Thursday, October 31, 2013

"From Sherlock Holmes."

Sometimes, it's the little things.

Little, but a trace of something much larger. 

So, tonight, I decide to watch Conan O'Brien. That's not such a big deal.

And at the start of the show, Conan introduced his guests. Not so exciting, right?

And then he says, ". . . from Sherlock Holmes . . ." my little ears perk up. Cumberbatch is on? I heard nothing of this.

And then Conan finishes, ". . .  Rachel McAdams!"

Let that sink in for a moment. The movie Sherlock Holmes came out in 2009. It's sequel came out in 2011. And yet, it's still being used to introduce the actress who played Irene Adler in 2013. 

The Notebook, Morning Glory, Wedding Crashers . . . all notable Rachel McAdams movies. Red Eye certainly stuck with me. But Sherlock Holmes get top introduction billing even now.

And it brings a silly little moment of joy to the Sherlockian heart.  

(Even if Morning Glory is still my favorite Rachel McAdams movie. I don't think it counts as "a Rachel McAdams movie" unless she lives all the way through it and/or its sequel . . . well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ghosts for Sherlock's Halloween

Among some traditions, the night of masks and candy that we call Halloween is, quite literally, a lot more spiritual. It is a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead grows thin, and those who have passed on have a chance at communicating with the living. Conan Doyle was more into this sort of thing than Sherlock Holmes, but even in Holmes's very rational world, a time for turning one's mind to thoughts of those long gone fits in perfectly with this time of year.

We all have our ghosts, and so did Sherlock Holmes. On a cold and rainy fall eve, with the wind whistling down the chimney and the fog separating 221B from the rest of London, the dead surely rose in Holmes's memory on occasion. And who were Holmes's dead?

The late Irene Adler surely leads the pack, for as another ghost from Sherlock's past, old Trevor, once said, "the ghosts of our old loves are the worst." Especially those with whom a relationship never got to play out, as with Irene. But she's not alone . . . there are other shades who come to mind right behind Irene, practically fighting to get through memory's door to 221 Baker Street.

John Openshaw, for example, murdered on his way home from Baker Street, would not have far to come. Holmes's failure to save Openshaw was haunting even without any supernatural influence. A client killed after obtaining Holmes's help is not a spectre that leaves quickly. Hilton Cubitt will be standing with Openshaw in that company as well.

Others who died during Sherlock Holmes's investigations are apt to be memorable, even if they weren't clients. Blessington -- he who will forever be remembered with a noose 'round his neck -- may have just been a victim of karma coming around, but anyone whose life ends dramatically within days of you first meeting them is going to stay with you.

Those whose deaths Sherlock Holmes was somehow party to . . . Milverton, little Tonga, Stapleton, and certainly Moriarty are liable to come to call during such a spectral season of remembrance. Moriarty definitely has the longest way to travel, but he's also a motivated spook. He left an impression in Holmes's mental ether like no other.

Whether in pleasant nostalgia or zombie nightmare, this pack of Holmes's dead surely revisited him, and their legion held many more, to be sure. Unknown ghosts, like Sherlock's family. Seemingly minor players, like the pale and blue-eyed wife of Godfrey Staunton, who might have touched Holmes's heart at a vulnerable moment. Nameless executed murderesses like she who Holmes called "the most winning woman I ever knew." Those of uncertain fates, like Captain James Calhoun. The list goes on and on.

Unless the Baker Street Irregulars decided to anachronistically dress up as past clients and killers and come knocking on Mrs. Hudson's front door for lollipops, Sherlock Holmes probably spent more quiet Halloween nights that most of us do these days. But that's not to say his brain-attic was not haunted on the occasional dark October night.

Happy Halloween, Sherlock-world. Enjoy your spooks, whatever form they take.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sherlock Holmes enters politics.

Sherlock Holmes has never been a stranger to politics. Whether it's an appearance in a political cartoon, a reference to "the dog who did nothing in the night-time" in an editorial, or a simple name-drop during any sort of investigative proceeding, Sherlock Holmes has been seen in political circles for quite some time. But he's almost always used to illustrate a point . . . not to be accused of having an agenda.

So when the headline "PC Mindset Dumbing Down CBS's Sherlock Holmes Reboot" appeared in my Google newsfeed today, I had to check it out. What it led to wasn't much of an article . . . a brief blog post, like most of what you'll find here . . . but it took a direction I completely wasn't expecting. There have been political correctness discussions about CBS's Elementary before regarding casting choices, particularly the transgendered Miss Hudson and an Asian-American female Watson. But this reviewer took it down an entirely different road: Elementary's Holmes is apparently a gun control advocate, based on some statistics he cited. (The thought from the headline seemingly being that gun control advocacy is being politically correct, though that really depends upon the political climate one is currently standing in the middle of.)

As Elementary's main character, Sean "Sherlock" Holmes, seems to enjoy hitting people with a stick more than shooting at them, I suppose he is. He's also from Great Britain, which is definitely gun control country. So one could argue that being pro-gun-control is a part of his character. Joan Watson, being an American, might like to tote a pistol just for contrast, but her mentor keeps insisting she use a stick like he does, to bop baddies on the head.

The blog post also considers Sean Holmes to be anti-free-market and anti-businessman, based on some of his actions and statements. But if you consider what a jerk he is to people of all sorts of stations in life, that would also mean he was anti-a-whole-lot-of-professions-and-hobbies.

The original Sherlock Holmes did have some definite, and sometimes curious, political leanings. He was certainly pro-education, seeing a good education as an important part of the future. He thought England and America would make one great country if they came together once more. He didn't seem to think guns should be illegal, and he didn't seem to think drugs should be illegal, but who's to say? One could get into a good debate as to where he fell on the political spectrum, though I'd definitely tend to think liberal, if not radical. But that might be telling more about me than Sherlock Holmes.

As for CBS's Elementary, I suspect its writers are more concerned with their next plot twist than promoting Obamacare, but you never know about that Hollywood liberal elite. They're as tricky as Irene Adler -- and you know what a show biz type she was. But in the end it doesn't really matter what their leanings are, so much as we've hit a level of popularity for characters named Holmes these days that the politics of one can be worth a pundit's time.

And that's a happy little takeaway.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Because all diamonds aren't blue carbuncles.

Fall is a time for the fans. The very old school fans. The fans whose numbers make any other fan base seem like lightweights. The fans that fans don't think of as fans the way we think of fans.

Not the Trekkies. the Potterheads, the Twihards . . . no.

The sports fans. Between pro football going strong and major league baseball hitting its climax, one can't spend any time at all among Americans at large this time of year without hearing about some game or the other. And if you listen closely, it doesn't take long to learn that they care as much about their favorite teams as we ever did about Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

It makes for some interesting compare/contrast musings. The love of physical prowess versus the love of mental proficiency. The accepted adversarial nature of fan groups versus the "can't we all just get along" dislike of inter-fan-group squabbles. The strict framework limiting possible outcomes versus the open creative field of limitless possibilities. And yet there is something very similar about the depth of passion sports fans feel, approaching a religious intensity, just like best of our own breed.

In fact, sometimes the best of our own breed has a beloved sports team or two that they may just care about almost as much as Holmes. But not all of us. So when something comes along like a World Series baseball match-up pitting the St. Louis Cardinals against the Boston Red Sox, a Sherlockian who hasn't spent any time considering the sport all year long might want to find some rationale for picking a team, just to be social.

So which is the logical choice for a Sherlockian in this World Series?

"St. Louis" appears twice in the the Canon of Sherlock Holmes. "Cardinal" appears twice in the Sherlockian sixty as well. Two and two equals four, the number of games it takes to win the World Series. Can't really dispute that kind of logic.

Boston may have some old Sherlockian clubbish connections, and the word "red" may have some Canonical mojo. But "Sox" gets no traction in Holmes lore, so all in all, it's hard to back the Rex Sox using Sherlock-based decision making. Of course, Sherlock-based decision making doesn't exactly have a lot of power in the fresh air and training world of professional baseball.

As I type this, Boston is leading St. Louis 3-1 in the fifth game of the series. But like I said, it takes four games to win the thing, and both teams have won two at this point. Will the Sherlock Holmes team win in the end? Well, unlike certain Holmes imitators who use "magical" deductive powers to predict the outcome of ballgames, no one can truly tell how things will turn out.

We shall see.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hats on to Sherlock Holmes.

I love getting the chance to wear a Sherlock Holmes hat.

Not that silly deerstalker. When you wear that thing, you can only be going for one effect: to look like somebody who wants to look like Sherlock Holmes. Whether you're the kid whose mother painstakingly sewed a costume for him in today's "For Better Or Worse" comic strip or Katherine Parkinson playing Kitty Riley pretending to be a fan of Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock, the deerstalker cap screams "SHERLOCK HOLMES!!!" to the point where it's practically unwearable. (Big kudos to Steve Thompson and the boys for figuring out how to get that hat on a modern day Sherlock and make it part of his image all in one fell swoop.)

What I really enjoy, however, is wearing one of those other hats that Sherlock Holmes wore. The less iconic ones. Sherlock was a  true hat-user in an era of serious hat-users, so there are a few.

Top hats can be fun, and finding the right moment to bring out that magical Victorian topper I found in an antique store years ago is always a delight. (Thank you, 221B Con, for this year's moment.) This Halloween season brought a different Sherlock Holmes hat into play, though, when . . . for my usual complex chain of Halloween costume logic . . . I decided to go to one party dressed as "Stumpy" from the short-lived TV series Carnivale. (Yes, I have a horrible history of picking the most obscure and unrecognizable costume choices possible for Halloween.)

The hat my costume involved this past Friday was the boater or skimmer, the flat straw hat favored by modern barber shop quartets, once used by carnival barkers, Victorian beach-goers, pre-War FBI agents, and, yes . . . Sherlock Holmes.

In Sidney Paget's illustrations for "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box," Holmes is shown wearing a boater quite dapperly while interviewing a witness, hailing a cab, and even in the case's most gruesome moment, as he carefully looks over the severed ears central to the mystery.

And if that wasn't enough, a different kind of gruesome occurs with Sherlock Holmes and the boater in Fox's 1939 film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, when Basil Rathbone's Holmes does an in-disguise song-and-dance number, "Beside the Seaside" with boater in play. (While BBC's Sherlock has cunningly paid tribute to many a moment in the history of Sherlock Holmes, this is one I hope they continue to overlook.)

Chances to wear the Sherlockian boater come few and far between, but as cosplay moves more into the fore as a standard Sherlockian activity, perhaps we'll be getting a lot more Holmes hat opportunities. Sherlock Holmes's variety of headgear makes him an excellent role for the hat fancier to display a lot of what men have worn over the years.

And besides, sometimes it's just fun to wear a hat.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Positively Elementary S2E5: He's a player and I don't mean chess.

(SPOILER ALERT! It's time to spill all the beans on this week's Elementary. Abandon hope of freshness, all ye who enter here!)

"No interesting murder cases in the last few weeks."

Only in TV land do we get statements like that. Murder, murder, murder . . . Joan Watson's instincts are to take up a missing-boyfriend case instead of insisting on murder this week, but her partner Sean "Sherlock" Holmes is sticking to the TV network agenda: Procedurals need murders to have their procedure.

Sigh. But as this week's episode is by the writer of last year's favorite offering, "Snow Angels," I'm curious to see what develops.

Interestingly, we learn that Sean Holmes is a chess player this week: the mark of a scheming mind, according to our old friend Sherlock Holmes. While chess is traditionally the tag writers like to add to demonstrate someone's intellectual nature, it has always been interesting to me that Sherlock Holmes made more references to playing cards -- and actually playing cards himself -- than anything to do with chess. Cards always made more sense with Holmes, playing the hand one is dealt, reading one's opponents. Moriarty was the chess man in the Canon, if ever there was one.

But that's okay. While Sean has been holding back in the area of disguise, where Sherlock excelled, the New York Holmes does disguise his voice on the phone this week, and disguise it well, so he gets a few points for that. Still, I'm having more more fun watching Joan Watson on her side investigation . . . well, until they find a fun fellow named Leo in hotel room full of money, drugs, and whores. Like the male viewers, Leo is checking out Joan Watson during the interview and his crazy moustache is almost as much fun as the Sean's last line in the scene, when he walks off with Leo's wad of cash:

"That cocaine, however, that's entirely yours!" Good on you, Sean, for playing against overblown Sherlock stereotypes! Got an actual laugh out of that one, which has been a long time coming with Elementary.

But then it gets funnier still, as Joan's case to find her friend Jennifer's missing one-night-stand takes a sudden twist: That irrepressible scamp Sean was the culprit all along. Imagining him dodging Joan's encounters with her friend Jen for the past year adds a little spice.

In contrast to Sherlock Holmes, who let the ladies be John H. Watson's department, Sean Holmes seems to happily head down that road whenever he can slip it in outside of his weekly murder mystery. . . the fact that he's stayed clear of Joan Watson while she's living in the same house with him wearing some very sexy outfits -- which can even coordinate with bullet proof vests when called upon -- is a testament to his willpower. (Or maybe that Joan just isn't as quick-to-bed as at least one of her friends.)

After Sean Holmes's ludicrous demonstration of single-stick training this episode, however, I'm wondering if he's only doing that so he can make double-entendre references to his "stick" as he chases the ladies. He adopts a poor imitation of a fencer's stance and hits a dummy lightly on the top of the head, almost like he's pretending to do it just for Joan's benefit when she walks in. Which makes him seem all the goofier when she comes in and toys with him a bit, pretending her friend Jen might possibly be pregnant with Sean's love-child.

Writer Jason Tracey has turned in another amusing tale above Elementary's batting average this week, and I hope the show's producers have him back again soon . . . along with the one-shot Miss Hudson, who has yet to return to the show. (Yes, Clyde the turtle has made more appearances than Miss Hudson, which makes him the closest thing to a landlady or Billy the page Elementary has.)

But when all is said and done, it's still Elementary. And what that means is up to you.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happiness is a responsive PBS.

When you bitch upon the web,
Makes no difference if tides ebb!
When you bitch upon the web,
Your dreams come truuuuuuuuuuue!

Entertainment Weekly broke the premiere date of Sherlock season three on PBS today, before anyone found out even when BBC was doing their first run, and a good date it is: January 19, 2014. Even now, eight hours later, this probably isn't news to anyone on the web. But having blog-bitched about PBS delaying the last season of Sherlock for months after the BBC premiere, as well as their potential to pull the same stunt this time around, I find I owe the Public Broadcasting Corporation an apology . . . and some money.

This is one of the big problems with blogging . . . other than the part where everybody gets to call you on your every mistake . . . is that one can definitely be held to account for statements made previously. Especially those made just three days ago.

True, technically I did say I'd be making a donation to PBS if they simulcast Sherlock at the same time, or the same weekend, as the BBC, but you know what? I'll take January 19th, without even knowing what the BBC is doing. They're getting a donation from me this year, regardless of my standing opinion that broadcast television is still the dinosaur in the room at this point. 

“We love that Sherlock fans are so passionate and eager to see Season 3,” PBS chief programmer Beth Hoppe was quoted by Entertainment Weekly as saying. 

Yes, Sherlock has fans so passionate that PBS actually acknowledges their existence and considers them in its decisions. You remember Sherlock fans? That oft-discounted-by-elder-Sherlockians group who were once seen as a fluffy flash-in-the-pan? Well, they just got us Sherlock months ahead of when we might have otherwise seen it. They did that. Not grumpy old me, bitching in my blog a few days ago. Not the gathered Baker Street Irregulars of New York, who will be meeting two days prior (and probably in transit home about the time it's going to be showing). Not any other big name Sherlockian past or present you can name.

The Sherlock fans did this. And they should take a well earned victory lap before sitting down to watch "The Empty Hearse" on January 19th. Good on you, ladies and (I know you're out there!) gents.

And thank you. Fans. PBS. Beth Hoppe. I'll just sit here being happy. Happy, happy, happy.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why not American?

I was listening to Penn Jillette's weekly podcast, Penn's Sunday School, this week, when Penn brought up the notion of playing Conan Doyle in a movie opposite Kevin Pollak as Harry Houdini. Now, Penn Jillette is about as American as American can be, and would definitely need some serious accent coaching to even attempt such a thing, but that brought up an interesting question . . . an American question.

With all of the grand gender-bending and race-bending play with Holmes and Watson going on today, there is one change that still seems to be off-limits. Holmes can be a woman, Watson can be a woman, no big deal. But can Sherlock Holmes be an American?

Now, I don't know if the Sherlock Holmes of the comic Watson and Holmes is an American, but I don't think it really counts, for two reasons: a.) The focus of the comic is mainly the change in race. and b.) It's a comic book. We can't hear voices.

The concept itself seems simple enough. Sherlock Holmes could have been born in any country in the world. But in a movie or television series for an English-speaking audience, can he exist without that British accent?

It seems to be a key feature of James Bond, but one could argue that he works for MI-6. His British-ness is a part of his character. But when Sherlock Holmes is working for the NYPD and living in New York, as Elementary would tell us, is there any reason for keeping him British? "Old Red" Amlingmeyer of Holmes on the Range is a great Sherlock Holmes, but it's well established that he isn't Holmes . . . he's an American. An "American Sherlock Holmes" seems to remain always an American and never a Sherlock Holmes. Would it be too hard a trick to pull off, especially in a medium where we hear his voice?

One of the little things that put me off Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes from the start was his accent. While I'm no Henry Higgins on specific British accents, Miller's accent didn't sound at all like I'd come to expect Holmes's to sound. And if that little bit of regional variation made a difference, I wonder if an actor could make me believe in his Holmes with an American one?

Of course, that point is moot if no one ever makes a serious attempt at it. Will it happen? Well, American Watsons seem to be a stepping stone, but that step has been made for decades, and still, no American Sherlock Holmes. But people seem to be trying a little of everything these days, so we may get there yet.

Franklin D. Roosevelt thought that Holmes was an American, and so many other visions of his came to pass during his presidency. Perhaps we can get around to this one one of these days.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

BBC gets it; PBS can jump off Reichenbach.

Get ready for a rant rerun. But it's due.

An amazing teaser preview has been being cheered on social networks this weekend. The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. What's this got to do with Sherlock Holmes, other than the obvious Moffat connection, you ask? Well, nothing. And that's the problem.

BBC announced weeks ago that the Doctor Who special would be simultaneously broadcast across the globe. BBC America will show it at exactly the same moment that the BBC does in England. That means a true fan can watch it completely fresh, without spoilers coming across Twitter or Facebook, without having to dodge reviews for any period of time until they can see it, basically getting to join their fellow fans across the globe for a moment in Doctor Who joy.

Meanwhile, even though dates have yet to be confirmed, word on the street is that the third season of Sherlock will be broadcast in January on BBC in Britain and in March on PBS in America. Among old school Holmes fans, there is a love of that phrase from Starrett, "And it is always 1895," but with PBS the phrase might go, "Where it is always 1985."

Times have changed. If a network expects people to cough up donation dollars for their service, that service should be on a par with comparable services offered elsewhere. And in the internet age, a three month delay in giving your viewers programming they can soon learn every detail of without leaving their home is not doing the job. If you're sitting at home, reading your newspaper and waiting for a call on your landline phone, this might not be an issue for you or your Amish brethren. But for the modern Sherlock Holmes fan . . .

It's a problem.

If PBS announced a Sherlock season premiere simulcast, they'd be seeing donation dollars from me. Even if they just got it on the same weekend as the UK gets it. But waiting until March might as well be waiting for it to come on Netflix streaming next year, where I won't have to put up with their pledge breaks. (Which, let's face it, are just commercials they save up for a while.)

Hopefully PBS will wise up one of these days or BBC will end their relationship with that seemingly unnecessary network. The Sherlock actors like to talk about doing these roles for many years to come. But if we're in 2033, still putting up with PBS programming delays here in America . . . well, Sherlockians may decide it's time to reverse the American revolution.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Positively Elementary S2E4: The secret name revealed.

"You used to know me, by another name . . . Sean Holmes."

Yes, my friends, here there be spoilers. Flee or stay as you will.

This week's Elementary contained a key moment in the character development of Dr. Joan Watson's resident patient: the revelation of the name he used as a child, before he started telling the world his name was "Sherlock Holmes."

There was, of course, the usual titillation thrown in to kick off the story -- a murder victim in an extra large gimp suit. That detail was quickly dismissed, and the accompanying dominatrix hustled off stage for the rest of the episode. She did give Sean a bullwhip to play with, however.

We learn a lot about Sean Holmes this episode, for which I am quite thankful. Sean's being beaten by bullies as a boy, his crush on an attractive accused murderess whose letters offered him both escape and inspiration to become a consulting detective. It's quite a different story than the college visit to the Trevor household of "The Gloria Scott" that Sherlock Holmes fans are familiar with, but we knew long ago that this wasn't the Sherlock Holmes we've always known.

Sean Holmes's correspondence crush with suspected criminal Abigail Spencer (who later changed her name to Anne Barker) as a lad offers an interesting parallel to his current correspondence relationship with Jamie Moriarty (who earlier changed her name to Irene Adler). Murderous women and letters seems to be a real weak spot of his.

We get a little about the good doctor this week, as well: Joan Watson's uncle was a contractor . . . which gives her a talent for spotting false architectural details. Her participation in the solution of each episode is a regular event this season, which is has had a pleasant softening effect. Not that this episode needed it, this week's little mystery is practically a Lifetime channel mini-movie of quiet relationship talks.

After one such talk with the young victim of sexual abuse at the tale's end and the offer of a sympathetic ear, Sean Holmes is shown focusing a lot of deep-seated anger on a punching bag. It balances his fighting practice earlier in the episode, but it would seem to imply he's working out some of his own inner demons. One has to wonder if the physical violence he suffered as a boy didn't have a bit of a sexual abuse factor.

Just as Joan Watson has been coming into her own this season, it seems that Sean Holmes might be headed toward a more sympathetic role as his full character develops outside that great shadow that is summoned by the name "Sherlock Holmes." It has been an interesting year so far on Elementary. Perhaps not interesting enough that I'm recommending it to my friends just yet, but worth keeping an eye on, just to see where it's headed.

Sean Holmes and Dr. Joan Watson. If only they'd just have started with that, this show would have made a lot more sense, but it's been fun playing with insane Baker Street Irregular theories in getting to this point.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A moment in Time.

Today, it seemed like an excellent day to pause, take a quiet moment, and just . . .

Respect the Cumberbatch.

This is going to seem a little redundant, a little "Yeah. Well, duh . . ." to the Cumberbitches, who now seem like vestal oracles, fore-sighted visionaries whose entranced states first pointed to that which was to come. I bow to their wise prophetic instincts. It's like we need a new evolutionary chart to take the place of that classic monkey-to-man thing, starting with William Gillette loping the Earth with his knuckles on the ground, working onward through a Neanderthalian Basil Rathbone, and finally arriving at Benedict Cumberbatch, upright and chin slightly tilted toward the heavens as a faint glow emanates from his very flesh.

Hyperbole? Maybe a little. But the dude made the cover of Time magazine. An actor who gained his first real name recognition for most of us by playing Sherlock Holmes. And instead of being typecast, as so many actors have in such an iconic role, went on to two more classic characters and perhaps the most notorious character of the cyber age. And made the cover of Time, just by being Benedict Cumberbatch.

The irony here at Sherlock Peoria is that the late Sherlockian Bob Burr, who was dismissive at best of BBC Sherlock, had a subscription to Time that ran out just before the Cumberbatch issue . . . almost like he was as psychic as a Cumberbitch, but with typical Burrian exactness.

Even if this is the peak of Mount Cumberbatch, it's a pretty respectable height, which is why I wanted to stop and mark the moment, just as I did earlier in the week with TV Guide. Can Oprah just put Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock on the cover of her 0 magazine by tomorrow, so we can pull off a Sherlock Holmes trifecta?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Falls aren't always about Reichenbach with Sherlock Holmes.

Once upon a time, autumn meant changing fall colors. Now it seems to mean pumpkin spice latte, thanks to marketing and developments in flavor chemistry. But for the true-blue Sherlockian, one has to be a bit old-fashioned and side with the changing fall colors. Why?

Well, the single reference to pumpkin in the Canon of Holmes is found in "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange," wherein Sir Eustace Brackenstall's killer described the act thusly: "I went through him as if he had been a rotten pumpkin." Yes, "Sir Eustace's head" equals "rotten pumpkin." Enjoy that latte.

But the rustle of falling leaves as they flutter to the ground and carpet it in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The wonderful autumn panorama of "The Problem of Thor Bridge."

The October rain of "The Resident Patient."

Even the annual hunting invitation from "The Gloria Scott," if that's "deer" to you.

As much as the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes are spread across all the seasons of the year, there is something particularly autumnal about them. A yellow face mask in a springtime story still reminds one of Halloween. Those than involve deaths make one tend toward fall rather than seasons of new life, radiant sun, or frost and ice. (Death may be cold, but it's not that cold.) Even the classic Sherlock Holmes wardrobe of stereotype . . . the deerstalker cap and Invernesse cape . . . are the clothes of fall.

Had Holmes run around hatless in rolled-up shirtsleeves, maybe we'd think of him more of a summer fellow. Had Mrs. Hudson been serving up green salads, had Dr. Watson enjoyed a lemonade at the seaside in a boater hat on occasion, had cases ended with the birth of babies . . . well, who knows how different the general season of the stories might feel? But even at that, there are other reasons why autumn is a very Sherlockian season.

Fall has traditionally also been a season of anticipation for Sherlockians. Preparations are being made for January festivities. New Holmes pastiches are available for Christmas lists. Back from summer breaks, many a Sherlockian society is going full-steam.

It's a lot more than a Sir Eustace Brackenstall spice latte. Enjoy!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Hook Up.

"Will Holmes & Watson Hook Up?"

If you missed seeing or hearing about this week's issue of TV Guide, the above words are its cover's featured headline. Mark this date in history as another first in Sherlockian history . . . Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have finally made a tabloid headline.

It's a little forced, of course. Anyone who knows the show in question, has glanced at any of a hundred articles or interviews on the wetb, or just mistakenly thinks they're talking about Jeremy Brett and David Hardwicke for some reason . . . well, the answer is clearly, "No."

On the other hand, if one is answering the question for the entire history of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, in film, print, and the internet, the answer is not only the opposite . . . it's almost foolish.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson hooked up a long time time ago. And seem to do so quite regularly.

Porn got to them first, of course. Fanfic added variety in said hook-ups. I don't know if the hook-up question really excites the true Elementary fan or the casual TV viewer, but to a lot of us, it probably seems kind of ho-hum at this point.

Even given the history of television and Elementary itself, it seems kind of ho-hum. Will the two main characters one day hook up? If the show runs until its makers and stars choose to end it, rather than an unexpected cancellation by the network, I would bet on them becoming a couple.

Consider the alternatives. For a climactic final episode, there are the basic choices of comedy or tragedy. Comedy ends in a wedding, tragedy ends in death. Jonny Lee Miller performing a death scene as a part of Lucy Liu's Joan Watson finally ascending to master consulting detective would seem like a strong possibility, a logical conclusion to the current setup. But if Elementary goes seven seasons or more, I think a certain sentimentality is going to develop that won't allow that. And what's left once you rule out death?

Marriage. Or something close. Like the unimaginable coupling of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully on X-Files, it seems like one of those weird choices that will inevitably get made for reasons outside the demands of good story-telling. But anything is possible.

If TV Guide featuring a headline asking "Will Holmes & Watson Hook Up?" tells us nothing else, it sure tells us that.

Anything is possible. And we're probably going to see a lot more things we never expected before Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are done.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The cursed Baskerville clan. How bad is it? Bad.

That poor Baskerville family.

After re-reading The Hound of the Baskervilles last month, I've been well reminded as to how troublesome a single canine cursing your family can be. But a trip to Barnes & Noble last night showed things to be much worse than I ever imagined. Titles like The Hen of the Baskervilles and Chihuahua of the Baskervilles jumped out at me as I wandered the shelves. A little googling when I got home brought up the existence of a hamster of the Baskervilles, a cat of the Baskervilles, an entire pound of the Baskervilles, a goose of the Baskervilles, a pit bull of the Baskervilles, and even an otter of the Baskervilles . . . oh, wait, that's just Benedict Cumberbatch.

Anyway, the thought that all this put in my head was this: What if Hugo Baskerville wasn't an isolated case?

What if all the Baskervilles had a hereditary tendency to offer their souls to all that is evil for something that would cause an ironic animal-related death for them and their descendents.

"I'll render my body and soul to the Powers of Evil if I can just have some more turkey, Barrymore!"

SHAZAM! The Turkey of the Baskervilles!

"A horse! A horse! My body and soul to the Powers of Evil for a horse!"

PRESTO! The Stallion of the Baskervilles!

"That's bull! If that's not bull, I'll give my body and soul to the Powers of Evil! Bull!"

KA-PLOWEE! The Longhorn of the Baskervilles!

"Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-yi, ee-yi, body and soul to the Powers of Evil . . . ."

ZING! BIFF! POW! The Hog of the Baskervilles! The Ewe of the Baskervilles! The Llama of the Baskervilles!

You'd think that Baskervilles could go vegetarian and pet-free, secure their house like a fortress, and be safe from the cursed menagerie stalking them from all of their forebears' bad life choices, but nooooooooo, the internet also shows a reference to a Cabbage of the Baskervilles. If the vegetables are also going to start cursing the Baskervilles, they're totally screwed.

And even Sherlock Holmes can't keep up with bringing rationality to that much silliness. It's not like he's showing up in books like The Hen of the Baskervilles and Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, I'm guessing. The guy has some dignity, even now, after the Asylum Sherlock Holmes.

But those poor Baskervilles . . . .

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Old loves in changing times.

I took a trip to a classic metropolitan bookstore today. I hate to say which one, because it made me a little sad. The shelves weren't as full as they once were, and the selection held no surprises. The likes of Amazon, eBay, and Alibris have changed the book lover's experience substantially in the last decade or so, and the rise of the e-book is on the verge of changing it even more.

I was reminded of an exchange between Barin, Aura, and Zarkov in that silly old Flash Gordon movie with the Queen soundtrack, in which a conversation on the spiritual conversions of Barin and Aura ends with Zarkov declaring, "A-ha! I thought it was one of the prime numbers in the zenith series! I haven't changed!" Because despite the world spinning on as it must, I found that, like Zarkov, I haven't changed.

The urge to by new editions of the same sixty stories just keeps coming back when nothing else in the bookstore attracts. A particularly attractive cover, a unique little box set, an odd individual publication of a single short story . . . each seemed to say, "Take me home with you! Let me join others of my kind in your library!" And it was a siren call that once, many years ago, I might have succumbed to. But many an urge grow muted with age, and the weight of all the editions of the Canon I already own kept my hand from picking up another.

But it isn't just the physical books that stay with one through changing times. I was thinking a lot of a particular governess with a particular shade of chestnut hair and her consultation with Sherlock Holmes over a small matter that just didn't sit quite right -- a potential employer who insisted she cut her hair. Such a simple little thing, yet Arthur Conan Doyle found the material for a solid yarn there. No need for Jack the Ripper, elaborate internet hackers, unique sexual relationships, vampires, theoretical mathematics, or other showboating past or present pastiches like to toss in. Perhaps time has made "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" a less viable tale for modern mass audiences, but why does it stick in my mind so well?

Perhaps it's just another old love sticking with me through changing times. So many fictions in whatever medium you choose fail to be memorable even a few months or a year after you experience them. Those tales that you find yourself holding on to then become very special . . . especially when everything else around you is changing.

Of course, holding on doesn't require stockpiling your library with too many redundant copies of those stories. But maybe just one more . . . .

Friday, October 11, 2013

Positively Elementary S2E3: Joan Watson gets a client.

This week's episode of CBS's Elementary was ground-breaking from the Sherlockian perspective: Joan Watson and her partner actually got a client. Amazing how much closer to a Sherlock Holmes story that little detail makes the episode feel at first, but then two little details quickly distract: the client, not Joan's partner, insists they wait for Joan Watson to show up to tell his story (though it makes sense, given how much she's the one solving cases) and after the client leaves, Joan and her sidekick go sit in their usual meeting room at NYPD to discuss it. This is definitely a different sort of reality, non-Canonical, non-real-world . . . it's Joan Watson's world, and we're just watching it.

Elementary's Joan-centricness really is improving the show this season. It's still got little to do with Sherlock Holmes, of course, but everybody seems more comfortable with the character they cast Lucy Liu into last season, and it's making the watching less painful.

Joan Watson's detective skills are tested by her room-mate, who sends her pictures of murder scenes staged in a doll house while she's hanging out with a friend who signed her up for an online dating service. Joan wakes to find Clyde the turtle in her bed. (An erotic fanfic jumping-off point if ever there was one!) Joan and her roomie get hit with some massive identity theft, including Joan's dating profile spreading the word that she's an agreeable nude toy train enthusiast. The show still likes it's silly little titillations, of course, but the lady takes them in stride and ignores them as needed.

Joan's one legitimate connection via the dating site proves a bit sweet, and really, one can totally ignore the internet silliness of the plot, and just enjoy the goodness that is Joan. Her room-mate is still random, flakey, and nonsensical in spots, but she is now carrying the show quite nicely. She saves the day in this episode, which is becoming a happy trend. Another season and she's going to be a master consulting detective with a wacky sidekick . . . she's very close to that now.

What does all this have to do with Sherlock Holmes? Why am I blogging about it in a Sherlock Holmes based blog? I'm starting to wonder, but man, that Joan Watson is something.

P.S. Joan's arch-enemy, Jamie Moriarty, is secretly writing letters from prison to Joan's room-mate and gettting into his head, so Joan will have to take that wench down again one of these days. Hopefully off a waterfall this time. Go Joan!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brothers Holmes, brothers Wilde.

Having delightedly finished Lindsay Faye's Seven for a Secret this morning, the brothers Wilde have been on my mind today.

Make no mistake -- Timothy and Valentine Wilde are no Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Though the younger one is a talented investigator and the older a man whose involvement in government is not to be underestimated, the Wildes are a very complicated pair. And so, so American.

Not to say that Sherlock and Mycroft aren't a complex pair, but we were never given enough Sherlock-Mycroft relationship screen-time in the Sherlockian Canon to explore their brotherly origins or ongoing encounters. Finishing the second book of the Wilde brothers of New York City, one starts to feel that absence a little more sharply. Lyndsay Faye weaves a great tale, and even though it has certain echoes of Conan Doyle (Silkie Marsh may not be a complete Irene Adler/Moriarty cross, but she carries the best of both in a wonderful new arch-nemesis.) Like Rex Stout before her, Lyndsay takes her love of Sherlock Holmes to another level. Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin were never meant to be Holmes and Watson, but you always knew they were of the same spiritual bloodline.

I don't know if the Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York knew he was signing up a new Rex Stout when he brought Lyndsay into the fold, but he may have even done one better: she knows how to end a novel, a minor quibble I always held with Stout's mysteries, where almost any of the suspects could have easily done the crime. But those were different times, when murder mysteries were just plain murder mysteries, and not involving historical adventures that went into social issues of the day. Lyndsay is definitely working with a wider palette of colors in painting her New York of the 1800s.

One could go on with Wilde-Holmes parallels all day long: Timothy Wilde definitely has his Mrs. Hudson, and if one stretches the mind far enough, his Billy, his Watson, and . . . well, trying to match Yarders with copper stars is a complete mess. But that is how it should be. Gods of Gotham and Seven for a Secret are original and well-created works all their own.

But for the Sherlockian, there's that little bit of familiarity, as well as a wish that we'd gotten to see Sherlock and Mycroft as clearly as we see Timothy and Valentine, that makes a good thing even better.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Loving Lucy Liu.

This just in on Elementary, from The Wall Street Journal via I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere on Scoop.It!:

"Lucy Liu, who plays Holmes’s apprentice, Watson, said she had urged the show’s creators to change the characters’ names during their first meeting. But Doherty 'was very secure with his opinion.'"

Boy, if that doesn't make a Lucy Liu fan's Monday morning, I don't know what does. Beauty, charm, and a good, healthy dose of common sense? Of course, the WSJ blog's headline, "No Holmes-Watson Romance in Elementary, Show's Creator Says," points more to the common sense of Liu's character, Joan Watson, but any experienced television viewer knows not to trust the "no romance" claims -- if a show with male and female leads is on long enough, like The X-Files, even completely non-romantic characters can wind up together.  And since Mr. Elementary is starting to make more noises about wanting to be in Joan Watson's personal life, as in last week's episode, and we're only starting season two, at least one of the pair seems headed that direction.

And that "If you sleep with my brother, you're sleeping with me" line from the first episode of this season shows that Mr. Elementary is certainly thinking about the possibilities. But Joan Watson has seemed proof against his sexual harassments so far (he is her employer, after all), and will hopefully continue on the sane path, probably having to break his heart eventually when he becomes just too infatuated with her.

I mean, he is living in a house with Lucy Liu, isn't he? And if quotes like the one that came out yesterday keep popping up, she's just becoming irresistible.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Positively Elementary, S2E2: Joan Watson Watch.

As a service to those readers of Sherlock Peoria who choose not to watch the CBS television program Elementary, the following blog is provided as a public service. It may contain spoilers, cursing, personal opinion, and and unflattering descriptions of televised events. There's your warning. But you're going to read this anyway, aren't you?

It's all about Joan Watson, really. I see that now.

While BBC Sherlock can riff on The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes one episode and Fox's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in another, CBS's Elementary has dedicated itself to one long tribute to They Might Be Giants. Dr. Mildred Watson, played by Joanne Woodward, is now "Joan(ne) Watson," who must carefully oversee the investigations of a man who calls himself "Sherlock Holmes."

Last week, as you may recall, Joan Watson went with Mr. Elementary to London, surely hoping that confronting the realities of his past might be beneficial. Mr. Elementary spun stories of an elaborate sanctum sanctorum, Sherlock Holmes's classic 221B, which he claimed existed in the space where a restauranteur's modern condo was found to currently be. Having had an affair with the restauranteur's fiancee, Mr. Elementary apparently still had a key to the place, and the restauranteur, still holding a grudge, was more than willing to exacerbate his rival's delusions by taking the role of Mycroft Holmes on the spur of the moment. "Destroying" all the imaginary contents from the imaginary 221B in a rigged explosion was the perfect added touch, both to further the delusion and give a little jab of revenge at Mr. Elementary.

This week, Dr. Joan Watson was visiting the grave of Gerald Castoro on the day after the anniversary of her death. His son Joey finds her there, also marking the anniversary a day late with a bouquet of flowers. Not really a guy thing to do, especially at a father's grave, but one gets the feeling he's there to see Joan . . . in which case the flowers make sense.

Dr. Watson and Joey go for coffee, he thinks she's working for the police, but she explains that she's a consulting detective. Joey proves to be this Watson's Thurston, offering her an investment opportunity, and she returns home for find a half-naked man moving artfully in front of a projector, which she finds entrancing for a moment. She's been without male companionship for a while.

Watson asks for an advance from her employer -- five thousand bucks, which makes one wonder what her weekly paycheck is. Her latest bit of work involves the P versus NP problem, which is some genuine smart people stuff. Chances are that the people who actually work with said problem aren't watching Elementary, so verifying anything that goes on in this episode in polynomial time is probably not going to happen. In fact, it's so abstruse that it's not really interesting, so it's good Watson is being forthcoming about how she killed Gerald Castoro.

Doing surgery to remove Castoro's right adrenal gland, Watson nicked his vena cava and he bled out. (Reminding this old Peorian of Victorian Dr. Watson's work with the prostitutes of the East End . . . but that's a story for another time, and hopefully Joan wasn't drunk like her predecessor in a certain fanfic of yore.) Castoro's son Joey, seventeen at the time, didn't blame Watson, plainly bonding with the beautiful doctor during a very emotional time in his adolescence.

In the middle of the night, and shirtless, Joan's employer offers her four times the five thousand she asks for, in hopes she'll use it to end her relationship with Joey Castoro. Not really the best form for one's employer, but he is a bit mad, so we'll forgive that and not accuse harassment. Joan takes the money, but not the advice, and actually uses it to further her relationship with Joey, becoming an almost replacement father figure.

After solving her latest case for both her employer and NYPD, Joan Watson completely rules this episode, so much so that her mad little boss actually talks about wanting to tag along on her next cemetery visit. All in all, it is perhaps Lucy Liu's best performance since this series started last year, and one hope that she can carry it  to greater things.

One even starts to suspect Joan might be a descendent of the original Dr. Watson, after her warm and very human turn this week, rising above the influence of her employer to assert herself. With his experience of the women of three continents, that old boy did get around, and probably left his name along with his DNA on most of them. Perhaps one day she can just start working with Bell, whose lineage may also contain the chromosomes of a certain Victorian namesake, and cut out the middle man entirely.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

And in an odd non-Sherlock moment . . . .

Well, if Arthur Conan Doyle wasn't spinning in his grave last week, he just might be after the latest fiction series popping up on the radar.

In 1912, after Sherlock Holmes was well established, he published a little novel entitled The Lost World, wherein the larger-than-life Professor Challenger discovers dinosaurs living on a hidden plateau in South America. It was one of the earliest, if not the first fictional encounter between man and dinosaur.

In the years that followed, we got the dinosaurs of Skull Island in King Kong, cowboys versus Mexican dinosaurs in The Valley of Gwangi, dino-based human civillization in The Flintstones and herds of other dinosaur-encounter fictions leading up to Jurassic Park and its sequels. And now, the works of Christie Sims and Alara Branwen: Ravished by the Triceratops, T-Rex Troubles, Ravaged by the Raptor, and others are out there on Amazon (Not the South American one.), bringing humans and dinosaurs together like Conan Doyle never dreamed. And if you want to credit Conan Doyle with inspiring works like Kong and Jurassic Park, well I guess this winds up at his doorstep, too.

If Professor Challenger winds up putting down his binoculars and rubbing his eyes like a cartoon character at this one, don't be surprised.