On House, our hero solves the medical mystery each week. We see the mysteries that are hour-long challenges and the little ten-second puzzles of the clinic cases. But none truly test House’s limits. His true challenges are the emotional puzzles–figure out how to keep his employee from leaving, discover how to have a romantic relationship. He’s an expert on people as he deduces patients’ lies, affairs, and guilty secrets. But in practice, he knows nothing about how to be part of society.
Many have heard that House was based at least slightly on Sherlock Holmes. Indeed, House is well known for “reading people,” observing by their hands and pockets what they’ve been up to. The new television show Sherlock echoes this character along with his conundrums. The main character is removed from what he considers human weakness—human emotion. Sherlock and House ignore the law when it suits them as they go on breaking and entering, taking drugs, and being rude to the people around them. Both have a friendly yet sarcastic contempt for their “co-workers”—the police and House’s team, whom they view as inferior, bound to social conventions, emotions, and lesser intellects.
Watson/Wilson is of course the enabler character. He is the hero’s only best friend and entire support system in one. Though the hero may protest that he doesn’t need anyone, he knows deep down that this one true friend is keeping him grounded and sane, connected to the world and caring for it. This most human of best friends represents the isolated hero’s humanity. Of course, he’s also a connection for us the viewers to participate in the story through, the ordinary man thrust into an impossible relationship with an impossible-to-manage genius. He’s also, though not the smartest, often a catalyst or trigger for the hero to deduce the answer. This perpetual sidekick goes through many shallow relationships, because, as all his girlfriends comment, his real, lasting relationship is with his best friend.