'How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?' - Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four (1890) on the basic concept behind the differential diagnosis.
Series creator David Shore has said in an interview that Gregory House's character is partly inspired by Sherlock Holmes. The name "House" is a play on "Holmes" (with English pronunciation, a homophone for "homes").
The short story "Uncle Jeremy's Household", published in "Boy's Own Paper" magazine, is considered the first sketch that has clear raw material relating to Sherlockian stories, including notably Baker Street, a Watson-like narrator, a strong-willed woman looking ahead to Irene Adler and a prototype of Holmes, whose early name was Hugh Lawrence.
House lives in 221b Baker Street address just as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson share (so did Wilson and House for a period of time after Wilson divorced his wife).
Both Holmes and House are experts who are brought into cases that have proven too difficult for other investigators. Both characters exhibit remarkable powers of observation and deduction, a tendency to come to rapid conclusions after the briefest examination of the circumstances, drug use (cocaine for Holmes, Vicodin for House, morphine for both), talent with a musical instrument (violin for Holmes, piano, guitar and harmonica for House), and only one real friend (Dr. Watson and Dr. Wilson, respectively), who connects the detached hero to human concerns. Also, just like Watson, at one point Wilson is roommates with House. Watson and Wilson are both attributed to be "ladies' men"; Watson has at least two wives over the course of Holmes' run in literature, while Dr. Wilson has three ex-wives. House also limps and requires the use of a cane due to an infarction that occurred in his leg, an allusion to Watson's limp from an old war wound. Holmes and House also share an unconventional personality and, to an extent, a brusqueness of manner, especially when occupied in an interesting case. Actor Hugh Laurie has remarked that House's obsession with television, video games, and popular music is meant to echo Holmes' habit of listening to classical music or reading dull monographs for hours on end in order to relax his mind while pondering a case.
While House uses large quantities of Vicodin for pain management, Holmes used drugs in an experimental, often research-driven modality, and also took cocaine intravenously when bored; some episodes imply that House at one time also used drugs in this experimental fashion before he developed his current dependency on Vicodin, making references to experiences with LSD and cocaine. In the episode "Distractions", House used LSD to treat a self-induced migraine.
In addition, during the series Bonnie Wilson complained that Wilson's allegiance to House often meant Wilson didn't have time for her. The Holmes stories also have several instances where one of Watson's wives was put out when Watson dropped everything to join Holmes on an adventure. The first Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. and the new British series Sherlock also show the strain that the relationship between the two men has on Watson's relationships with women.
One other important detail on House's and Holmes' drug use, is the ways Wilson/Watson handles their friends drug use. Medically they have no problem while they abuse narcotics, but morally, is a different story; they both disagree with their friends vices. But while Watson has claimed to have "weaned" Holmes off cocaine, Wilson has several times attempted to rid House of his Vicodin addiction.
House's dependency on Vicodin as a substitute to his cases has recently been touched upon at the onset of Season Three. Without the intellectual stimulation of diagnosing patients, House falls into a stark depression, even when his leg is supposedly "cured" and pain-free (see the episode "No Reason"). He requires either the high of a confirmed diagnosis or Vicodin to function. The similarity between his and Holmes' own addictions (Holmes only required drugs whenever there wasn't a case at hand) is another bridge between them.
The patient in the series' pilot episode is named Rebecca Adler, whereas Holmes is outwitted by Irene Adler in his first short story, "A Scandal in Bohemia". The man who shoots House in the episode "No Reason" has the surname Moriarty, echoing Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty (the name is never mentioned in the episode; merely derived from the credits). At one point during his hallucination, Dr. Wilson asks him if he is hallucinating, but in a warp fashion, and with Moriarty's voice. Also, it is mentioned in the executive producer commentary of the episode on the DVD.
Also, in one episode, House's apartment number is revealed to be 221B, Sherlock Holmes' Baker Street address. In the episode "Whac-A-Mole", House challenges his team to a game, and places what he says is the right answer in an envelope on which was written "The game is a itchy foot," which is a play on "The game is afoot," a quote often attributed to Holmes (who was in turn quoting Shakespeare (Henry IV, part 1)).
Near the end of the episode "Failure to Communicate," in explaining his understanding of what his patient with aphasia is actually saying, House gives a relatively common riddle about a room with an all-southern view and a polar bear to his lackeys. This is exactly the same riddle given by Holmes to Dr. Watson in Young Sherlock Holmes, and another nod to the parallels between Holmes and House.
The character of Sherlock Holmes was originally based by his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, on Joseph Bell, a doctor noted for his love of deductive reasoning and skill with both ordinary diagnostics and forensic medicine (which was quite new at the time); the character of House can thus be seen in a way as taking the idea of Sherlock Holmes full circle.
In Love Hurts, Cameron calls Chase "Sherlock" while they perform an environmental scan.
In "It's a Wonderful Lie", House receives a second-edition Arthur Conan Doyle as one of his Secret Santa gifts.
In chapter 5x11, "Joy to the World", Wilson refers to an "Irene Adler" (calling her House's one true love) when he is talking with Taub and Kutner about why he threw away a valuable gift (that valuable gift being a rare medical text on diagnosis written by a "Dr. Joseph Bell"), . "Irene Adler" is the antagonist of the Sherlock Holmes short story "A Scandal in Bohemia" and actually manages to outwit Holmes. He also refers to her as ”the one who got away”, which was what Holmes refers to Adler as.
One of the guest stars in episode 3x18 "Airborne", Jenny O'Hara appeared in the television movie The Return of the World's Greatest Detective as "Dr. Joan Watson", treating a patient (Larry Hagman) who believes he is Sherlock Holmes.
There is also an unintentional degree of connection to character of Sherlock Holmes to the House series via Hugh Laurie's series "Fortysomething". "Fortysomething" is a 2003 UK television series, starring and directed by Hugh Laurie as Paul Slippery, a doctor facing a mid-life crisis. Hugh's character has three sons, one of whom is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch is currently the new present-day Sherlock Holmes on BBC's series "SHERLOCK".
The Biography episode on Sherlock Holmes was hosted by Peter Graves.
Because Everybody Dies translated poorly into German, the German name for the episode references Holmes's death in The Final Problem - Letzer Akt: Reichenbachfall ("Last Act: Reichenbach Falls")
Actress Akiko Morison was the voice of Inspector Beth Lestrade in the Canadian cartoon series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century.
Michael Weston portrays Harry Houdini in the Fox series "Houdini & Doyle", which teams Houdini with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in early 20th century England. In one episode, an asylum patient under the delusion he is Holmes insists that Conan Doyle got the name of his companion wrong and the right name was "Wilson".
In Family, House picks up a calabash pipe, the type preferred by Holmes.
Several House alumni have appeared on the CBS series Elementary:
- Lisa Edelstein played a murder suspect in Season 1
- Dennis Boutsikaris played a crime victim in Season 1
- Freda Foh Shen portrays Mary Watson, the mother of Lucy Liu's character Joan Watson.
- Jake Weber appeared on the series in Season 1
- Troy Garity played the character Lucas Bundsch in Season 2
- Michael Weston appeared as Holmes' ex-drug dealer Oscar Rankin in Season 3
- Dakin Matthews played the character James Connaughton in Season 3.
- Monique Gabriela Curnen portrayed Detective Gina Cortez in two episodes of Season 4
- Shohreh Aghdashloo played the character Liliane Bellerose in Season 4
- Michael Gladis played the character Rodger Stapleton in Season 4
- Elizabeth Sung played the character Bai May-Lung in Season 4
- Donald Sage Mackay played the character Ben in Season 4
- Michelle Duffy played the character Carol Finelli in Season 4
- Raymond Ma played the character Captain Pak in Season 5
- Alan Rosenberg played the character Sydney Garber in Season 5
- Anna Khaja played the character Nazria Durrani in Season 5
- Samantha Quan has a recurring role as Watson's half-sister Lin Wen
- Zap2it - TV news - Building 'House' Is Hard Work
- Wittler, Wendell. "Living in a ‘House’ built for one", MSNBC, April 18, 2005.
- "David Shore", In Camera, October issue.