Ever see a little movie called Plan 9 From Outer Space?
A low budget 1959 effort by quirky director Ed Wood, Plan 9 From outer Space has been considered a cult favorite for its sheer awfulness. Long before Mystery Science Theater 3000 set about making movie mockery an art form all its own, kicking back with drinks and snacks to mock Plan 9 with friends was a great way to spend an evening. Plan 9's flaws are so obvious and so comical that you were never in danger of a party guest going, "But I like this movie!" Everyone knew it for what it was, and even a rookie film buff could enjoy taking verbal potshots.
Plan 9 From Outer Space was always fair game, the primer for enjoying a bad movie.
As we went into last fall, I truly thought that CBS's Elementary was the Plan 9 of modern Sherlocks, a loser of a show that only the completist collectors would pay much attention to. Of course, I quickly started discovering I was wrong in that estimation. Sure, the show sucked. But it had fans.
Now, a gracious Sherlockian, as so many are, might have backed off at that point. If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything. I like what I like, you like what I like, it's all good. But at the same time I discovered the Elementary fans out there, I discovered their prime defense of the "little brother" of Sherlockian television.
"Well, Sherlock got away with [insert flaw here], and you didn't yell at him!" Totally a younger sibling argument. And completely missing the point. Star Wars, for example, gets away with things that Plan 9 From Outer Space can't. They both have spaceships, aliens, and sci-fi hijinks, right? Just not really in the same ballpark. And the truly bad thing about that defense is the feeling you get that an Elementary fan might be willing to bring all of Sherlock Holmes down a few notches just to justify their enjoyment of what should just be accepted as a guilty pleasure of a show.
I've heard Rathbone cut down in defense of Elementary. I've heard Brett criticized in defense of Elementary. And worst of all, as displayed in one recent piece defending the show, even Doyle's original isn't proof against getting taken down a notch just to raise Elementary up a notch with phrases like "Conan Doyle's iteration."
Perhaps the writer just didn't know what "iteration" means, but the connotation is that Doyle was just another creator retelling the Sherlock Holmes story . . . that somehow existed before he ever put pen to paper. An iteration is just a repeat of the same process, so it also seems to say that the original Canon and Elementary are equals in this iterative process of retelling the story of Sherlock Holmes. And one story is just as good as another, isn't it?
Conan Doyle may have written "The Mazarin Stone" and "The Three Gables," but by Godfrey Norton, he didn't write sixty "Mazarin Gables." (By the way, can we raise a glass to Godfrey Norton? He seems to be getting screwed these days, no matter which modern adaptation you go for.)
Maybe Disney will make their new Star Wars movie with an Ed Wood flair, and we'll all find that lowering the bar is just the global warming of modern media, tossing away facts wherever needed to suit denial theories. Or not.
Occasionally, I feel really guilt for lambasting a show that's fans seem to be stung by my criticisms of it. And then I remember that they're the reason I've stuck with it this long.
Because I really shouldn't read what they're writing, just as they shouldn't be reading this.
I came across this page:ReplyDelete
This writer seems to be obsessed with both the CBS show and your blog.
His posts are always entertaining (even when they arouse some pity for the writer himself).
He needs to get a life!
It's good when people find a spot on the internet to vent. (And I should know!) But as I hinted at above, I'm trying to avoid reading comments on a certain CBS show myself, so I'll probably pass. It would be lovely to find something more interesting to blog about this summer . . . which can't be that hard.Delete
I have no scruples. I read it. I even get a mention! And a lambasting. At least your blog has humor, Brad. Don't read the blog--you'll just be tempted to be drawn into it. For once, I'm rising above my lesser nature and sitting on my hands to avoid responding.Delete
No worries,Jacquelynn, I have excellent Elementary-avoidance skills when called for. Sorry you had to read whatever it was. Sitting on your hands, however, can elevate you just enough to rise above sometimes.Delete
Too funny! Brad, have you banned Mr O'Leary from commenting? I wondered why I didn't find him here anymore. Apparently he has taken to answering your blog posts on the site cited above. Poor sod really needs to get a life...ReplyDelete
I don't ban anyone from commenting on my blog. But since the process of moderating comments involves reading said comments, if I don't particularly feel like reading comments from a given person at a given moment, they sit in moderation limbo until such time as I do. And sometimes that's a very long time. Just as folks have a choice to read this blog or not, I get the choice to read their comments or not. Seems fair.Delete
So I'm not clear about your criticism theory. So I should stay away from comparisons or fear blame. So I now challenge you to criticize without comparison and then I will defend the show.ReplyDelete
After spending all season criticizing a certain show, I think I have covered those bases . . . and several others. Instead of mounting defenses, fans of a show really need to just extol its virtues and let the chips fall where they may. And here's the real rub: every other TV or movie version of Holmes could be horrible, and it still wouldn't make Elementary any better.Delete
I'm trying to debate which might be folly. We agree then to no comparisons pro or con. You have criticized but from the grumpy old man perspective with an occasional wink. Since I enjoy the show then there must be something wrong with me. I of course assume that some of your dislike is an affectation that you will drop at some point in time.Delete
The fun things for me is that it is "SH", unlike House,MD that was indirectly Sherlockian. The plots do occasionally connect to the Canon and there is a complex back story that is slowly being revealed. Since I watch regularly all the CSI's and NCIS's I find Elementary more enjoyable since it connect to my interests in all things Sherlockian. Oh no, was that a comparison. Ok, new tact, having a female Dr. Watson is "thought provoking" in that it makes me think about the textbook of friendship, does the SH-JHW relation need to be male. Sounds like a BSJ paper, but that is exactly it the Sherlockian Scholarship that I enjoy. I even like your blog which is critical of something I like. I can image Brad in 1899 saying this Gillette thing is soo bad, Alice Faulkner and poison chambers? I'm saying, no no someday William Gillette will be our hero and we will be giving luncheons in his honor.
Well, I can't argue with that. The CSI-NCIS thing wasn't a comparison, by the way -- that was backstory and perfectly allowable. I appreciate your explanation, and you may want to remind me of it come September. I seem to have an almost allergic reaction to Jonny Lee Miller that causes inflammation. I should appreciate those who aren't so afflicted.Delete
Ummm . . . and I really hate to say this, but I never was really a fan of the Gillette play, and probably wouldn't be holding a lunch (or snack) in his honor if it were me . . . so I guess you're right there too.
Wait a minute . . . did you just say we'll be holding dinners in honor of Jonny Lee Miller? Must . . . restrain . . . Hulkish . . . anti . . . Elementary . . . rage . . .Delete
(Lord knows what happens if I ever debate that show in public. Better be a venue that has a "R" rating.)
Is fair! ;-DReplyDelete
It kinda sounds like playing basketball with the kid who owns the ball, and when he is unhappy, he takes his ball(s) and leaves.ReplyDelete
Naw, it's more like a petty tin god who silences blasphemers in his pocket universe. I'm not leaving. Guess what that means?Delete
Godfrey Norton, methinks, had the last laugh. Irene Adler (late) dies... but how? And with the help of who? (or whom?) Her husband (a barrister) is left with the photo, with any profits from the blackmail scheme now in his hands. Oh, wait, this blog was about 'Elementary.' Maybe they'll slip this in, somehow.ReplyDelete