Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mass engagement.

Tonight is the final episode of Sherlock season three in the UK, and for the past three weeks, I've been fending off questions about why I'm not watching it from friends within the cult of Sherlock Holmes and without. Everybody knows you can pull a TV show down from the internet ahead of schedule once one country has had it, so why would an enthusiastic Sherlock Holmes fan wait?

Why indeed? I've made excuses about the quality and unsure performance of a pirate download, sure, and I would be the last one to make a moral argument. It always seemed like there was some larger reason, however, and with the help of Alison Graham of The Radio Times this morning, I thing I've found it. Alison writes a nice little piece about the joy of community experience with a television event; my favorite phrase in the article being "mass engagement."

And after reading her article and searching my emotional guts, I realized that I'm waiting for the PBS launch of Sherlock out of patriotism. Not flag-waving, my-country-right-or-wrong patriotism . . . the basic patriotism of wanting to stand with your countrymen together to enjoy a coming TV event. Or suffer through the torment of waiting for it while spoilers abound and UK viewers rave about what a great time they're having.

I'd like to claim to be a pure egalitarian and say that I'm not watching Sherlock until we can all watch Sherlock, just as I annoyingly suggest open invitations to the BSI dinner every now and then. But I suspect its more of a love of the underdog, and in the race for Sherlock, we Americans are definitely the underdogs. And even beyond that, as Alison Graham suggests in her article, we love watching TV together, even if we're watching alone so nobody talks during the show. The common bond we share in the days that follow such an experience brings delightful little encounters and conversations, as we're all fresh from the event.

Mass engagement is not something we're used to in the older Sherlock Holmes community, having gone through some pretty dry years in Sherlock's popularity with the mass audiences that TV and movies bring in. And now that we have it for a time, I'd hate to miss fully appreciating the thing.

So the countdown continues . . . only one week until "The Empty Hearse."

And that's just fine.


  1. I'm with you on this. There is something about waiting for the official moment, about having the patience to wait, sitting in a comfortable seat, watching on a big-screen TV, with ten million other Americans the debut on an anticipated show. (I don't have the high-tech set-up of watching the internet on my TV.) When I was a kid I had searched for my Christmas presents before for the appointed day. My mother had gotten me an awesome toy robot. I was very excited about it, but I had to feign that excitement on Christmas day. It lessened the fun and joy of that morning.

    It actually been fairly easy to be spoiler-free by avoiding those websites that contain them (and I appreciate those sites that have warnings). I haven't been 100% successful do some sharing "non-spoilery" items and opinions that actually do spoil--like the tee shirt and button with a phrase from "The Empty Hearse", that, for any thinking Sherlockian, tells volumes.

    It's only three episodes whose duration will speed by faster than wanted. Anticipation is part of the fun.

    1. The high tech set up you mention would consist of a cable. You know, those thingies with copper on the inside, and plastic on the outside. Really advanced and difficult to understand. *whistles*


    Back on track!

  3. I haven't even seen series two yet, so I've something to look forward to -- whenever -- if ever -- I get around to it. Ha. Ha. Ha.

  4. Last series, I "snooped" on BBC iPlayer, then bought DVD's from Amazon.UK for my all region player. This year, I saw the first show that way but decided to wait for the rest. (However, I've gleefully spoiled myself.)

    Mostly, I'll be watching series 3 along with everybody else on PBS. Because the wait is not ridiculous this year. And I prefer my biggish TV to my little laptop. And most of the online fora I follow are on the US schedule.

    On one US-based forum that allows "early" comments, a few viewers have been incensed that The Evil Moffat has "ruined" their Sherlock. They are so angry they're becoming Elementary fans. (Sad.) Will they be able to hold on to that outrage once the rest of the country has officially seen the show?

    Also--the sooner we see these three episodes, the sooner The Next Long Wait begins....

    1. Now, now. I finally cracked open DVD 1 of Season 1 of ELEMENTARY and was pleasantly surprised to find out that, in the first few episodes at least, Miller is the best Holmes since Ian Richardson.

  5. Since nearly everyone I know was watching "Sherlock" early, I saw no reason to wait. In fact, I've seen all three seasons early, especially when the U.S. didn't get them for months and months after the UK. But that's just me. For the record, I have pre-ordered the DVD and Blu-Ray versions as soon as it was possible to do so, and have bought additional copies for friends and family. If I'm going to see the shows early the least I can do is pay for the privilege.

  6. I have to say that one of my big reasons for watching BBC Sherlock on iPlayer (besides having NO self-discipline and being a bad person) was that I didn't want to see it with anyone else. I wanted to be able to absorb it without others' comments, or even their physical presence. Like art, or a favorite novel. I wanted it to be mine before I could share it. So a 3am download with earbuds and the computer worked very well for me. And now that I've seen them 3 or 4 times apiece, I can watch them with my husband on his fancy TV. And if he talks during key scenes, I will be able to listen and not want to kill him. :)