By James Hibberd
Updated February 08, 2012 at 11:04 PM EST
Credit: Fox
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Dr. House is hanging up his cane.

The network will conclude the long-running medical drama House this season.

“The decision to end the show now, or ever, is a painful one, as it risks putting asunder hundreds of close friendships that have developed over the last eight years — but also because the show itself has been a source of great pride to everyone involved,” said executive producers David Shore, Katie Jacobs and star Hugh Laurie in a joint statement. “The producers have always imagined House as an enigmatic creature; he should never be the last one to leave the party. How much better to disappear before the music stops, while there is still some promise and mystique in the air.”

House is produced by Universal Television and the question has been raised in the past if the studio’s sister network NBC would pick up the show if Fox cancels it. Sources say there’s no plans to take the drama to NBC, however, and NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said last month it was unlikely the network would pick up the show given its age and cost. It also seems rather unlikely a cable network would be able to afford the show.

House‘s current eighth season ratings have remained solid, particularly for a drama airing at 8 p.m. The Monday night show averaged 9.8 million viewers and a 3.9 rating in the adult demo this season through early January when including seven days of DVR playback. But the most recent episode delivered 7.1 million viewers and a 2.5 rating in the overnights up against NBC’s The Voice. TV shows get more expensive with each passing year as cast and producer salaries climb, while their ratings tend to decrease. So dramas rarely make it past a sixth year, let alone eight seasons.

Another factor in the decision has been the performance of a few of Fox’s new dramas, Bones-spinoff The Finder, House companion Alcatraz and fall dino drama Terra Nova. The better these freshman shows perform, the thinking goes, the less chance Fox will need to pony up for another year of House. All three have performed OK in the ratings, though Alcatraz took a worrisome dip this week.

Last year, the House renewal went down to the wire, with House getting a pickup days before Fox’s upfront presentation in May. In November, star Hugh Laurie said he expects to retire from TV acting once the show goes off the air.

Though House has won many awards, two top prizes have remained elusive — the Emmys for best actor for series star Hugh Laurie and best drama series for the show itself (though Laurie has won a Golden Globe — twice — for the part).

Full statement from producers and Laurie:

From Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly:

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