Sunday, 11 November 2007

A House is not a Holmes

I was watching the new medical detective series called House. Hailing from our friends across the sea, House is very much an American product, though with an Englishman Hugh Laurie in the title role. He plays the curmudgeonly Dr Gregory House, every bit as much the detective as Holmes, he is presented with a new medical mystery to solve every week.

Much of the series is transparently modelled on Sherlock Holmes, not only is the name House-Holmes a give away but there are other clues too. House, like Holmes is a drug fiend depending on Vikaden for his highs as much as Holmes on his cocaine. He has one constant friend, a Dr Wilson as opposed to Dr Watson with whom he share his thoughts and there is also a bunch of three Baker Street irregulars, junior doctors in the case of House who he sends out to do his leg-work, breaking into houses and scouring for evidence. House too shares Holmes aloofness from relationships of the romantic kind, preferring instead a cynical view of human life. That has changed in recent episodes, probably due to the demands of Hollywood stylism which sees having a love interest as essential to broadening out the appeal. But the essential characteristics are all there. House, the brilliant diagnostician who's brilliance outshines all else with this powers of deduction and and forensic skill. Oh, and did I mention that he lives in house number 221b?

But there is one aspect of House which is very different from Holmes. And that is his ingrained indifference to convention, custom and tradition. And therein lies his connection with our friend Diogenes. The appeal of the ancient philosopher is in his is total rejection of the conventional and his own assessment of how he should live and what he should do. Once you go back to basics and think it through for yourself you find there are a whole pile of things that people do which have no meaning and no logic. Most of what we do is governed by convention rather than logic. But we all go along with it because we are too afraid to buck the conventions. But Diogenes had no time for that. And neither does House. And it is this, more than his brilliance as a medical diagnostician, that make him a fascination to his fans.

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