Thursday, February 28, 2013

A new Game.

Way back in the summer of 2001, noted Sherlockian Chris Redmond said something to me that I couldn't get out of my head.

"Sherlockians need a new Game," he told me (or something very much like that).  I had to agree. Sherlockiana, as a whole, was having a hard time building steam back then. The Jeremy Brett days were long behind us, Sherlockian scholarship just wasn't having the zing it used to (as many of the best questions had been argued to death), and there just wasn't anything new under the sun. The old Grand Game of researching Sherlock Holmes in a historical fashion just wasn't what it once was.

My answer to that, at the time, was an attempt to combine historical re-enactment and the Sherlockian Canon, forming a Canonical characters club called "The Dark Lantern League." It was a lovely idea, but a career turn started taking up my time and, as always, I became a little impatient waiting for it to take off. And, let's be honest, a lot of Sherlockians of 2001 weren't looking for anything new, being content to attend the same dinners and see the same friendly faces for the rest of their days.

But Chris was right, and I knew it. Sherlockians did still need a new Game.

And now, over a decade later, it appears Sherlockians do have a new Game, a realization which occurred to me tonight as I struggled to fold an origami lotus based on a YouTube instructional video.

The video was called "Sherlock - How to make the origami lotus from The Blind Banker." By following it, one could recreate one's own artifact from the BBC Sherlock.

The original Game of Sherlockian scholarship was all about loving Sherlock Holmes so much that we attempted to bring him into the real world through scholarly research, through recreating his sitting room in our homes, through the knowing delusion that we believed in Sherlock Holmes.

Sound familiar?

Sherlockians needed a new Game in 2001, but we also needed something else: new Sherlockians. As much as we all hate to admit it, there comes a time when we get old and jaded with even our favorite things. Many is the lover of Sherlockian pastiche in their younger days who grows to disdain all attempts at it in their gray days. We never love anything the hundredth time around as much as we did that first time -- there's no fighting it.

But along came the BBC Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch, and suddenly we hit the jackpot: new Sherlockians and a new Game. Somewhere out there, more than one somebody is, even now, trying to recreate the modern 221B with its cattle skull and headphones. Speculative research is being done like crazy, trying to figure out just how it was Sherlock survived this Reichenbach. And some lovely young lady on YouTube is trying to teach us how to make origami lotuses from "The Blind Banker."

It's a new Game, and they're playing it the same way we played the old one back in the day. Thoughtful analysis, recreations, creativity in both word and art, visiting the sacred sites . . . as much as some "elite devotee" or the other might like to pooh-pooh these new fans, they are us and we are them. Sherlockiana lives on, and I am perfectly delighted with it. Even if you decry, "Yeah, but they'll get bored with Cumberbatch!" (which I kind of wonder about -- he's pretty amazing), where do you think all that cosplay/recreation/analytic energy is going to go then? Probably toward all of the other parts of the Holmes legend, as there is so much to discover. (And I really want to see a black-and-white cosplay Rathbone one day!)

The wisest thing a man ever sang was Jagger's, "You can't always get what you want . . . but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

Sherlockiana got what it needed. A new Game.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hansoms of John Clayton 2.0

In my library, there is a book published by the Mysterious Press in 1976, entitled The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes by Peter Todd. It contains an introduction by Philip Jose Farmer, one of Peoria's rare bestselling authors, and in it, Phil wrote:

"Recently, I decided to found a scion chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars in my home town, Peoria, Illinois. This is 'The Hansoms of John Clayton' -- a title happily combining my passion for Sherlock Holmes and Lord Greystoke, born as John Clayton, better known as Tarzan. (W.H. Starr of The Sons of the Copper Beeches scion has theorized that the cabbie, John Clayton of The Hound of the Baskervilles, was actually the grandfather of Tarzan.)"

Of course, when Phil Farmer said, "I decided to found a scion chapter," he didn't exactly follow through -- busy writer and all -- so it wasn't until November 17, 1977 when Bob Burr forced the issue and held a meeting at his house, that the group actually got started. Five members showed up: Phil, Bob, George Scheetz, Emily Sutton, aand Alex Ciegler.

In the decades that passed, the group both thrived and dwindled, and eventually Bob himself lost interest in it, which was a hard hurdle to get past for those of us that remained. Every group has a "sparking plug" (or two or three, if you're lucky), and when ours lost his spark, the engine that was the Hansoms eventually just locked up.

Now, it's thirty six years after that original start, and six years since the last recorded gathering of any Sherlockians under that club's banner. Only one of those original Hansoms still walks the Earth, and he's very hard to find. Bob Burr's passing combined with the enthusiasm of a couple of local Holmes fans, however, has made this old Sherlockian cab-horse realize that maybe Peoria's Sherlockian legacy needs to be pulled a bit further into the future. So it is, that the Hansoms of John Clayton are set to meet once more on March 15th. I already know of five people willing to show up, so we're back to square one.

But as I've said, The Hansoms of John Clayton, version 1.0, was Bob's group. It had its rituals and routines, all built in the Sherlockian 1980s, and they served us well. But it's thirty six years later, and, well, we're not just about the sixty stories any more. They are our core, our center, but in considering "The Adventure of the Empty House" for the theme of our first meeting, there is so much more to talk about. Three big name Sherlocks have gone over Reichenbach Falls on stage and screen since then, some with returns yet to be seen. And there's been this weird Sebastian Moran guy who isn't a sniper but exsanguinates people like hunters do deer. We have a lot to talk about. And we're not taking any quizzes this time around (Thank you, Occupants of the Empty House for being our guiding light there!).

We've got a great legacy of Sherlockian fellowship to draw from here in Peoria, but we won't be letting that stop us from being whatever it is to be a Sherlock Holmes society in 2013. And, personally, I'm kind of curious to see what that is myself.

If you're going to be in the area, and would like to see the start of The Hansoms of John Clayton 2.0 for yourself, just drop a line to

And here's a bonus bit I found while digging up a thing or two tonight.

Burr, Brett, Sommerfield
St. Louis, 1991
(Me? I was still waiting for Benedict Cumberbatch!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Digging out.

The snow has been falling all day here in Sherlock Peoria. Time to roll up the sleeves and start digging my way out of the drifts . . . the drifts of Sherlockiana.

Over the past few years, my Sherlockian library has become quite the uninhabitable place. Stacks of books and papers, miscellaneous trophies from curious adventures, all the odd clutter that one would expect of someone who likes Sherlock Holmes a little too much. Add to that mess the remains of a second Sherlockian's library and related files, and you get something that makes a beloved hobby someone frightening, like it is actually going to bury and smother you at some point, especially when there's a new cat in the house who likes to try to climb the piles.

This year is going to be a year of Sherlockian spring cleaning like no other. And since I hate eBay and don't really like the thought of selling Sherlock, it looks like it's time to play Johnny Watsonseed and spread the Sherlock around. Exactly what and where and to whom has yet to solidify, but I have some ideas. It will be interesting to see how much stuff I can actually get out the door.

I have another excuse for tonight's advent of the spring cleaning season, amidst a snowstorm, but that is coming in another installment of the blog, already leaked on Facebook. And that involves not only a lot of cleaning, but some rebuilding as well. More to come.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Once you have eliminated the impossible . . .

An e-letter came in yesterday from Paul Herbert, a much esteemed Sherlockian who was well-accomplished in our hobby when I was just finding out there were well-accomplished Sherlockians. He was responding to my blog on opening up the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars, and pointing out that I was leaving many questions unanswered:

"Where would you hold it?" he wrote, of my idea for an open invitation. "Attendance would be much larger than it is now. Arrangements would have to made beforehand for a suitable venue and yet how would you know how many would attend if you had no limit. And what kind of program would you offer that would entertain old-timers, neophytes, learned Sherlockians, fringe Sherlockians, and spouses with only a little interest in Holmes?"

Paul is correct, I didn't answer all of those questions. And he's not the first to respond with such questions when I bring up the subject of an open and democratic B.S.I. (Nobody ever seems to question the "democratic" part, for some reason.) They are quite practical questions. And the Baker Street Irregulars is a society and a tradition held so dear by many that they are naturally afraid of anything that might upset the apple cart . . . especially a big, dramatic change like going inclusive, instead of exclusive.

I can understand that. Most people don't have my penchant for walking into the unknown. And let's be honest, one of the reasons that I've never been as enchanted with the B.S.I. dinner as many is that it doesn't take risks, tends to like its own past more than the present, and has all those members that decry whatever the suggested change is. Letting women in. Holding the dinner in a different city now and then. (Hey, what about simultaneous dinners on both sides of the country? We have the technology!) Open invitations.

But you know what, all of the questions Paul raises can be answered. They can be dealt with, and open invitations could happen. Look at everything Michael Whelan has accomplished since taking the reins of the group. Look at what the men who came before him accomplished. Look at any Sherlockian event, any Sherlockian society . . . even those awful amateur pastiches people love to complain about . . . every single accomplishment in the Sherlockian world was made real because so many Sherlockians are hard workers with imagination and some real problem-solving skills.

And what was our beloved inspiration so fond of saying?

"Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth."

Think about that for a second. Once you have eliminated the impossible. An open B.S.I. is not impossible. It therefore cannot be eliminated. It therefore, could, however improbably, become the truth.

Paul's letter came at the perfect moment for me, having just finished the weekend of my little dinner theater and its two shows. A cast of nearly thirty. Dance numbers. Doing the catering ourselves. A lot of people leaving their comfort zones to do things they never saw themselves doing, maybe even thought impossible. And none of it would have been possible without getting people willing to step outside the status quo.

The B.S.I. will do what its leaders want. I'm just a member who doesn't come to many meetings, who has an opinion, and I know I'm not the target demographic. But let's never put limits on ourselves as Sherlockians. Let's eliminate the impossible so we can see that's what is left is possible, however improbable. 

Oh, and thanks to all those new Sherlockians out there who are already showing us new vistas of the possible, every single day. You're making this aging Sherlockian very proud of our fandom.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Yeah . . . Sir Boast-a-lot still rules.

This week's Elementary opened with Mr. Elementary trying to teach Joan Watson how to be a consulting whatever-he-is. The deductions were less that impressive, lacking that certain snap of a true Sherlock Holmes . . . I think I've seen Jeff Goldblum do better in non-Sherlock parts. (The "Grover's Mill" speech in Buckaroo Banzai is just one of many great Sherlock-ish deductive moments Goldblum has pulled off.) Soon, there was a reference to a Musgrave, more single-stick (He's teaching Watson through having her beat a dummy about the head? I really don't get Mr. Elementary's version of this martial art.), and a client turned down.

Yes, the Holmes tags are being added, but the basics of Holmes and Watson just aren't there. Mr. Elementary lacks the command, the sophistication, the almost other-worldly quality the best Sherlocks possess. There's a reason Benedict Cumberbatch is playing the villain in that upcoming Star Trek movie: he has those qualities that made Rathbone great.

This Mr. Elementary guy . . . throwing yelling fits, twitching like he's got to pee because he's chilly . . . he's a little boy. I have yet to be convinced that Watson admires or looks up to him. He has hired her to be his assistant and he's paying her to be his apprentice. Some idiotic website called "After Elton" actually ranked the relationship between Mr. Elementary and Joanie Watson to be superior to that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson of BBC Sherlock. Watching Martin Freeman do his Watson act, I've always known his feelings and sympathized with him. He's a friend first, the basic role of a Watson. Joanie Watson might as well be an office drone in cubicle city, dragging herself around behind this little boy pretending to be a genius detective. I suspect "After Elton" equates "totally different" with "innovative and good," without considering that something that's worked solidly for a hundred and twenty-some years might actually be a the actual key to the characters.

I miss Freeman's Watson. I miss that crazy-ass Moriarty. I miss kinky and so-very-alive Irene Adler. I miss the real Sherlock Holmes. And watching week after week of Jonny Lee Miller missing the mark, it's starting to feel like Benedict Cumberbatch is that real Sherlock Holmes. And a real Sherlock Holmes that lives in the modern day, with his friend Dr. Watson, living in a London that has a ferris wheel and a Mrs. Hudson.

So I went out and made a pledge to the Sir Boast-a-lot fanbook on Kickstarter. It's well over its goal, and it should be a beautiful piece of work. That silly "After Elton" website claimed, after rating all the elements of the two, that BBC Sherlock and CBS Elementary were equals. Well, until Elementary starts inspiring lovely pieces of work like Sir Boast-a-lot, I think the evidence remains in favor of Sherlock's complete superiority.

That other guy? Well, he's Mr. Elementary. Still.

Equality! Freedom! And the one barrier left!

This from the website of The Baker Street Journal:
"We deplore and condemn the idea that proper appreciation of the stories of Sherlock Holmes should be limited to a small, elite fandom.  Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world, and we applaud all who share the devotion of The Baker Street Irregulars to the memory of the Master Detective, regardless of age, sex or the medium in which they express their views."

This from :

"The characters of Holmes, Watson, and others are fully established in those fifty ‘public-domain’ stories. Under U.S. law, this should mean that anyone is free to create new stories about Holmes and Watson."

And now this from Sherlock Peoria:

"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of Sherlockiana. There is one sign the B.S.I. can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and acceptance. General Secretary Wiggins, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Baker Street Irregulars and eastern Sherlockiana, if you seek liberalization, let all come to the B.S.I. Dinner. Mr. Wiggins, open the Dinner. Mr. Wiggins, Mr. Wiggins, tear up that invitation list!"

Hey, it worked for Reagan . . .

And there were probably some people in Berlin who freaked out at the time Reagan made his "Tear down this wall" speech, the way a few do whenever I bring up the idea of an open and democratic Baker Street Irregulars. But even a wild radical like myself has to recognize one inherent problem in a B.S.I. with no invitation list, a problem which I'm sure is why the society kept itself male-only for so many years, and that's this:

The spouses.

We are a bookish people, we Sherlockians, and I suppose more than a few of us meekly reply, "Yes, dear . . ." and turn back to our Holmes tales upon occasion. My theories on the original "male only" B.S.I. rule always came back to the idea that somebody couldn't get out the door for an evening out with the guys without bringing their domineering better half, and depended upon the club's rules to keep their wife in check.

Now that the B.S.I. dinner is open to both genders, that logic still holds, and the thing that would cause the greatest rise in the dinner's attendance with a completely open invitation list would definitely be those who either wanted (or were forced to) bring their beloved significant other of whatever gender.

Will spouses one day be the final barrier left between us and a free and open B.S.I.? 

Don't look at me, I'm just a guy who has to fill blog posts . . . wait . . . what's that dear? Excuse me, folks . . . .

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Babe inspires a slightly embarrassing urge.

There are certain little impulses every Sherlockian has, but few of us like to talk about.

Living in the brilliant glow of Conan Doyle's incredible creation, that beautiful literary Frankenstein of lifeless words energized into a living, breathing superman, we can't help but dare to think, in our most private moments, "Could I possibly do such a thing?"

And as we love Sherlock Holmes so much, we don't just want to create our own legendary figure. We want to summon our own version of the genie.

Any rational person knows that trying to match Conan Doyle at that is purely insane, but still, that impulse rises in us, born of love, vision, and that eternal question, "What if . . . ?" Common sense, reading the attempts of those who have attempted that sort of flight and crashed horribly, and our own fears all work against us, and with so many mainstream Sherlockians, that urge to summon the genie has been beaten down. The mere thought of daring to try such a thing . . . one shudders.

And some of us elder Sherlockians do have skeletons in our closet. Collectors of obscure Sherlockiana might have copies of my serially-published novelette HOLMES! tucked away on a shelf. Back in the very early 1980s, not many of the Sherlockian collectors who picked it up probably realized that the villain was based on Wolverine from X-men comics. Luckily, there aren't more than a hundred copies out there floating around, so my secret is fairly safe.

Since then, I've written a vampire novel, two modern day mystery novels, but no more Holmes . . . there was an attempt I always wanted to get back to, but it always seemed  . . . foolish? A waste of time? I'm not sure. It's not like the other books ever got past my own quality-control judgments and saw print.

But then I was listening to Amy Thomas on the Baker Street Babes podcast today, talking about her own process for writing her Holmes novel, The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree. While she was on the podcast, obviously, to promote the buying of her book, she actually sold me on something else. As she spoke about what went through her head in working up the book, I found my own brain heading into familiar patterns of a tale that has been held inside for years now. And I found that I missed my own little attempt to summon the genie.

Is it silly to attempt to walk anywhere close to Conan Doyle's path? Obviously, Les Klinger doesn't think so, believing in it enough to go up against the Doyle estate in court. Sure, Les deals with writers much more talented than myself, but his efforts seem to be the clarion call of a new day for Sherlock Holmes. More writers writing Sherlock mean more failed attempts, sure, but they also mean more successes. And what did Sherlock Holmes say was the motto of the firm? "We can but try."

So I wound up buying Amy Thomas's book, The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree, on Amazon. I feel like I owe her that much, just for the inspiring interview. And after reading a certain pastiche I'll talk about another time, which came free in the mail, I really need to read something a bit better . . . which I think Amy's book might definitely be.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Upon belonging to exclusive clubs.

My friend Don Hobbs and I had many an interesting chat during our road trip to Chicago this weekend, one of the more notable being our complete disagreement upon membership system of the Baker Street Irregulars. This was not completely unexpected, as I've been disagreeing with conservative Irregulars on that subject for decades, and Don, having been a member of the B.S.I. for a full year now, has . . . to put it less than objectively . . . drank the Kool-aid.

And for those of you new to the blog who think I've got a grudge on for Elementary, well, let's say it pales in comparison to my feelings on the exclusive membership style of the B.S.I., a group I've been a member of for going on twenty-five years now.

The way the Baker Street Irregulars works is this: You don't get to come to their annual dinner without an invitation, and you don't get to be a member unless the head guy picks you, for whatever reason he considers valid, to be in the small group inducted every January. It's been called "a benevolent dictatorship," which has stuck more than any other description. Said dictator does a whole lot of work to run the organization, his only pay being the perks of the job, including getting to pick the members.

Since getting the B.S.I. shilling of membership is seen as an honor like a knighthood as much as anything, we use words like "invest" and "award" instead of "picking" when it comes to the process. And one of the arguments that frequently comes up against a more democratic process has always been "It's Michael/Tom/Julian's club, he can do what he wants," which isn't really an argument at all, just a concession that things are how they are. And one never knows if that comes from a "I got mine, you figure out how to get yours" apathy or a fear that the illusion of B.S.I. honors might fade if we looked at it closely enough to improve the system.

And the system needs improvement. Accidentally fart in the elevator with the club's benevolent dictator at the wrong moment and you might just never get the much-desired shilling of membership. I'm not saying that's how choices are currently made, but with the one-guy system, you do run such a risk. Anybody can make a bad impression with one person, and unless that one person is a true saint on Earth, silly little biases can get in the way. And have. Even if the current guy is the best chap in the world, in his declining years he could appoint a real bastard as his successor and suddenly America's premiere Sherlock Holmes society is only for white men with incomes in the 1%.

As a whole, Sherlockians are an inclusive, welcoming, generous breed, and I've never felt we were well represented by that exclusive dinner for the hand-picked few. Already in 2013 we've seen an uprising against "the elite devotee" and a lawsuit against the Doyle estate to free Sherlock from intellectual property shackles. Might this also be the year we see an upgrade in the outdated membership traditions of the B.S.I.?

I'm certainly not getting my hopes up, but these are amazing times, and Santa Sherlock has been very good to me so far.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's Don Hobbs!

Well, this morning I'm hitting the road again with the Sherlockian who I've put in the most road miles with, Don Hobbs. I may have put in more air miles with another Sherlockian or two (and there was that one notable trip where I wound up seated next to one of our hobby's more infamous sorts for a few hours), but road miles mean more hours spent in idle conversation, and Hobbs definitely takes that prize. (Along with "most time on the same website," from our ten years as blog partners at !)

Don, if you haven't had the pleasure, it the world's biggest collector of international editions of the original sixty Sherlock Holmes stories, a disciple of the late, great Sherlockian collector John Bennet Shaw. I first met Hobbs at a conference in Shaw's home town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he walked up, introduced himself, and handed me an envelope full of Sherlockian paper memorabilia -- something we've wound up producing a little bit of ourselves in the years that followed.

Odd limited editions of Holmes stories in code, expeditions to lost Sherlockian sites, collecting runs, brisket tacos . . . every Sherlockian friendship has its tales, and Don and I have a few. Last night we had dinner with one of this blog's regular commenters, Melissa Anderson, and her husband, and I got to remember just how many stories we have between us . . . but that's always been part of the fun of getting together with Sherlockians, not just sharing a love of Sherlock's stories, but sharing your own as well.

Not sure what today's travels, probably a good eight hours in the car, will bring, but it will certainly be more interesting than my usual audio book when rolling solo. Tomorrow we'll see if there is anything that can be committed to the internet, or if today's tales will be, as Watson put it, stories for which the world is not yet prepared!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The non-silent critic.

Frequent commenter Silke Ketelsen has pointed out a new piece on Den of Geeks headlined, "How Elementary silenced the critics." 

In the piece, the writer goes on, like so many pro-Elementary writers do, to point out all the shows fail-points, with lines like "Instead of playing Conan Doyle’s esoteric game, if you like, Elementary borrows its playing pieces for use on a more familiar, generic board." But in the end, the Den Geek joins the masses responsible for the show's just-successful-enough ratings and admits to liking it anyway.

The comments section below the piece does as most comment sections do, tearing the article apart, with a few defenders popping in to say they like the show, without giving much detail as to why. They just know they like it.

But one of the very last comments was particularly apropos  to my mind, as someone named Jo wrote:

"How Elementary silenced its critics" is a misleading title, is more like : "How Elementary is just another procedural, assisted by persons of the age of my grandmother, who is just OK, and the more of the same, or so the critics and 'diehard sherlock fans "simply gotten bored and forgot all about the show" - would be a better title.

All typical comment thread punctuation and grammar quibbles aside, I think Jo hit the nail on the head. The critics of Elementary haven't been silenced. Most of them have wandered off, having found better ways to spend a Thursday night. 

Those who have found Elementary entertaining enough to stick with it will tell you that the episodes have gotten better. They have. But "better" does not necessarily mean that something has reached "good," just that it is better than its previous edition. When even a "fan" of Elementary like the Den Geek can't write a blog about the show without including flaw after flaw, who needs critics?

While Elementary does continue to work its way toward being more watchable, calling its main character "Sherlock Holmes" is still a fraud perpetrated upon its audiences, and will do nothing to bolster the legend of the master detective long term. In the latest episode (one getting decent marks from the show's fans), Mr. Elementary still does such supposedly clever things as throw a criminal's basketball away like a pouty schoolboy instead of making the shot he claimed he could -- a move not far evolved from spray-painting a TV camera lens early on to get his way. He's still mean and petty where charming and truly clever should be.

Like a soda pop formulated to be the least offensive sugary taste for the most people, Elementary will have those who enjoy it, yes. But to actually say it has silenced its critics through mere ratings numbers or because one or two folks on the fence succumbed to its routine? No. Its true critics have moved on, except for a few of us manning the watch-towers in case it tries to come over the wall at us.

And when the need for something other than silence is called for, the critics will return.

Oh, yes. They shall return.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

221 be mine, if you're free, Holmes.

Twitter is certainly earning its electrons today.

The past twenty-four hours have been a lovefest for BBC Sherlock under the hashtag #221BeMine (from a line found in the Baker Street Babe's theme song, "Won't you 221 be mine?"). And then the first word of a Sherlockian lawyer versus lawyer legal battle with #FreeSherlock.

The former was plentiful and lovely, little poems and quips of Valentine's love for a show we haven't seen for a year, yet obviously inspires true love in its fans. Reading them brought back many a fond memory of just how good Sherlock was, and to put it in the mode of the day: Roses are red, violets are blue, a rewatch of Sherlock is long overdue.

The Baker Street Babes and friends are once again showing the old school Sherlockian world how this internet thing is done, if we're paying attention, with all the charm and sense of fun that has been the hallmark of any great Sherlockiana in any past medium. You say the web is more ephemeral than ink on paper? Think about it for a moment. It's paper. Yeah.

And then, as Valentine's Day wound to a close, word came of Les Klinger sending out the ultimate love note to our friend Sherlock Holmes: a civil action against the Conan Doyle estate to stop their claims of ownership of the characters of Sherlock and Dr. Watson, based on the ten stories that remain in copyright. Intellectual property is a very hot topic in the information age, but should a commercial entity have control over a hundred year old cultural demigod whose presence is spread so far across our world that no man could take it all in, much less control it?

Back when Conan Doyle's last living descendant was still around, it was easy to gain sympathy with a sort of  "Would you take this nice old lady's father's legacy away from her?" But now, with one mediocre Holmes novel being touted as the first "authorized" Holmes book for no particular reason other than to empower a vague entity called "the Conan Doyle Estate," there seems to be no reason for said entity than as a weird investment for some folks that Conan Doyle or his heirs did not feel like putting in their wills to begin with.

If Les Klinger's suit is successful, Sherlock Holmes will no longer be "owned" by anyone in America and thus belong to all of us, as he truly has all along. And at that point, "221 be mine" will take on an even more powerful meaning.

It's been a good day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

E., my valentine.

Happy Valentine's Day, Elementals!

I'm hardly complimentary about the show Elementary,
Its folk just give me pause.
Not quite as bright as Sherlock's light, its very sight on Thursday night
Still glows with such dire flaws.

If I were more gentle, if it did not drive me mental,
My blog might be a bore.
But with this Mister E., replacing heroin with tea,
Shows oft start with a who , , , le lot of partially clad women.

Yeah, it's been that kind of day.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Watching that CBS Sherlock Holmes.

Tonight I watched that CBS show with Sherlock Holmes and a female Watson.

They were getting into an exclusive club, much like the Diogenes, with a British-accented fellow letting them in the door. Holmes's savvy got them in, to Watson's glee. Once there, Sherlock met a real hottie and slept with said hottie . . . yeah, it's not Canonical, but I suppose we have to make some allowance for the transition to the modern day. As a result, they were summoned to a private plane, where Watson revealed the ability to speak French, a little bit of a switch from Holmes being the one with French ancestry, I know, but hey, I'm open to changes. Sherlock Holmes, they announce, has never been on a plan before, which is completely Canonical.

They drink champagne, a drink which does appear once in The Valley of Fear.

They conspire to get secret photos of a celebrated individual . . . hmm, "A Scandal in Bohemia," anyone?

Uh-oh, the subject of cocaine comes up as Holmes talks to the pilot. I hate that they're bringing up the drugs, but at least it's cocaine and Holmes doesn't seem to be the one with the problem.

Holmes and Watson wind up in an inn in Kansas . . . probably in the neighborhood of some Garridebs, relaxing in their dressing gowns before a musical performance Holmes was eagerly awaiting.

Monday's Sherlock Holmes show on CBS is only a half hour long, so it ends all too soon. But in that single half hour, they included all those references to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, so I find I'm completely satisfied . . . well, that and the fact that the actress they have playing Sherlock Holmes is completely geek-hot. And I totally loved her in Thor, so the makers of the show obviously thought if Robert Downey Jr. could be in Iron Man and do Holmes, Kat Dennings could be Sherlock Holmes, too.

The title CBS uses on Monday nights . . . Two Broke Girls . . . is not as obvious as the BBC's "in your face" title Sherlock. But if you have the time, and don't listen too closely to that "names" part of the dialogue, I think the ardent Sherlockian will find plenty of nice Canonical detail to enjoy.

Just be careful at the next meeting of your local scion society, or you might have to listen to those old school Holmes fans who are just sooooo picky about their Sherlocks.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

That pesky addiction thing.

Why does Sherlock Holmes need to be a drug addict?

During my recent excursion to Southern Illinois Sherlockian climes, a paper was presented by my friend Bill Cochran on the most recent episode of CBS's Elementary. I shan't steal Bill's thunder, should he ever get his blog going and want to reprint it himself, but would like to just spin off one particular point he made, starting with: "I am incensed by the constant references to Holmes's addiction as if it were a prominent theme in the Canon." Bill then went on to explain while out of the sixty original stories of Sherlock Holmes, only two mention drug use. Not addiction. Just recreational use.

Elementary, on the other hand, plays upon its main character's addiction problem with every single episode. He shouldn't go to bars, because he might drink. He needs to push his old dealer friend, a decent-seeming enough fellow, out of his life, because he makes him think of drugs. During the end of the last episode he was seen gluing a phrenological bust back together -- shouldn't Joan Watson have been freaking out that he was sniffing glue during that process? It's how the show usually over-indulges its addiction focus.

Mr. Elementary has his Watson because of his addiction. He lives in New York because of his addiction. The death of Irene Adler was key to his addiction. Why does this show even have crimes every week, when it could just spend more time on Mr. Elementary's beloved addictions? It seems more important to his character than his detective skills, hunting down Moriarty (remember him?), or any of those other things that the real Sherlock Holmes was based around.

Heck, Elementary even gets the drug of choice wrong. Mr. Elementary is a heroin fan. An opiate. A numbing agent. The original Holmes is only ever seen to inject a mild solution of cocaine beneath the skin . . . not even into a vein. My friend Bill reminded us Friday night that Holmes's seven per cent solution of cocaine was actually half the amount they put in the original recipe for Coca-cola. And cocaine, of course, is a stimulant, which the real Holmes used when bored to death for lack of crimes to solve. (Yes, Watson mentions morphine when he calls Holmes out, but the good doctor was plainly pissed off at the time and tossing the additional drug in for effect. Holmes never speaks of, or is seen to use, morphine.) Sherlock's modern day version of Holmes with his liberal use of nicotine patches, is probably much closer to the true counterpart.

And we know Holmes liked his nicotine. That is an absolute fact.

Elementary is not the first to try to portray a drug-addicted Holmes. The Seven Per Cent Solution, from the 1970s was a very clever tour de force in that area, which kept enough of the original Holmes's traits intact to make it an enjoyable tale (and stuck with cocaine, of course). Less successful was a gawdawful TV movie called Case of Evil, where a young Sherlock Holmes who celebrates victories with three-way sex romps and is forced into heroin addiction by Professor Moriarty. And even in that movie, he didn't voluntarily start the heroin. Both movies, it must be admitted, played up the drugs to draw in the audience. Is that what Elementary's plan is?

If Elementary were as truly into the topic of addiction as it pretends to be, it would be a much grimmer, realistic show . . . and have no need of Sherlock Holmes. Its treatment of the subject is much like the way it tosses in serial killers and various naughty ladies . . . just one more cheap ploy to try to rouse the interest of sleepy viewers as they wind their way toward the evening news.

It used to be that Sherlock Holmes and his methods were enough to rouse our interest. In the last episode of Elementary, Mr. Elementary's friend Rhys suggests that Mr. Elementary was probably a better detective when he was on drugs, and from his performance on the case at hand, one wonders if Rhys was right. If that's the case, apparently the drugs were a part of this latest Holmes impersonator's methods.

Mr. Elementary might need to be a drug addict. But as over a century of addiction-free stories have proven, Sherlock Holmes doesn't need to be.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The truth about fans.

When I checked the audio books out for my trip last night, the library's due date printed out as 2/21. That's the sort of thing a fan notices. Fan, of course, is short for "fanatic" and "fanatic" definitely has tinges of "crazy" to it. Whether you're a Twihard, a Trekkie, or a Cumberbunny, you know that fact well. It's the reason some apparently too-sensitive Sherlock Holmes fans consider themselves "elite devotees" and try to salve their egos with a different term.

But I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and let me explain to you exactly where my fanaticism comes from.  Just by reading this blog, you'd probably define me as an Elementary-hating psycho, driven by some unnknown psychological twist in childhood to obsess over my mental image of the Sherlock Holmes archetype. We all have favorite stories, whether in book or movie form, that imprinted upon us in our early teen years. At that age, quality doesn't even matter that much -- our emotions are running high, and what gives us the strongest feelings are those things we'll love forever. But even that sort of well-imprinted fondness isn't what makes a fan.

What makes a fan is what made me drive four hours to eat dinner last night and then drive four hours home again. You might say it was Sherlock Holmes. But I can experience Sherlock any time I care to, here in my safe and snug home. Books, DVDs, audio CDs . . . Sherlock is not hard to find.

No, what I drove a total of eight hours in one evening (Fanatic behavior if ever there was such!) was not Sherlock Holmes himself, but the connections he has brought into my life. Lifelong connections with good friends. And sometimes those connections even go past life-long, as they did last night.

When my friend Bob Burr, "the Rascally Lascar" in BSI and other venues, died last month, he had never been to a single meeting of the Occupants of the Empty House, a Sherlock Holmes society that has amazingly held court in the wilds of Southern Illinois, without a major city as a hub, for thirty five years. Occupants had been to our Peoria club meetings and knew Bob well. And I had tried to drag him along on my occasional trips to see the Occupants. But Bob was a serious homebody and resisted every time.

Until last night. Last night, I decided to drag Bob's ghost to Southern Illinois to a meeting of the Occupants of the Empty House. For some odd reason, Bob left me his Buick LeSabre in his will along with his Sherlock Holmes collection. The car had never been driven on the four hour trip to Du Quoin, or much of anywhere else -- it was twelve years old and had under seventeen thousand miles on it. And since the Occupants were having their two hundredth meeting at Alongi's restaurant in Du Quoin, it seemed just the occasion for the big beast of a car to make the trip.

Driving a ghost to a Sherlock Holmes club meeting four hours away . . . more crazy fan behavior, right?

Well, you could say that, but here's the thing. It wasn't Sherlock Holmes who made me the fan I am today. It isn't Sherlock Holmes who has kept the Occupants of the Empty House meeting every month for thirty five years. And it wasn't Sherlock Holmes who I was driving to Southern Illinois last night.

It was Bob Burr that I drove. And it was Bill Cochran and Gordon Speck, Stan and Debbie Tinsley, Jack Crelling, and Joe Eckrich (along with other old and new members along the way) who have kept the Occupants of the Empty House a place where I have found a friendly welcome for decades.

The real truth about fanatical fans is this: we may come to a fandom like that of Sherlock Holmes due to some quirk in our personality or tween-age fetish. But we stay because of the friendships, the connections, the bonds that it gives us to other human beings.

And if you want to call that crazy, feel free. Because I'm just as nutty as Sonny the Cocoa Puffs cuckoo that way, and so happy to be so. My friends, both inside the Sherlockian world and outside of it, are the  ones I'm truly a fan of, and will always be. They are some amazing people.

To me, Sherlock Holmes and his eternal friendship with Dr. Watson, is the perfect symbol of what I call friendship . . . getting to spend time with someone you admire the heck out of. And am I fanatical about that?

Yes, I am.

And that is the truth about fans. Geek us up all you like, but in the end, we're here for the people, which is healthy, human, and quite wonderful.

(More details on last night will be coming soon, but I just had to get this part blogged. I'm a fanatic, remember?)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Held back at Elementary School.

Despite my fondness for Elementary's wingback chair and not being able to get the theme music out of my head all morning, I have to judge my first exercise at becoming a fan of the CBS crime drama a failure. Comments have been made, the possibilities of the new Sherlockian label "elite devotee" applying to me were again diagnosed, so I have decided to assign myself some remedial reading.

An article posted to the Baker Street Blog back in December, "Six Cases Which I Have Added To My Notes" [BLUE] by James C. O'Leary, was recommended as an answer to my query as to why a person would like Elementary. At the time it first came out, I dismissed it as a desperate attempt to plead the show's innocence to the court of the internet, but given my new quest to learn to like the show, I thought I'd give it a closer look.

The author starts with a very reasonable premise: "Indeed, an unshaven, tattooed, sexually active, drug addicted, and tantrum throwing Holmes dependent on the largesse of his father seems like no Holmes at all. As Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes has reached the end of his probationary six-week sobriety period under Joan Watson’s (Lucy Liu) care, now would be a good time to assess those first six cases through a Sherlockian eyes."

He then matches seven quotes from Elementary with seven quotes from the Canon of Holmes, adds six or seven details from the original stories used in one way or another by the show, but then goes on to cite the more obvious places where Elementary wanders off course. As I had watched all of the above, and still hated the show, I needed more, and the hard-working O'Leary was willing to supply more.

The chemistry between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. The drug history. Jonny Lee Miller's tattoos?

Mr. Elementary's relationship with women. His relationship with father. Citing the problems with other adaptations of Sherlock Holmes . . . .

The problem with using details from Elementary to try to convince an Elementary hater to like the show is that it's just throwing gas on the fire. By the time I got to the final section of the article, I felt like I had just been given a retrospective tour of everything I hated about the show when I originally watched it.

James C. O'Reilly's concluding paragraphs are as insulting to those who find fault with Elementary as anything I've written here, so they didn't really help me find the path to liking the show any more than what came before.

So I went searching for some older reading material in my quest to find some way to love, or even like, this new pretender to the 221B throne. In a piece entitled, "The Implicit Sherlock Holmes," Sherlockian giant Edgar Smith began with the now-familiar question, "What is it that we love about Sherlock Holmes?" A classic question, very pertinent to finding a thread of enjoyment in any Holmes, to be sure.  Among his answers, I found this passage:

"Not only there and then, but here and now, he stands before us as a symbol -- a symbol, if you please, of all that we are not, but ever would be. His figure is sufficiently remote to make our secret aspirations for transference seem unshameful, yet close enough to give them plausibility. We see him as the fine expression of our urge to trample evil and set aright the wrongs with which the world is plagued. He is Galahad and Socrates, bring high adventure to our dull existences and calm, judicial logic to our biased minds. He is the success of all our failures; the bold escape from our imprisonment . . . . For it is not Sherlock Holmes who sits in Baker Street, comfortable, confident, and self-assured; it is we ourselves who are there, full of a tremendous capacity for wisdom, complacent in the presence of our humble Watson, conscious of a warm well-being and a timeless, imperishable content."

Perhaps the language is a bit fancy for the average modern, but the gist is still plain to see. And the being Smith speaks of is very hard to see in that shirtless wannabe rock star, twitching and sniping his way around New York City at the center of Elementary. If anyone out there sees themselves in Jonny Lee Miller's character with the same name as Sherlock Holmes, I can respect that. But to me, Mr. Elementary is something else . . . a freakish parody that, instead of inspiring, makes the common man feel better about being less bright than Holmes by making him a damaged, diagnosable mess. Instead of looking at a symbol to aspire to, modern audiences would rather look at reality show train wrecks like Honey Boo-boo and feel better about their current state. Personally, I see Mr. E. as a result of that culture. Mr. Elementary and Honey Boo-boo do get the ratings, but what do they say about us?

As much as I may seem to have insulted fans of Elementary in this blog, I fear the show itself insults them more. So I'm afraid I have to drop out of "Elementary school," my attempt to find some reason to like the show. I just can't. It goes against everything I love about Sherlock Holmes. But as James O'Leary concludes in his article, "Love it or hate it, Elementary is a permanent presence in the Sherlockian world." It won't, and can't, be ignored.

So it's just going to have to be dealt with. And that, I have no problem with. 

Stay tuned. Or should I simply shout, "WOLVERINES!"

Monday, February 4, 2013

Elementary School, the the first grade.

This morning I posed a query to the universe about why those people who actually enjoy CBS's Elementary find it so pleasurable . . . a facility that I do not, at present, seem to possess . . . and the answers immediately started pouring in. Not just from those answering my query, of course, as many seem to be in a stated of enjoyment handicap very similar to my own when it comes to Jonny Lee Miller's taking the name "Sherlock Holmes." So as a public service, both to myself, and the legions of Sherlockians who are also enjoyment deprived where Elementary is concerned, I have decided to undertake a quest.

A quest to actually enjoy the show that is to Sherlock Holmes what Budweiser is to beer.

Esteemed Minneapolis Sherlockian Dick Sveum laid the first stepping stone in my path with today's comments, saying that Elementary follows the Knoxian formula for the Sherlock Holmes story. Knox's scheme, first proposed in 1911, before all of the original stories were even written. is that a proper Sherlock Holmes tale is composed of eleven definite parts. So how does our most modern attempt at Sherlock hold up when matched with that oldest of criteria?

Let's see, by looking at Sunday night's episode, "The Deductionist."

Part one of a Sherlock Holmes story, the Prooimium, "a homely Baker Street scene, with invaluable personal touches, and sometimes a demonstration by the detective." In "The Deductionist" (or DEDU as we'll call it in a faux Finley Christ abbreviation), our supposed Sherlock is home at Baker Street, sitting shirtless in a chair while two strippers who aren't shirtless dance around for him, then ask him if he's ready for more. When they handcuff him to a chair and prepare to rob him, we get the demonstration -- he has police hiding in the next room. Watson is not present to go "Amazing, Holmes!" at this demonstration, but turns up the next morning to complain of stripper smell.

Part two of our Knoxian analysis is Exegesis kata ton diokonta, the client's statment of the case. In the case of "The Deductionist," we are treated to the actual scene of the crime being committed, as a serial killer massacres an operating room full of medical folk. 

Part three is the Ichneusis, or "personal investigation, often including the infamous floor-walk on hands and knees." Jonny Lee Miller walks around the crime scene, and he does bend over slightly at one point -- no floor-walk this time.

Part four, the Anaskeue, is a "refutation on its own merits of the official theory of Scotland Yard." As Inspector Gregson doesn't seem to want to theorize much in Jonny Lee Miller's presence, so instead we are treated to Mr. Elementary pompously debunking the entire field of criminal profiling and specifically cutting down the profiler on the case, Kathryn Drummond.

Part five, the first Promenusis, in which Holmes used to give a few stray hints to the police, doesn't happen here, unless you count Miller openly spouting his every observation at the crime scene. Miller doesn't hint. He spouts. I'm trying to be fair here, but I'd bet part five has yet to happen in any episodes of Elementary.

Part six, the second Promenusis, in which Sherlock Holmes normally explains the true course of the case to Dr. Watson, has a new wrinkle in "The Deductionist." Watson first has to tell Mr. Elementary about her apartment being used for pornography, but he eventually gets around to telling her what he's doing on the serial killer case . . . as well as the fact that he used to have sex with Miss Drummond, the profiler.

Part seven, the Exetasis, is typically Holmes questioning the people of the case and visiting necessary offices, etc. In "The Deductionist," we get more of Watson investigating her apartment being used for porno filming. A curious side note: Mr. Elementary uses the word "modicum" in this episode. Sherlock Holmes never used the word in the original Canon, but Roger Moore did use it as Sherlock Holmes in the movie Sherlock Holmes in New York.

Part eight, the Anagnorisis, is when the criminal is usually exposed by Sherlock Holmes. But since Elementary already showed us the criminal from square one, and the police know who he is from square one, for this we must substitute the scene where the serial killer makes contact via telephone with Gregson, Drummond, and "the Deductionist," as Drummond named Jonny Lee Miller in a write-up about him.

Part nine, the second Exegesis, is the criminal's confession. But in any modern serial killer TV show, the confession is something of a moot point. In this episode, it certainly is.

Part ten, the Metamenusis, features Sherlock Holmes describing what clues he found and how he followed them. Where Elementary is concerned, the main character seems to be doing that constantly. It's kind of his version of Tourette syndrome.

And the last part, the Epilogos, is a conclusion that comes in sometimes a single sentence. A quote, a last line from Holmes. In this episode it's Miller giving Lucy Liu a spatula and a toothbrush. 

In attempting to apply Knox's formula to "The Deductionist," I ran out of everything but the Epilogos before the show was two-thirds over. The reason for this is that Knox was analyzing the single-mystery pattern of the classic Sherlock Holmes story.  The modern CBS murder drama moves from little drama point to little drama point in a cycle that demands more shock or twist moments than the almost leisurely seeming classic tale, where Holmes saves his big dramatic moment for the climax. Elementary seems a little more insecure to me, like a child craving attention, going:

"Hey, look! Strippers!" 
"Hey, look! A mass murder!"
"Hey, look! A porno movie!"
"Hey, look! Someone else being killed!"
"Hey, look! Jonny Lee Miller had sex with that woman!"
"Hey, look! That woman is getting stabbed!"

And like a child craving attention, it can get rather annoying. There's a certain A.D.D. aspect to the show, and I'm not talking about the main character's personality traits.

I don't know if Knox's principles apply to Elementary is because the show is true to Sherlock, or because Knox's guides are so flexible. Rewatching "The Deductionist" with Father Ronald Knox's principles from "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes" didn't really help me find enjoyment in the show, but I'll give you this, Elementary fans: I'm starting to grow fond of that wingback chair he sits in. They use it a lot in promo photos, and with good reason. It is a beautiful chair. And unlike Clyde the turtle, it gets to appear in more than one episode.

And that, apparently is first grade in my Elementary schooling. I've got another teacher lined up for grade two. Stay tuned.


There has been talk of a debate over the worthiness of CBS's Elementary, but after watching last night's  big post-Super Bowl episode (at least until I couldn't take it any more), I'm less concerned about anyone putting forth a reasonable argument that this lazy knock-off is Sherlock Holmes and more interested in something I have yet to see: why they actually like it.

I've seen a number of people, Sherlockians included, say "But I enjoy Elementary!" But I have yet to see anyone explain just why, other than some cuteness factor involving any of the three leads. All TV shows have cute actors and actresses on them. That's the nature of television. But having enjoyed a lot of good television over the years, and having seen what makes a good show (continuity, sympathetic attachment to even the most unlikable characters, whip-smart plotting, etc.), I would not even recommend this show if the faux-Sherlock factor wasn't so annoying.

Because that isn't the only annoying thing about the show. How many times can they bring in promising characters with potential for development whose interplay might even develop Jonny Lee Miller's character or make him more sympathetic . . . and then drop then after a few moments in one episode. The AA sponsor Watson recruited was especially memorable as he drew Mr. Elementary out with his car and displayed a charming ability to work with the show's main character. There at the end of one episode, and never to be seen again.

Last night we got a criminal profiler whom Mr. Elementary had once taken as an apprentice, who then betrayed him and used what he taught her to further her own career. The concept was actually interesting and had some potential, but when she was murdered by the serial killer's sister (Yes, serial killer's sisters are apparently someone to watch out for as well.) she quickly became another dead end plot device.

One could have seen this coming when they made Irene Adler a corpse from the start, foolishly wasting the potential of that great character by making her a cheap excuse for Mr. Elementary's drug use. It was such a waste.

And that it probably the biggest thing that annoys me about Elementary. The waste.

All that money being thrown at a character pretending to be Sherlock Holmes. All those eyeballs watching someone who will never be Sherlock Holmes no matter how many references like "Oh, look a singlestick!" get tossed in by people who don't seem to have read the sixty stories, just an encyclopedia article about the sixty stories. One could even have titled the series Wasted Potential instead of Elementary.

So someone please sit down and explain to me exactly why you enjoy this show. I am just not getting it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The wailing of the Elementary fans.

Now, I know I've been cruel to fans of CBS's Elementary on occasion in this blog. But I don't think I did them nearly the damage that CBS and the Super Bowl did to them tonight.

The idea at first, had to delight them. Their favorite show in a slot where more people would see it, and hopefully come to their point of view. A special episode, one that hopefully, had the showrunners doing their best for such a showcase timeslot. But what did Elementary fans get?

A long evening of being forced to watch football when they only wanted to see their favorite show.

It's 10:44 Eastern time as I write this and the game just got over, with the post-game show still to come. That means fans in Mr. Elementary's home city will probably be up until midnight or later to see their hero's big show. And they're not happy.

In the last hour, the #ELEMENTARY hashtag on Twitter has been flooded with tweets from the shows faithful, and there has been no love for the Super Bowl, to be sure. And if the length of a normal football game wasn't bad enough, a huge power outage added another half hour to the game. (Indy Sherlockian Pat Ward actually accused us Elementary haters of causing the outage. We're pleading the fifth.) There is no joy in "meh"ville tonight.

And now East coast fans of Elementary will be groggy at work in the morning, forgetting to ask people if they want hash browns with their Egg McMuffins . . . aw, I'm just kidding, you crazy kids. On the upside, at least it was a pretty exciting game. And if you're a true Sherlock Holmes fan, you had to be for the Baltimore Ravens, just for the Poe connection, and, hey, they won! Go, Poe!

And now, for that very special Elementary. I'm sure it will be the best Elementary ever. (Maybe Gregson will punch Mr. Elementary two times this week!)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Writing smart. Or not.

Now, look away little Elementary fans, you ain't a gonna want to see this.

The good Carter was watching Monk when I came upstairs for supper this evening. Monk, that closest-thing-we-had-to-Sherlock-on-TV we had for a while. It was an episode that I'd seen before, but its cleverness, its happy timing, its lovable female Watson . . . it all drew me in as if it was new. There was a reason we loved Monk. If the show's creators had wanted to do a modern Sherlock Holmes in America show instead of Monk, I have no doubt they could have pulled it off.

Which brings me to last night, and a new episode of Elementary dropped on the viewing audience, "The Red Team."

I could go on about all the usual problems with Elementary, from its very concept to the throwaway character point of the week. But this week's episode serves as a classic example of one of the hallmarks of bad Sherlock Holmes writing: writers who aren't half clever enough to write a smart person, so they try to cheat.

At the climactic point of this week's episode, Mr. Elementary (supposed smart person) goes in to talk a hostage-taker (another supposed smart person) out of killing his hostages. How does Mr. E do it?

He explains to the other supposed smart person that his own genius has figured out the brilliant plan the other supposed smart person has been dealing with at the core of his crimes. Only Mr. Elementary does it completely off-screen, and we're just supposed to accept all the brilliance flying around sight unseen. No actual cleverness is ever demonstrated. It was the most blatant demonstration of what has been wrong with Elementary from day one. One of the basics of writing any fiction is "show, don't tell."

Unfortunately, Elementary likes to tell us more about how smart its main character is than show us. Unless you count the parts where he just says obvious things faster than anyone else in the room and monopolizes conversations, which is Elementary's standard way of portraying intelligence. If you're the only one talking most of the time, of course you sound smarter than anyone.

Watching Monk tonight, I found the quiet moment so refreshing. Mr. Monk would actually look at things. And then he would relate an observation that was actually clever. Just like our old friend, real Sherlock Holmes. I understand that people like to shut their brains off, zone out, and watch some television. But Sherlock Holmes was never meant for that. Holmes has always been a character with which a clever writer can dazzle us with wit, charm, and the gracefully played moments of a man of brillance scintillating.

Geniuses like Sherlock Holmes aren't just in fiction, you know. That's the key to how Sherlock Holmes has seemed so real to readers and audiences for generations -- he seems like someone who actually could exist. Someone we might even meet someday. And occasionally we do run into someone of an Sherlock-like level of brilliance, if we're lucky. But I'll tell you one place we won't be running into one of those folks anytime soon:

Writing for Elementary.