Monday, November 5, 2012

The hour of standing up for Sherlock is at hand.

Two headlines showed up in my news feed today. Two headlines that said a lot.

"Why 'Elementary' fails Sherlock Holmes fandom," read the first, and the article that followed explained exactly that.

"'Elementary' lands post Super Bowl time slot on CBS," read the second, and that told me everything.

Those two headlines encapsulate what big problem with a lot of things these days. Instead of doing something right to begin with, hurriedly slap something together to get done quickly, then focus all the real effort on selling the resulting crap. Why spend time on initial design when marketing works just as well?

The "give it a chance" period for CBS's "Elementary" is over, and the "we'll watch whatever murder show is on CBS" crowd seems to be accepting it. And regardless of what Sherlock Holmes fans know to be true of this so very wrong re-creation of Holmes, we're stuck with it for the moment. No big deal, right?


CBS slotting it after the Super Bowl is the Sherlockian equivalent of that explosive blimp headed towards the big game in the old movie "Black Sunday." Super Bowl Sunday will not be a good day for the Sherlock Holmes fan. One of the worst incarnations of Sherlock Holmes in the mass market is about to be presented to the general public as the Sherlock Holmes.

"Maybe it will get people to read the original Conan Doyle tales!" some Mary Sherlockian Sunshine will inevitably pipe up. Really? Still holding out for that chestnut? It might get them to rent the Downey Jr. DVD and go, "Well, that ain't the same guy! And whar's thet purdy Asian gal?"

To paraphrase the one, true Holmes himself, "What do the public, the great unobservant public, who just leave the TV on after the Super Bowl, care about the finer shades of analysis and deduction." Well, they don't, really. But an estimated one hundred million men, women, and children, many of whom may be getting their first major exposure to the name "Sherlock Holmes," are going to be handed this shirtless, tattooed, dysfunctional cartoon. And do you know what that means?

Fans of original Sherlock and BBC "Sherlock" are going to be correcting boorish louts about the true nature of Holmes for decades. The ugly Americans visiting London is going to see Baker Street and get a lot uglier, as they start claiming, "This must have been where he got all drugged up before he had to come to New York to dry out!"

Suddenly, one knows what Charleton Heston was feeling at the end of "The Planet of the Apes" when he saw the half-buried Statue of Liberty: "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!"

So what can we do, good Sherlockian? Sit still and take this avalanche of crap Sherlock? Join the apologist bandwagon and learn to like the taste of dung?

Oh, no.

There's this little thing they call Twitter out there. And on Super Bowl Sunday, when "Elementary" comes on the air, I say we take to the Twitterverse en masse with an #ELEMENTARY hashtag and tweet as loud as we can about the real Sherlock Holmes, whatever that means to you. Go ahead and watch the episode of "Elementary" while you do and correct its every not-Sherlock moment -- our small numbers aren't going to boost the ratings amid those mobs. But on Twitter, your tweet comments can stir up a little attention, especially if there's enough of us making enough noise.

With a few hours left of Guy Fawkes Day and a few hours until America's presidential election day, it's the perfect time to start talking about making some noise come Super Bowl Sunday. Whatever your view of Sherlock Holmes, that "Elementary" hour on Twitter will be your best time to express it, and I encourage you to do so, no matter what it is. CBS has opened a window to try to promote their show to a post-Super Bowl audience. I say we take to that window and give voice to what Sherlock Holmes really means to us.

Did anyone think it was over when CBS ordered a full season of "Elementary?" Did Basil Rathbone think it was over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Did Conan Doyle think it was over when Sherlock Holmes jumped off Reichenbach Falls? Hell no! Nothing is over until we decide it is!

Who's with me? Let's go! (And if you don't go, you'll know I'll be back to rant on this subject more, perhaps with less movie paraphrasing, when I get done running down the street yelling.)

Our hour is coming, my friends. Be a shame not to use it.


  1. Oh, come on, Brad. You used to be the guy who championed innovation. This show is just that, a show. It is not an assault on Sherlock Holmes; it is just a modernized version that will run its course in a two or three year run and then be melded into the long, long, long list of TV and movie adaptations. And I think people are generally smart enough to understand that this is not the "real" Sherlock and Watson. If not, they are not likely to be coming to the local scion meeting anyway.

    I do, however, think that the Sherlockian world is on course to make a permanent split between the players of "The Game" first envisioned by Morley and Smith and Starrett and "fandom" consisting of bloggers and TV fans and readers of crappy print-on-demand pastiches. Maybe a person can be a part of both, but they are on a juggernaut to be two very different and ery distinct groups.

  2. Just a show, Bill? Was "The Final Problem" just a story? It's always easy to write off fan concerns as unimportant in the larger picture, as compared to something like a hurricane, but if it was all truly so unimportant, would we be paying attention at all?

    "Elementary" is not about innovation. It's about commercialization, and there's a difference.

    In any case, join me on Twitter after the Super Bowl! I'm going to have some fun!

  3. I would live to, Brad, but I don't twitter. Hope to see you soon, though, especially at one of those old-fashioned symposiums.

  4. We are all just playing the game--whether it's the same game as Morley and company, or it's the game of bloggers and TV fans--it's still just a game. When our starting point is a work of fiction we should be aware that the "we're the REAL Sherlockians" leg we have to stand on is actually just Jonathan Small's wooden one.

    And Brad, there already is a snarky little fun tweet-fest during each week's episode of "Elementary." It's become the show we love to mock...but in mocking it, I'm finding I'm enjoying it more for what it is, and not hating it as much for what it isn't. Join in!

    (Loved the film reference, Senator Blutarsky)

  5. I'm dying to join the "Elementary" tweet-fest, and have been for a couple weeks, but two Thursdays in a row I've been dragged away by more pressing issues! Let's see if I get home in time this week!

  6. Do you honestly think that the small number of Sherlockians who (a) care enough to take action and (b) are on Twitter will even amount to a blip on the post-Super Bowl radar? While I applaud the spirited vigor of your argument, we'd need more ground troops and/or a paid integration to have even the slightest bit of impact against tens of millions of drunk know-nothings.

  7. Somehow that "valiant few against the barbarian hordes" aspect of it makes it all the more attractive -- doomed crusades where you don't have to actually pull a Light Brigade charge into the guns don't hurt quite so much. And these days you never know what little thing might get traction on the net.

    Besides, what else is there to do for fun on Super Bowl Sunday?