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.