When Guy Ritchie and company decided to make a big budget Sherlock Holmes movie a few years ago, they were taking quite a gamble. Sherlock Holmes hadn’t been close to being a major pop culture figure for decades. True, Jeremy Brett’s Holmes and books like Laurie King’s series had a decent following among the mystery crowd, but Sherlock was far from a sure thing at the box office. We didn’t know if Ritchie’s Holmes would succeed or fail, but he was betting on his skills and those of his cast, and I was happy to see him do it.
Not long after, Stephen Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and company decided to make a TV series about Sherlock Holmes in the modern day. The very concept was nutty to a lot of fans, and inconceivable to the standard pasticheurs mind. Sherlock Holmes was a Victorian – no way would he work in a serious modern piece. Moffat, Gatiss, and their crew were taking a big chance, and I was happy to seem them do it as well.
Now, after very successful second acts by the Ritchie and Moffat/Gatiss breakthrough franchises, we’ve entered an age where hucksters and opportunists are rushing to take advantage of the wave that those two efforts started. True, some of what we’re going to be seeing is folks whose newfound enthusiasm about Holmes, as a result of the breakthrough Sherlocks, is greater than their level of skill. But in a lot of cases, we’re starting to see creatively lazy entrepreneurs taking advantage of the latest fad.
Fans take a lot of flak for negative reactions to new uses of their favorite characters, for not being accepting of change, and some of that criticism is deserved. But consider this: fans also are the first people to find their love of a thing exploited, time after time. Fans get used by promoters. They get sold worthless products that trade off name over quality. Their obvious weakness for a Star Trek or Sherlock Holmes is targeted by the lowest forms of commercial life.
So is it any wonder some of us get cynical and jaded?
I’ve bought enough crap with the name Sherlock Holmes attached to it over the years that I consider my huckster radar to be pretty well tuned. The wave of youthful enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes of late is quite infectious, and as a result, I did recently get suckered into one more horrible pastiche going against those instincts. So if I seem a little judgmental regarding any Jonny-come-lately Holmeses from here on in, let us say I’m am not without my reasons.
The hucksters and opportunists are coming. Get ready.