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The House/Holmes Connection

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2005-10-03


How best to describe Gregory House, M.D. (Hugh Laurie) the central character of the Fox television series House, M.D.? He’s a doctor who’s loud, crass and rude, more likely to berate a patient for not telling the truth than to visit their bedside. He’s nearly friendless, antisocial, and a recognized genius in the medical field.

The character has more than a few passing similarities to Sherlock Holmes, P.I.

Sherlock Holmes solves crimes the London police deem unsolvable. Using his skills of deductive reasoning, Holmes uncovers the truth following the axiom of (sic) “eliminating the impossible and finding what whatever remains, however improbable, has to be the truth.”

House is a detective who focuses on disease, a board certified diagnostician with a double specialty in infectious disease and nephrology. What House enjoys most in life, like Holmes, is solving puzzles. And what greater puzzle is there than diagnosing and treating diseases an average doctor would run shrieking from? House uses his skills of logic and reasoning to uncover what the patient doesn’t have in order to find what they do have.

House walks with a cane, an aftereffect of an infection (tissue death) in his leg. The pain is constant enough that he has become dependant on Vicodin and keeps a ready supply in his pocket. Though House might disagree that he has a drug problem, he sees it as a pain problem that the drug alleviates; still, House pops Vicodin much like a smoker lights up.

Like House, Holmes was drug-addicted, injecting cocaine occasionally, though during Holmes’ time cocaine was legal. Then again, Vicodin is legal when prescribed by a doctor, and House is a doctor…

On a very basic level, Holmes most common character trait, other than the deerstalker hat, was his constant pipe. Although House doesn’t puff on a pipe, when we do see the character at home there’s usually a cigar smoldering in an ashtray as he plays the piano – Holmes preferred the violin.

Holmes had a “mortal enemy” in Moriarty; House’s enemy is Edward Vogler (Chi McBride), an extremely wealthy benefactor who would donate millions to the hospital that employs House if House wasn’t there. Whereas Moriarty was out to literally kill Holmes (and seemingly did at one point), Vogler is only interested in ruining House’s career.

Then, of course, there’s Doctor Watson, Holmes only friend and companion, and a sounding board for Holmes while solving mysteries.

House has his own “Dr. Watson,” except his Dr. Watson is really four doctors. First and foremost is the character of Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). (Look at their last names – each starts with a “W,” ends with a “son” and is six characters in length.) The relationship between House and Wilson mirrors that of Holmes and Watson. Without Wilson, House would spend most of his time at the hospital and the rest alone at home. With Wilson, at least, House has an opportunity to occasionally dine with a friend and have someone to talk to in a non-work related manner.

House’s other “Watsons” are Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) and Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer). Forman, Cameron and Chase act as a sort of extension of House’s will, doing what he cannot, or doesn’t want to, do.

I guess it would be easiest to describe House as “Sherlock Holmes with an attitude, with four Doctor Watson’s instead of one.” Then again, whatever Fox is doing to promote the show must be working. Currently, the series is in its second season on Fox with the first season available on DVD.

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