Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Baker Street Babes break new ground!

Ah, those Baker Street Babes! Always a step ahead of the Sherlockian mainstream, roaming the world like the Josie and the Pussycats of Sherlock study . . . I’m sure I’m not the only one who eagerly awaits each episode just to see where they’ll be heading next as they jet around the Holmes-world in their podcast adventures. Episode thirty-two of the podcast popped onto my iTunes podcast list today, and as usual, I quickly downloaded it for a listen. And then the weirdest thing happened . . . .

After thirty-one episodes about various Sherlock Holmes-related topics, the Baker Street Babes decided to boldly veer off-topic and do an episode that wasn’t about Sherlock Holmes! Sure, they mentioned the BBC Sherlock series on occasion. They’re the Babes, they have to throw in some Cumberbatch and company, that’s part of why they’re fun to listen to. (That, and the gleeful mentions of Basil of Baker Street.)

But their big divergence from Sherlock Holmes took its strange turn this weekend as they spent over an hour discussing a CBS police procedural drama that was actually about fifteen minutes shorter than the podcast itself. (In other words, they could have re-enacted the entire drama and had another fifteen minutes to talk about what they just did . . . oh, that might have been actually very cool, barring the inevitable lawsuits, of course.)

It’s a bold move for a Sherlock Holmes-based podcast, to be sure, and a real test of the Babes entertainment value in leaving their base topic to discuss a detective drama that was apparently chosen at random. Do they succeed?

Well, they seem to have all their big guns in for the episode. (They really should have a Babe roll call at the beginning of each episode, so new listeners can put names, or pseudo-names, to voices.) At some point they mention using this new show to “fill the void” until production begins on the next BBC Sherlock, and I can understand that. After blogging about Sherlock for the last decade, there was many a week I had to write about Monk or House just to keep to a weekly schedule. And the Babes are a certainly a step above and ahead of a dusty old blog.

Raising such never-before-seen questions as “Should we touch on Watson’s vagina?” the Babes still manage to keep it  fresh (slappably fresh, were they guys), even when discussing a non-Sherlock Holmes detective show. They’ll no doubt survive this latest twist in their podcast career with colors flying. But I think we’ll all be happier when the Cumberbatch corps returns.

Eventually they kind of lost interest in this other show and start talking about X-files and House, but that’s understandable. Nothing really compares to a great Sherlock Holmes TV show or movie.

And I’m sure they’ll get back to one of those soon . . . .

Friday, September 28, 2012

A certain bias about the Yard.

The terrific mind of Marilynne McKay sparked an epiphany for me tonight. She’s one of the brighter Sherlockian lights you’ll ever meet, so that’s not too surprising. (After blasphemously saying a lot of Sherlock Holmes fans have crap for taste yesterday, I feel obliged to spotlight our better side. Include yourself in those betters, please, dear reader. No, I’m not pandering.) Marilynne caused my epiphany with a single name: “Quinn.”

As in “Aidan Quinn.”

I really find it quite wrong that a police investigator named “Gregson” be anywhere close to as good looking as Aidan Quinn. The paradox, however, is that I find it perfectly acceptable for a police investigator named “Lestrade” to be as handsome as Rupert Graves.

Now, foes of my enmity toward a particular TV show that I’m no longer writing about here will attribute this bias toward a particular TV show that I’m no longer writing about here. But looking deep within my dark and cavernous Sherlockian soul, I really find that isn’t the case.

Lestrade deserves to be a good-looking fellow. He earned it, in my truly heartfelt belief.

Gregson, however? Pfui! A pox of ugliness upon him!

Yes, he was called “smartest” of the Scotland Yard bunch by Holmes, and he did get in a few cases, but he never really redeemed himself to me after that initial appearance in A Study in Scarlet.

Lestrade, however, while apparently not smarter than Gregson, was, to Holmes, “the pick of a bad lot,” so he must have made up for Gregson’s slightly bigger brain in some other way. It was a subtle thing, but there really could be no doubt who Holmes’s favorite was. If I remember correctly, he was even the one Yarder we know to have spent the night on the couch at Baker Street. When Holmes needed an official of the Yard, Lestrade was his go-to guy.

A detail here, a detail there, and enough appearances in enough cases without being a total jerk, and Lestrade kind of weasels his ferret-like features into your heart. And after putting up with Watson comparing him to a ferret in The Strand Magazine all those years without complaint, doesn’t he truly deserve to be handsome once in a while?

Gregson, however . . . maybe it’s that he has a whole first name. That he rubs his hands together in a self-satisfied way. Maybe it’s that tall, pale blond thing that makes him sound like that creepy vampire doctor in Twilight. I just don’t think he deserves Aidan Quinn looks. A personal bias, I do admit.

“They are as jealous as a pair of professional beauties,” Sherlock Holmes initially said in explaining Gregson and Lestrade to Watson, but he was speaking metaphorically . . . or so we thought. Now television is telling us that they actually are a pair of beauties.

And at least one of them totally deserves it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chocolate pudding.

Tonight I enjoyed a really great hour of network television.

Yessss, it was ABC’s Last Resort.  A rogue submarine captain and crew stand against what seems to be an evil plot within the government. Probably the first submarine-based television series since Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, it’s something we haven’t seen on TV of late. Something to make one ponder personal integrity versus mechanically going along with what is handed down from greater powers.

Then, later in the evening was the result of a major American television network spending more money than American TV has spent on Sherlock Holmes, ever.

I don’t really need to review Elementary here. You’ll find reviews all over the web. TV critics, mystery writers, Sherlock Holmes fans . . . I’ll let them pick at the details. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. A lot of Sherlock Holmes fans have crap for taste. Always have. They’re nice enough folks, but have you seen all the really awful Sherlock Holmes novels there are out there?  They wouldn’t print ‘em if somebody wasn’t buying.

The battle cry “Any Sherlock is good Sherlock!” is like saying “Any chocolate is good chocolate!” when you’ve been handed a dish of instant chocolate pudding. You know it’s not chocolate. It’s okay to like chocolate pudding, sure. But don’t call it chocolate. Real chocolate is a completely different thing. Serving chocolate pudding to someone who paid for chocolate is actually criminal. We call it “fraud.”

And tonight, a major American television network handed us chocolate pudding and called it chocolate.

I suppose there might be those who don’t watch much modern TV and don’t understand the level to which it can reach these days, who will settle for chocolate pudding if you call it “Sherlock Holmes.” And there are also those kindly souls who will just be happy for any attention given to our favorite fictional character and treat it like their sister’s half-wit son. “Aww, isn’t he sweet . . . and so talented!” And this one may cost me, but there will also be those who like man-candy with a Sherlock nametag, and the idea of a handsome Holmes who has to be cared for by a sensible woman . . . well, win-win! But seriously . . . at the end of the day, is the guy on CBS Sherlock Holmes?

Now, if you’ve read this blog at all, you may consider all this just a final confirmation of a prejudgment made long ago. And in a way, it is. All the pieces of Elementary we’ve been given prior to the premiere episode were indicators of just what sort of show it would be. And the finished product is true to every bit of these early glimpses showed me. No worse. And no better. It is what it is.

I don’t think that is Sherlock Holmes. And even if the CBS show winds up being incredibly popular, I’m not so desperate for validation of my lifelong hobby that I’m going to be calling it Sherlock Holmes. And, barring Elementary forcing itself upon me in some other way than just existing at nine Central time on Thursdays, I’m done commenting on it here.

But if someone creates a brand of chocolate pudding and call it "Sherlock Holmes," I will devote at least one blog to it, just to be fair.


And one final word in from my neighbor, a much more scholarly man than myself:

"There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man's lawful prey." 
                                    --John Ruskin

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oh, yeah . . . Brett.

On the eve of Jonny Lee Miller’s debut as Sherlock Holmes, Pat Ward Facebooked to remind us of Jeremy Brett’s time as Sherlock. “Brett was Holmes,” Pat concludes. Her statement is a great thing for putting our newest Holmes into perspective.

Many a Sherlock Holmes fan agrees with Pat. And many of us didn’t.

The Granada productions that Jeremy Brett starred in were some of the most faithful, beautifully done Sherlock Holmes adaptations ever. The creators made scenes that exactly lined up visually with the original Sidney Paget drawings that accompanied the tales when they were first published. It was as good a Sherlock Holmes TV show as could possibly exist, there’s no denying that.

Which is why Jeremy Brett’s imperfections as Holmes stood out even more vividly to so many of us in fan world. He was twitchy. He hammed it up a bit in some scenes. His readings of some lines we knew by heart just sounded wrong. And now that we’ve seen Benedict Cumberbatch, I’ll even add one more criticism: He was too old. (Though that was a very common problem with Holmeses of the past. No one wanted the smartest guy in the room to be the youngest.)

But still, there were others who loved Brett’s performance and he became their Sherlock Holmes. We disagreed on him then, and we disagree now . . . which gives you some indication of how it’s going to go with Jonny Lee Miller.

No matter how good “Elementary” is, his Sherlock Holmes won’t be for everyone. And if it’s not good, there will still be those who like him, because he is their Sherlock Holmes.

“The old wheel turns and the same spoke comes up,” as the one true Sherlock once said.

Here we go again. And I’m still excited about it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A long night for the Sherlock fan.

Well, a Sherlock fan just had to watch the Emmy Awards tonight, didn’t they?

Over two hours of comedy awards, reality TV awards, drama awards . . . and what the Hellgravia? Was everybody who voted just pissed off at England this year? The BBC stuff is getting nothing. Nice to see Benedict and Martin in the audience. And I can’t begrudge Danny Strong beating out Stephen Moffat for writing, since I’m an old Buffy fan, and seeing “Jonathan” up accepting an Emmy was like something out of the “Superstar” episode of that show.

But really? Just blowing the chance to see Lucy Liu present an award to Sherlock was just kinda sad.

The true irony, however, was that Sherlock was beat out in so many categories by a movie called Game Change. Because if nothing else, Sherlock was a game change in the way Sherlock Holmes could be portrayed. Nobody pulled off a successful modernization of  Sherlock Holmes for almost fifty years when that team took up the cause. It was something that almost everybody, Sherlock Homes fans and non-fans alike didn’t think you could do and keep that Sherlock Holmes feel.

So after spending two hours watching Jimmy Kimmel mess with an awards show, only to be disappointed, I just can’t be too disappointed.

Sherlock exists. It was good enough to get a nomination.

That is just pretty damn cool, and I still find it worth some happy.