Yanks Watching Telly: Sherlock Vs. House

In my academic world, this semester I am taking a class on British television and thus being introduced to a whole new range of the tube that I had barely even heard of. It is a requirement of this class to post every other week on something that I’ve watched on the class blog, Yanks Watching Telly, and this week we watched two wonderful shows, Outnumbered and Sherlock. I will be reposting my thoughts here, just because they fall perfectly in the target of Image Moved.

Week One:

I am a longtime watcher of another modernized Sherlock Holmes television series, although this one is American and is more Holmes in spirit than in actual execution. The medical drama House plays off the personalities of both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the characters House and Dr. Wilson respectively although they are solving medical mysteries instead of criminal ones. I entered Sherlock having watched literally over one hundred episodes of the other TV show, and so it was impossible for me to not measure every move Sherlock made against House.

Considering that all I can really measure between the two is the dynamic between two men and that in Sherlock they are just meeting for the first time whereas on House they have been in a relationship of sorts for years, it is probably easier to contrast the two rather than compare them. That said, I was surprised at how tonally similar these two shows were, even in the musical score and opening credits. If I go back to the pilot ofHouse, which I admit I haven’t seen in years, this is how the creators originally presented the relationship:

What’s missing from that clip is the witty banter that House and Wilson are so well known for. But it does cut into the deeper heart of their relationship, which is Wilson as House’s moral compass and the only one he will truly listen to. That element is not really included in the first episode of Sherlock because Holmes and Watson are new to one another, although in the very last scene when Watson begins to calls Holmes on his psychological issues you can begin to see it forming.

Sherlock is also a lot more modern than House. The text messages appearing in the air beside the phone carrier, the textual explanations of what Holmes is seeing as he sees it, and the mental map of the cab driving are all things you don’t see that often on television.House sort of employs something like that with graphic journeys into the body to show what is wrong with someone, but nothing to the level of Sherlock.

There is finally the obvious difference in that House has a team of young and frankly good looking associates to bounce ideas off of, which is not Holmes at all. This seems to me an American idea–having the sex appeal and the romantic intrigue among supporting characters to keep an audience’s interest with side stories if they lose the interest in the Sherlock Holmes plotlines. Sherlock does seem concerned with being a very “British” show, as it is constantly identifying itself with London and making a lot of itself clearly referential to the original Sherlock Holmes.

Lastly, what I found truly astonishing about Sherlock was how the episode was essentially the length of a movie but still felt episodic. It blows my mind that there are more Harry Potter movies than episodes of this show. How does releasing this kind of show go? How could you really get addicted to something that only has six installments? That might be a very American mentality, but I can’t imagine how something with only six episodes over two seasons (or series) could inspire a massive following. The excitement level would seem more like a movie than a show to me, even though this watches like a show.

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One thought on “Yanks Watching Telly: Sherlock Vs. House

  1. I’m from England and LOVE Sherlock. I think that having thousands of episodes of a programme ruins it – the story lines run their course and become increasingly less imaginative/more bizarre.. Sherlock is fantastic precisely because it only has 6 episodes. Having lots would make it less of a cult classic and turn it in to any other “American” TV show. The original Office only ran for 2 series with 6 episodes in each – much like Fawlty Towers.. whereas the American one goes on and on and on and on…. These programmes have a massive following in England. Sherlock last aired nearly a month ago and my Facebook feed still comes up with comments about it. I, personally, would rather have a small amount of something brilliant – the writing, acting, storylines etc. – than a lot of something mediocre (Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries…).

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