House: Time Of Death, May 2012

After eight seasons, during which it became the most successful non-reality show to ever air on Fox, House will air its final episode in May.

The announcement, which came on Wednesday, did not come as a surprise, as the series has suffered from declining (though still decent) ratings and rising costs. Also, star Hugh Laurie had been saying for months that he had little desire to stay on past this season, and wished to return to his family in Britain. Laurie and executive producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs issued a joint statement, saying that the decision to end things now was “painful,” but adding, “how much better to disappear before the music stops, while there is still some promise and mystique in the air.”

House debuted to good ratings in 2004, but became a true hit when it began airing after American Idol. The show was an attempt to bring some of the procedural puzzlework of the CSI shows into a hospital setting, but while the mysteries were often engrossing, House was really a star vehicle for Laurie, a renowned comic actor in Britain who had little profile in the U.S. prior to the series. A bitterly sarcastic diagnostician with an ongoing substance abuse problem, Gregory House was the first person you’d want to see if you were dying of causes unknown, and the last person you’d want to see in any other context.

The success (so far) of Alcatraz on Monday nights, and the ability of The X Factor to fill two time slots in the fall, makes the decision to end House now less troubling for Fox than it might have been even a year ago. The big question now is whether any network will be able to lure Laurie back to the small screen one day.