Sunday, September 9, 2012

Make . . . the . . . pain . . . stop.

Yes, I could unplug, go offline, bury my head in the sand, but the coming of Elementary is too much like that mythical traffic accident so horrific that I can’t seem to look away.

Earlier in the week, Jacquelynn Morris reported on Facebook: “Just saw a sneak preview of Elementary, CBS's jump on the Sherlock Holmes bandwagon. My opinion? You might have a very fine crime show, CBS, but putting the names Holmes and Watson on your characters does not make them so.”

She wasn’t the only one making such an assessment, but as a known devout Sherlockian like some others I've seen reporting, Jacquelynn might have a certain bias toward classic Holmes.

And then came yesterday’s bit from the LA Times:

“Now a new broadcast series, Elementary, offers perhaps the most fanciful interpretation: Holmes as a recovering addict and idiot savant who solves crimes with a mixture of flair and condescension (think 'The Mentalist' meets Sheldon Cooper.)”

The times piece goes on in frightening detail: it’s a CBS network procedural, all serial killers and sex offenders, with redefined classic characters and “an unlikely caretaker relationship between Watson and Holmes.” The show’s producer even seems to be proud of saying, “Holmes is a little broken.” Because we all like watching broken versions of beloved characters, right?

At what point does this show go from being about Sherlock Holmes to being an attack on Sherlock Holmes? And a widespread attack at that.

The real problem here is that a CBS network show is going to get more viewers, even if it fails, than the most popular show out of Great Britain. Thankfully, Robert Downey Jr. ‘s portrayal of Holmes in the theaters has had an impact. Despite it being as much Downey as Holmes, it was still a feather in the great detective’s deerstalker cap. Waiting for Elementary is like waiting for hurricane Isaac to blow through, just to see what devastation it unleashes on the landscape.

Ah, but we fans. We never give these things a chance, do we? But Sherlock Holmes has been re-written and re-invented for decades upon decades. We’ve seen him changed, for better or worse, on various occasions. And we know all the earmarks of what works and what doesn’t, just like a meteorologist knows that hurricane Isaac isn’t just going to be a pleasant spring shower, without having seen the storm or its final effects.

Perhaps we should start nailing plywood over our TV screens.

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to it, which maybe I shouldn't post on your page, as you seem to have written it off. I'm a little surprised, actually, that you feel this way after all the fanciful takes (many of which I've enjoyed) that you've done on the stories; that's quite an interesting thing, I think, as I've seen a number of pastiche writers who have really stretched things but express misgivings about this show.

    I was appalled at the second Downey version for the most part, but to each his or her own. I will see what I think after seeing *Elementary,* but I love the actors and I wanted another Holmes adaptation (I was actually giving some thought to a female Holmes played by Archie Panjabi or Lucy Liu, so the coincidence kind of excited me), so I'm fine with all of that.

    Holmes was broken in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, too, and I liked that just fine. I don't think the Times is using the term "idiot savant" correctly, but oh, well.

    If you don't like it, though, there are many other versions, so it will probably be all right. I'm trying to find a pleasant way to sign this off and utterly failing. Sorry for going on. I will go away now.