It has been over one hundred years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought Sherlock Holmes to life in A Study In Scarlet. He had no idea what he had created. Sherlock Holmes has gone on to be the most imitated character in the history of literature. I will be looking at one of today’s most popular TV shows, House M.D.
House M.D. debuted in 2004. The creators have said that the character of Dr. House is based on Holmes. We will start with a side-by-side comparison of the two characters. First, their names and the names of their friends are similar; we have Holmes and House, Watson and Wilson. Each can deduce a great deal by just looking at a person. Holmes was based on a doctor and House is a doctor. Holmes fights deadly criminals, whereas House fights deadly germs and diseases. Both use drugs: House uses Vicodin for leg pain and boredom; Holmes used cocaine to escape boredom. Both tend to call close associates by their last names. Holmes and House are both arrogant. In the times between cases House watches soaps and plays video games, Holmes reads the agony columns in the paper. Both tend to be lazy between cases; it seems to be an all or nothing kind of life. Each has one friend and roommate; to others they are aloof. Both live at 221B; we don't have a street for House but the connection is there. Music is another thing that these two have in common. Holmes plays the violin. House plays several instruments including the piano. House's staff could be compared to Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars; both groups seem to the grunt work. Lastly each use a cane, House because of his leg pain; Holmes' cane is part fashion, part self-defence.
Next we will see how the show’s creators have left the watcher clues that reinforce the Holmes/House link. In the first show, the patient being treated was Rebecca Adler. At the end of season two, House is shot by a deranged patient named Jack Moriarty. In season four, as part of a prank, House receives a book by Joseph Bell, the man who inspired Doyle, sent by Irene Adler. We later find out that Wilson really sent it. In another episode House receives a second edition Conan Doyle book. House's leg pain is similar to Watson's leg wound. House also makes reference to Wilson having been in Afghanistan at some time. This would link to Watson's service in Afghanistan.
What follows are quotes from Holmes himself that could apply to both men. From A Study in Scarlet: “I have a lot of special knowledge which I apply to the problem, and which facilitates matters wonderfully.” Holmes has his knowledge of crime and House has knowledge of medicine. From The Sign of Four, Holmes remarks “. . . three qualities necessary for the ideal detective . . . the power of observation and that of deduction . . . [and] knowledge.” Three factors that are well used in solving crimes or curing disease.
As much as the two are alike, there are some great differences. While both men are aloof, Holmes ignores those he feels are unimportant to the case at hand, he silently goes about his duties while tolerating others. House, on the other hand, seems to delight in tormenting his staff and, at times, his patients. House goes by the rule, after you eliminate all possibles, what's left is the truth. A fine idea, but, in the meantime, he tries cure after cure until the bulb comes on and the patient is snatched back from the brink and sent home cured. Holmes doesn't guess; he gets the facts and then gives his conclusions. Neither has time for romance. Holmes' distrust of women, plus his under estimation of Irene Adler, has led to his lack of interest in women. House is interested in women, but seems to try to drive them away.
There is no doubt that Greg House is forever linked to Sherlock Holmes. In upcoming shows, we will be looking for those clues that Holmes is alive and well in 2010.
House M.D. is not the only show that uses Holmes’ methods to solve crime, it is just the most obvious.