done okay. My mother took that as a compliment. She really did."

But law proved to be the springboard for his TV career. After securing a position with Lerner and Associates, a mid-sized law firm, he stayed in contact with law-school friend Lorne Cameron '82, who had moved to L.A. to become a screenwriter. "Lorne was the first to come down here and be successful," says David. "I guess that was part of the inspiration."

In 1991, at the age of 31, and with no TV-writing experience, David took a two-year leave of absence, moved to a tiny "Melrose Place" apartment in L.A. and gave himself two years to turn his dream into reality. "It was one of the great insane decisions of all time," laughs David. "Not only did I not have a job, but I had no reason to think I'd ever get a job."

He started writing comedy sitcom scripts, hoping to be noticed by an agent. "It's a Catch-22. Agents won't consider you if you haven't sold anything. And you can't sell anything unless you have an agent." After a year and a half and nothing to show for his efforts, David reached back to his legal roots and tried writing an episode of L.A. Law. It attracted an agent. But his safety net - the law job that was being held for him back in Toronto - was running out.

Two years and two weeks to the day from his move to L.A., the producer of the Untouchables called. It took a few minutes for the news to sink in. David recalls jumping up and down when they offered him a writing job. "In that moment, I changed from one of the thousands trying to write scripts into an actual professional writer."

David's gutsy move soon started to pay off big. In 1994, he was asked to write for the brand new popular Canadian series Due South, which David describes as his "golden calling card." That entailed a move back to Toronto, but not for long. In 1996, he received a Gemini award for his work on Due South. He went on to become head writer on the Canadian drama Traders then returned to L.A. to write for David Kelly's The Practice. Dozens of hit television shows followed, including Law and Order, Family Law and NYPD Blue.

Now at the helm of his own TV series, he's moved into yet another stratosphere. House features actor Hugh Laurie playing an acerbic doctor who diagnoses unsolvable illnesses. Says David of the lead character: "He likes the puzzles, but doesn't like patients. He's a real curmudgeon."

Though the show is a medical drama, David still finds himself reaching back to his law training as a story teller. "There is something about putting together a logical coherent argument that you do as a lawyer that lends itself to creating a logical coherent fictional story," he says. "It's not enough to have clever dialogue. You have to have a cohesive story first."

These days, David likes to tell this one - proof that for all his success, he doesn't take himself too seriously. The day after he won his Gemini for his work on Due South, he recalls running into Mary Walsh, then star of This Hour Has 22 Minutes. "She said to me 'you're now on Traders right?' And I thought to myself, oh my god she must be following my career." After they parted, David realized he was wearing a Traders T-Shirt. "I had thought we were two writers connecting, and she was just talking to some schmuck in a T-shirt."