House, Monk and seven other TV characters inspired by Sherlock Holmes

By: H&I Staff    Posted: September 13, 2018, 1:42PM

Sherlock Holmes never dies, he only gets rebooted. Avenger buddies Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch have both played the character recently on screens big and small. 

Point is, Arthur Conan Doyle's timeless character is everywhere.

But not all Sherlock Holmes–ian characters are named "Sherlock Holmes." Television has given us numerous crime-solvers heavily inspired by the man in the deerstalker cap.

So what makes a character "Sherlock Holmes-ian"? There are a few key traits: preternatural observations skills, anti-social behavior and personal demons. Holmes sees the world with nearly mutant-level perception. He's also callous, blunt and cold. Of course, he has a sidekick to keep him in check, a straight man (or woman) who sees the good in the detective and helps him get out of scrapes.

It's a popular character trope these days. Let's take a look at some shows that pay homage to Holmes — some of which you can see on H&I!


Dr. Gregory House on 'House'

Personal demons: Vicodin addiction
Watson: Dr. James Wilson

The Sherlock of medicine, cantankerous Gregory House uses deductive reasoning and psycho-analysis to root out the arcade causes of illnesses. Both characters struggle with drug addiction and play an instrument. In the episode "The Itch," House is even shown to own a copy of Conan Doyle's The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, in case the parallels were not clear enough. 


Adrian Monk on 'Monk'

Personal demons: OCD, recluse
Watson: Sharona Fleming / Natalie Teeger

When Trudy Monk is killed in a bombing, her husband heads into a downward spiral. Mr. Monk suffers a nervous breakdown, which exacerbated his obsessive-compulsive disorder. Fortunately, his nurse and assistant (and "Watson," if you will) Sharona Fleming gets him out of the house to put his uncanny deductive skills to work. In season three, after Fleming moves away, Monk partners with Natalie Teeger.


Spock on 'Star Trek'

Personal demons: Half-human, half-Vulcan
Watson: Captain Kirk

The deductive Data may have cosplayed as Sherlock on The Next Generation, but Spock is the only one on this list who is related to Sherlock by blood. Yep, that's theory. In Star Trek XI, Spock declares, "An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth." Which is, of course, a Sherlock Holmes quote. Meaning Spock's human half traces its ancestry to Mr. Holmes. Makes sense, as both characters were highly logical and cold, personality-wise.


Patrick Jane on 'The Mentalist'

Personal demons: Fraud, avid tea drinker
Watson: Teresa Lisbon

The Mentalist pushed Sherlock's talents into supposedly supernatural realms. Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) assists the California Bureau of Investigation under the guise of psychic medium. However, he was also a con man, a fake. So that ticks the "inner darkness" box. Baker's previous lead role, The Guardian, had some similarities, too, at least drug addiction. 

Image: Warner Bros. Television


Shawn Spencer on 'Psych'

Personal demons: Daddy issues, love of Jerk Chicken, pineapples, and Tears for Fears
Watson: Burton "Gus" Guster

With his personality quirks and eidetic memory, Shawn Spencer is a thinly veiled Sherlock clone with the comedy amped up. Additionally, Gus is more of a straight Watson analog compared to most others on this list (outside of Wilson on House.)

Image: The Everett Collection


John Luther on 'Luther'

Personal demons: Haunted by the darkness of crime, anger management
Watson: Justin Ripley

Creator Neil Cross has said that his character Luther (Idris Elba) is influenced by both Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. That perhaps waters down his Sherlockishness, but he is British and wears tweed, so he has that up on the others. 

Image: The Everett Collection


Robert Goren on 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent'

Personal demons: schizophrenic mother, deadbeat brother
Watson: Alexandra Eames

Vincent D'Onofrio is on speed-dial for any casting director looking for "man with inner demons." No wonder he's so good in the NBC spin-off, cocking his head from side to side as he analytically stares down a suspect. His psychological profiling is straight out of the Sherlock playbook.

Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution


Everett Backstrom on 'Backstrom'

Personal demons: self-destructive, no filter
Watson: Nicole Gravely

After playing the bizarre and misanthropic Dwight Schrute on The Office, Rainn Wilson let his five-o'clock shadow grow for this brief, underrated role. Backstrom was brash, offensive… and brilliant, naturally. People will put up with a lot when you're solving murders in Portland.

Image: The Everett Collection


Dr. Henry Morgan on 'Forever'

Personal demons: Immortality
Watson: Detective Jo Martinez

Another one-season wonder from the 2014-15 season — peak Sherlock revival, really — was this supernatural series. Ioan Gruffudd's character, a genius medical examiner, may have operated in the modern Big Apple, but he was secretly closer to Sherlock than most. He was immortal, and was stalked by his adversary and "Moriarity," another undying man named Adam.

Image: Warner Bros. Television