Friday, October 31, 2014

E3:1. The painful details.

Perhaps I was a little too light on my comments on the third season premiere of CBS's Elementary. So let's get a little more in depth . . .

Joan Watson is having lunch at a nice restaurant with her own Professor Moriarty, Elana March, having set in motion plans to bring the criminal kingpin down. A few months later, she's solving a theft for a private client. She then finds a missing lizard for her neighbor's brother . . . and has a meet-cute in the process. (She has a turtle, he has a lizard.)

Joan Watson is a mystery-solving machine.

At least she is until Mr. Elementary's presence in New York mystically lowers her detective quotient with his cloud of random weirdness. For some reason he thinks that an "isolator helmet" from the 1920s is an effective and useful mental aid.

Captain Gregson doesn't want him back, and lectures Mr. Elementary like a schoolboy who's missed a few classes: "You want to come back, that's fine. You want to leave again, that's fine, too. But the work is going to have to be exceptional." Because Joan Watson seems to be covering things just fine.

Except that she still thinks whacking people with a baton is an effective form of self-defense, and gets in a fight with the only other person in New York stupid enough to agree with that notion . . . the one other woman in NYC trained by Mr. Elementary to whack things with a baton. Whack fight! Whack fight!

Pity Kitty Winter isn't the fiery female from the old Canon of real Sherlock. Well, maybe not a pity, because her weapon of choice was acid. Anyway, Kitty is Mr. Elementary's "protege, not my partner" -- in other words, another woman he can abuse the way he once abused Joan . . . and still seems to think he can.

Mr. Elementary has come to the conclusion that his calling in life is as a mentor and teacher, and not some kind of dom-sub detective kinkster. Joan doesn't like him. Gregson doesn't like him. The jury is still out on Kitty Winter's opinion of him, but I'm betting she doesn't like him either.

I know I don't like him. He's still running around like he deserves the name of the world's first and foremost consulting detective, a guy who knew exactly what his purpose in life was. Mr. Elementary simply solves crimes because his writers make him say the solution. Before he returned to town, Joan Watson got to say solutions for the writers.  But she gets to spot the final clue in this episode, and bring down her nemesis, Elana March.

So one basically has to ask one's self, why is anyone putting up with Mr. Elementary at all any more . . . except as someone Joan can secretly be harboring affection for. Joan's "Why here?" and Mr. Elementary's "Because I belong here, as do you" belies the showrunners early statements that Mr. Elementary and Joan will never become a couple. They're bad fiction soulmates, not a well matched set of friends like the real Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Now rivals, secretly in love. Sheesh.

For all the feminist hype about a female Watson, Elementary is now in a place where it would be a better show if Joan Watson was just the main character, and it let go its pretense of knowing anything about a man called Sherlock Holmes.

A better show. Maybe not yet a good show, without some improvements backstage, but still . . . better without that British guy, whom it now seems Britain doesn't want either.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ah, Howard, it's not even worth complaining about any more.

There are about eighty Canonical characters whose names begin with "M," first or last. And here's the funny part: None of them are "March." So as a "nod" to the one true Watsonian Canon, the writers of CBS's Elementary, felt it appropriate to ignore all eighty or so actual "M" names from the Canon, most of which haven't been used by any TV Sherlock show, and go with one that isn't in the original sixty stories.

Yeah, that makes sense.

In case you were wondering, "M" isn't the most common name-starter in the Canon. At a rough count, it looks like "S" has it beat out, so "Smith" would actually be a good name to use as a "nod" to the Canon . . . especially as it is actually IN the Canon.

And so we begin the third season of the show that can make a Sherlockian go "Huh? What? That's still on?"

It is.

Imagine a world where Sherlock Holmes fought Moriarty at Reichenbach (except he didn't) and then, after spending a long while away from London, came back and found Dr. Watson solving murders for Scotland Yard . . . and the Yard feeling no urgency to replace Watson with their former consultant. And Holmes brought a new buddy back with him, and that buddy and Watson swatted at each other with sticks for a bit.

There's more to it than that, because it's all about the relationship, really. A relationship between a guy that's supposed to be good at something and his apprentice, who is of the opposite sex, as all of his apprentices seem to be, so there can be a sort of non-sexual tension of some sort.

Yeah, I just don't get it. I used to find this show slightly offensive on several planes, not the least of which was calling a character "Sherlock Holmes" who had little more than an English accent to back up that claim. But at this point, as it has wandered around and found its own . . . something . . . well, it's just so far from having anything to do with Sherlock Holmes as I've always known him that it's not even irritating any more. It's just sort of . . . "Oh, that . . . ."

And Forever is on now. Pity they didn't call that guy "Sherlock Holmes," running around all immortal with Judd Hirsch as Dr. Watson running an antique shop. It would have made just as much sense, but been so much more charming.

Considering Sherlock Holmes and sex.

It's good to see and actor who can play a good Sherlock showing us that he actually gets the character.

This week in Elle UK, a really nice interview piece with Benedict Cumberbatch had a little sidebar extra with B.C. postulating a length about Holmes in the bedroom. And it's well thought out.

Basically, the Cumberbatch position on Holmes and sex is that he would master it as he did everything else he set his mind to. Of course, if you read the main article, you see the even more true understanding of the character:

"He's asexual for a purpose, not because he doesn't have a sex drive, but because it's suppressed to do his work."

It reminds me of an old shtick that the Rock used to do in a professional wrestling ring. An opponent would show up and say something or the other, challenge, threat, whatever, and the Rock would simply ask:

"What's your name?"

And then the moment the other wrestler would open his mouth to reply, the Rock would boom:


That, in its simple essence, can be paraphrased for the truest summation of Sherlock Holmes's sex life: "IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW HIS SEXUAL TECHNIQUE WAS!"

And the actor who plays him on a particular TV series seems to get that. On a show where the writers, directors, and producers seem to get a lot of things about Sherlock Holmes.

Shippers can write things a bit differently -- it's what they do. Fan fiction is the black market of ideas, where we get things that are illegal, immoral, or otherwise unavailable for fun and profit, so Holmes's non-existent sex life is certainly going to turn up there. But for a serious, full-tilt Sherlock Holmes, the consummate detective, the best there is at what he does?

Well, just ask Benedict Cumberbatch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

That Thursday TV Schedule.

Hey, this Thursday is "National Watch A Random TV Show And Call The Main Character Sherlock Holmes Day!"

Let's look and see who some of the contenders are in the night's listings:

"The Biggest Loser"
"Fixer Upper"
"Rehab Addict"
"Laugh at My Pain"
"How To Get Away With Murder"

What is it with Thursday nights and shows that are just sort of  . . .  not something we associate with Sherlock Holmes?

Ah well, there's always the On Demand. Catching up on Forever is always cool.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The next anti-Sherlock.

A couple of years ago, a writer for the Daily Kos wrote rather nastily of Benedict Cumberbatch under the headline "An Anti-Sherlock For Our Generation?" They were, of course, referring to BBC Sherlock, but today that headline showed the first signs of being true . . . and true about Benedict Cumberbatch as well.

My comic-book-reading pal sent me the text "Bennie 'batch as Dr. Strange! Woo hoo!"

Dr. Strange, Marvel comics' most wizardly superhero, and I go way back. Stephen Strange is a bit like Joan Watson . . . a surgeon who lost his ability to do the work, then went and apprenticed to a master of the mystic arts, eventually to become the Sorcerer Supreme.

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere had the story from io9 . . . a rumor that seems a little firmer than most, the Marvel Studios might be casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, and it's a role he'd be fabulous in.

But can you possibly get any more "anti-Sherlock" than a character who completely works with magic, ignoring reason, science, and logic? Well, maybe he's not illogical or unreasonable, but still . . . no magic in the Sherlock Holmes universe. None at all, other than the magic of good storytelling.

It's a bit like those comic actors who suddenly want to play a serial killer to go a different direction than the ones in which they're usually cast. After being Sherlock Holmes, Khan, and Alan Turing, all big brains of logical worlds, a go at the guy who was beyond Dumbledore before we had Dumbledore has to be attractive. And a lead role in a Marvel movie these days? Who could turn that down?

It's all still a rumor right now, of course, but if Benedict Cumberbatch has to play somebody during his off-duty Sherlock time, Dr. Strange is a pretty good choice.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Sherlock meets a Ripper.

If all of the Sherlock Holmes similarities in ABC's new drama Forever hadn't struck a chord already, in the show's sixth episode, Dr. Henry Morgan confronts a killer who may be Jack the Ripper.

What makes it interesting is that Morgan was around for the original Jack the Ripper's killing spree . . . just like Sherlock Holmes.

Well, at least, we all tend to believe Sherlock Holmes was around for the original Ripper killings. Both the detective and the slasher were active and becoming famous in the same city at the same time, so it has always seemed impossible that their paths didn't cross. And yet we have no records of that crossing . . . just as we have no records of the end of Jack the Ripper's career.

Which makes the themes touched on in Forever this week a bit resonant for the Sherlockian mind. Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper have both lived on past their proper human lifespans in our minds, just as Henry Morgan of the ABC show lives on in his fictional TV storyline. It's almost like they both exist in some eternal battlefield version of Victorian London like some Norse mythology afterlife.

Vincent Starrett famously wrote in his poem "221B," "Here dwell together still, two men of note, who never lived, and so can never die." Holmes and the Ripper suffer from a similar curse -- since they never truly battled and decided a victor, they can never, ever be done with their fight. Professor Moriarty may be Sherlock Holmes's best known arch-nemesis, but Holmes beat Moriarty. Over, done, beaten. As much as we like to see that replayed in its many forms, we know how it comes out.

Holmes versus the Ripper? On it goes.

Kind of like Forever.

The turtle opens up.

Apparently Action Sherlock wasn't the only one speaking in cartoon thought balloons this week -- over at, Clyde the turtle is counting down to season three of Elementary. You'll remember Clyde as one of those random elements that the creators of CBS's Elementary threw in to their unique version of the Holmes mythos to help make their detective quirky.

And what kind of thoughts does Clyde have?

"I can't believe the genius detective still hasn't realized I am the one taking the socks from the dryer."

Clyde's level of disrespect for Mr. Elementary is apparently pretty high.

"Detective Clyde, it has a nice ring  to it."

Clyde seems to think that anyone can be a consulting detective, which is quite natural given the fact that Joan Watson appears to be taking over the job from Mr. Elementary after minimal training.

"I spy with my tortoise eye . . ."

Clyde has a somewhat cliched and juvenile sense of humor, or else an invisible friend whom he plays games with.

"Does this sweater make me look fat?"

Clyde is not only disrespectful of Mr. Elementary, he appears to be mocking Joan Watson's fashion taste, body sense, and gender here.

"Turtle soup is NOT on the menu."

Clyde is not a cannibal. Good to know. It was bad enough Mr. Elementary was sleeping with Moriarty and not knowing it, but if he kept the Hannibal Lechter of pets in his house without knowing it, that would be something else entirely.

"Sherlock! I wasn't done reading this one yet."

Given the rest of Elementary, I think Clyde may be referring to one of the sixty stories of the original Canon. Poor guy is probably still reading it at turtle pace, trying to find the story where he appears.

Use Mr. Moon's Moonfind, Clyde! And get ready for disappointment.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What ebola means to a reader of Holmes.

The news that New York City had its first ebola case last night, coming during the season when many a Sherlockian is planning their January trip to that metropolis, brings up an interesting aspect of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The recent ebola epidemic has brought the fear of disease back to our culture big-time, with both serious concerns and over-reactions, strategies implemented and snake-oil frauds taking advantage. We don't often fear disease as our Victorian counterparts did, as something bringing a sure death sentence, so it shines a different light on those stories we probably don't read with the full feeling that their contemporaries did.

"The Adventure of the Dying Detective."

"The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier."

". . . his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East End of London."

The first two revolved around fears of a disease that prove false. Sherlock Holmes is dying of "an out-of-the-way Asiatic disease" that's a sure killer, having just brought a strong man down in a mere four days. Holmes is faking, of course, no surprise to the modern reader.

The second of the two involves a hidden leper, whose secret quarantine has ruined his life to the point where everyone thinks he's dead. Only . . . spoiler alert! . . . he doesn't really have leprosy at all, but some more benign ailment.

Consider this for a moment: Watson wrote one of those tales, Holmes the other, but both were published for the enjoyment of readers of The Strand Magazine.

That business with Wilson and the actual London plague spot? Never published.

Because that disease was real, and in the heart of London. There was no entertainment value in Watson and the folks at Strand selling Londoners a magazine with a story about their city actually having a plague spot. Sure, Holmes obviously stopped it from spreading, but that was just containment, as the world is trying to do with ebola right now. There's no joy in reading of victims whose murderer cannot be stopped, only caged for a while, no catharsis where the villain gets bit by his own snake or falls into quicksand.

As ebola concerns rise, it's worth considering the minds of those Victorian readers who got their hands on the Holmes stories first. It was a very different experience for them, one we may have been blessed to be without.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reading tweets about one thing and thinking of something else.

One of the lovely things about our connected world is that sometimes someone else will speak your thoughts for you . . .

Helena Wayne is making a point about Wonder Woman's current incarnation in DC Comics, but it resonated so well with what I've been thinking about Elementary for the last two years that it seemed worth repeating here. The big difference between the gripe Helena Wayne and others have against the new Wonder Woman and the one myself and others have against the Sherlock that Elementary gives us is that their protest is based on the ways the new version reinforces sexism, when Wonder Woman is such a terrific symbol against that very thing.

To me, Elementary has always seemed to have an anti-intellectual streak running wide and deep throughout it, when Sherlock Holmes has always been such a powerful symbol for the good great minds do for our culture. Not the same issue as the Wonder Woman one, and yet it is.

Our culturally iconic characters are with us for a reason, and to see them twisted to symbolize something a bit different than what they do for us is hard. You can dismiss it as "oh, those silly geeks are just over-attached to their fictions," but it's just the same as someone mis-interpreting the Declaration of Independence or the Bible toward ends that you know those words were not written to inspire. 

The thing about our best legends, though, is that they survive a few bad interpretations along the way. Those stories will be told and retold, again and again. And sure, they might get told the wrong way once or twice due to some situation the teller came from, apart from the heart of the thing. But count on it, the story will be told again, and told the way it should be on that future occasion.

Legends live on because of what's at their core. I'm seeing that these days with another quick-thinking hero who got lost for a bit but is making a comeback. And I'm sure it will be that way with all the truly greats eventually.

And Sherlock Holmes, of course, is a truly great.

Monday, October 20, 2014

And then there was this level of boredom . . .

Sometimes, you just get too bored for words.

Yes, ol' Sherlock is everywhere these days and there's always some old clip that you missed on its first time around.  But one can get into a rut so very easily, and sometimes you need to, quite literally, blow off the dust just to shake things up.

So where was I blowing off the dust tonight?

Action figures. Those goofy, assorted action figures that made of something once called "Action Sherlock Brain Theater," because a.) It's about an action figure, and b.) His brain speaks in thought bubbles, because he's just that smart. (His brother Mycroft tends to do the same.)

So for this week, and this week only, Action Sherlock Brain Theater is going to ride again for five straight days, to see if he does anything interesting. Of course, the trick will be finding him first . . . and a few other things. The sets were struck over two years ago, when Action Sherlock seemed to go off that rooftop, as Sherlocks are wont to do.

When Action Sherlock Brain Theater was cancelled, back in June of 2012, CBS's Elementary had yet to premiere, so . . . well, I'm not sure what that means. Except that in the original draft of the first new episode of Action Sherlock, Edgar Allen Poe originally thought that he was in the Elementary Brownstone. Somehow he forgot that by the time he made it to the set . . . laudanum, you know.

Anyway, to find out what's happening back on Baker Street, Action Sherlock style, head over to the new . . . and possible temporary . . . companion blog, Action Sherlock Brain Theater.

It still needs work.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The age of the unshaven jerk hero.

Forgive me for going all old geezer on you again, but that seems to be where I'm headed these days. Time spares no man or woman, and I hate to tell you this, kids, but if you don't think you'll ever be that grumpy old person in your life . . . get ready for a later-life shock.

But here's the thing: I remember when Sherlock Holmes was just clever and cool.

His little jabs at Scotland Yard? So cool, because he was just that smart.

His little bits of toying with Watson? Clever games between pals.

I don't remember ever reading a Sherlock Holmes story and thinking, "Wow, this guy's a jerk."

He made the occasional error in judgement, got Watson into more danger than expected many a time, but, hey, they were dealing with crime. And Watson was readily carrying a loaded gun. These were serious guys doing serious things, and occasionally lightening the work up with some fun.

But they weren't jerks. And they shaved.

A section of this morning's paper with the smirking image of one John Constantine brought this to mind this morning. I remember a time when Constantine was getting his start as a minor character in Swamp Thing comic books. And boy, was he a jerk. Still is. As rude, rough, unshaven, and jerk-ish characters like Wolverine came along and rose to the top in comics, John Constantine came along for the ride, and, as of next week, has his own NBC TV series.

That trend spilled over into two of our three major media Sherlocks in the last few years, to the point where you can almost gauge the amount of "being a jerk for trendy jerkness's sake" by the amount a Sherlock doesn't shave. 

Why is being kind of a jerk becoming so popular? Target marketing to the adolescent male mind? The rise of a feminine point of view in culture, where male behavior is stereotyped toward the jerk side? Some combination of those and other factors?

Who knows . . . I'm even a fan of John Constantine, and I don't get it. And any ongoing legendary figure like our Sherlock is apt to get some tweaks to fit current cultural standards, true. But I just wish, when it comes to our guy, they'd at least shave. As per the classic The Hound of the Baskervilles:

"He had contrived, with that cat-like love of personal cleanliness which was one of his characteristics, that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect as if he were in Baker Street."

If he did, maybe he'd seem like less of a jerk.

(Editor's postscript: The original intent of this blog was to use the word "asshole" instead of "jerk" throughout, but in an attempt to be less offensive to our readers in polite society, the less offensive word was used. The author, you see, had not shaved this morning.)

A Sherlockian red carpet?

Okay, we have definitely entered an entirely new age of Sherlockiana.

When an article from the Daily Mail online touts "Elementary, my dear Natalie: Game Of Thrones star Dormer joins Ian McKellen at Sherlock Holmes exhibition party" and then shows video of celebrities posing for photographers on a red carpet outside a Sherlock Holmes exhibit . . . well, an elder Sherlockian definitely starts going, "This stuff never happened in the 1980s. Or 1970s. Or . . ."

Ian McKellen, of course, is a major movie star with a major Sherlock Holmes movie in the works with him as the great detective. Natalie Dormer, from the super popular TV show Game of Thrones and the upcoming box office juggernauts The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and Part 2, is the sort of beautiful star the tabloids love to see on red carpets to note every detail of what she's wearing.

Oh, yes, and Ms. Dormer did play Jamie Moriarty in CBS's Elementary, some time ago.

Her appearance at the Museum of London's Sherlock Holmes exhibit is interesting, as it seems to demonstrate that she still feels some connection to the Holmes mythos, even though her career trajectory currently appears to be taking her far past Elementary's budgetary reach for guest stars. But who knows?

A Holmes and a Moriarty on the red carpet at a celebrity Sherlock Holmes event, though . . . who'd have thunk it?

I repeat myself a lot in this blog, but I feel justified in having another go at a theme I've hit again and again: Man, what a brave new Sherlockian world this is!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The divisiveness of Elementary.

In thirty-five years as a Sherlockian, I don't think I've ever seen a topic that divides Sherlockians so painfully as CBS's Elementary. That debate came up again this week on the Welcome Holmes Yahoo! group with most unwelcome results. 

The friction, as became apparent here long ago, stems from the fact that while Elementary is just another beloved adaptation of Sherlock Holmes to some, it seems so plainly exploitative in its use of Holmes to others that it's fair game for derision until that day when the culprits behind it are locked away for . . . .

. . . and that is where the trouble starts. See what happened in that paragraph above? I inadvertently started implying that the fans of Elementary are hapless victims of a crime against Shelockianity. Nobody likes that. We should respect our fellow man and their affections and beliefs, right? None of us would see a couple walking down the street and say to the man or woman, "Boy, your date sure is ugly!" Later, in private, we might say to our friends, "Damn, that was some ugly happening there!" But basic civility rules that out.

Yet now we have the internet, where we feel so much like we're talking privately to our friends, but are really still out on that public street. And to talk to that dozen, that hundred, that thousand people who do agree with us, we have to do in within earshot of an unknown number of people who might have their feelings hurt by something that seems fairly plain and undeniable to us.

In all my time writing about Elementary, it always seemed interesting to me that I got more comments that could be summed up with "Quit watching it, shut up, and go away!" than I did arguments in defense of the show's good qualities. That's surely not because the writers were incapable of critical analysis, but because remarks against the show struck at a more emotional than rational level.

Because that's where Elementary hits us all, really, at an emotional rather than rational level. And that is exactly what it's trying to do. 

I recently binge-watched the ABC show Scandal, which puts the top tiers of our government in the most ridiculous situations imaginable (SPOILER ALERT: Almost everyone at the top is a murderer.), yet is still a highly watchable show. Why? Because it's all about tweaking the emotions, and tweaking them hard. All of the top-rated dramas do it these days, pulling out tricks we never saw on TV before. One show this week involved a malefactor threatening to snap a baby's neck . . . what gleeful maniacs write this stuff? But it pulls in the ratings.

We can blame our fellow Sherlockians for not holding their tongues about a show we enjoy. We can remind ourselves to be well-mannered in the treatment of distant folk on the internet. But at the end of the day, we're all being screwed with for ratings sake, and that is where our true ire should be pointed. And maybe we should consider how Holmes himself might have handled such a situation.

"He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer - excellent for drawing the veil from men's motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results."

And boy, is Elementary throwing doubts on all our mental results.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Separate but equal mini religious factions.

When one story is told and retold over the years, it changes. Every single person that hears it takes something different from that story, and then retells it with subtle (or not-so-subtle) reshaping from their own experience. In the long-ago past, we saw this with major religious figures, which is why there are so many denominations of any major religion you'd care to name. And now that fandoms are growing large, with the legends at the center of them having their stories told and re-told, the same thing seems to be happening there.

In the past week, I was reading debates over the "true" Wonder Woman on Twitter this week. And the new CW television show "The Flash" stirred up a Barry Allen/Wally West source material issue as I watched it. (Barry's the Flash on the show, Wally was the one who had some of the characteristics they were using, in his original comic.) It's all very geeky stuff, yes, and if you don't give a care about those characters, nothing that matters to you, so let's bring it back to Sherlock Holmes.

At what point do we start seeing schisms in the "religion" of Sherlockiana?

Or have we seen it for a very long while . . . and mostly tried to ignore it. I'm not talking about the new wave of Sherlockian fandom that found its epicenter in Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes. Jeremy Brett's Holmes had a fandom, and I'm not talking about those within traditional Sherlockiana who loved the Granada TV adaptation. They were the people Philip Shreffler originally penned his notorious "Shrefflergate" editorial about. And while Laurie King was inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars in 2010, her followers, the devout fans of Mary Russell, didn't exactly come up with their battle cry, "After 1914, Sherlock Holmes is ours!" because they felt embraced by the rest of the elder Holmes fandom.

Things like the mutual support of old and new institutions like The Baker Street Journal and the Baker Street Babes podcast may make it seem like there is only one Sherlock Holmes fandom during some happy moments, though many adherents of either faction remain steadfastly on their own side of the fence. There will always be those with a foot in both worlds, ambassadors who happily travel to any Sherlockian fan nation, true. But the separate Sherlockian fan nations remain.

As we approach another season of Elementary, and I contemplate those folks who are coming across the trail of the man called Sherlock Holmes via such a very different path, I can't help but wonder if we will one day have universally acknowledged "separate, but equal" denominations of Sherlockiana. Those who ally themselves with the old Conan Doyle print version will always get to claim an elder pedigree, even if they just discovered the Canon yesterday, while a Granada TV devotee may have been at it for decades. But in the end, they are each just as much a part of the current wave of the currently living generation as the other.

I've fiddled with this particular post for a very long time, as it is always dangerous territory to suggest we're not all one big happy family of Sherlockians, as John Foster found out the hard way last month in his blog. But we're definitely reaching a point where a studious sociologist could have some fun analyzing and classifying our various sub-cults and specialties.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chauncey Nichols.

The 2014 fall television season has brought us a lot of folks a tad reminiscent of our friend Sherlock Holmes so far, but in a little over a week, we'll also be getting another show that a Holmes fan might want to note, so let's review that show's premise:

1.) A recovering heroin addict detective who is getting a fresh start in New York City.

2.) A ruined surgeon who has become a paid addiction companion, hired by a wealthy man to live with his son, the addict detective.

3.) The deceased love of the addict detective's life, whose death is largely responsible for his breakdown and drug dependence, and who turns out not only to be alive, but to be a major criminal of some sort.

4.) The addict detective's brother, a restauranteur who is working with the mob in New York as a pawn of MI6. The ruined surgeon falls in love with the brother and eventually moves in with him.

Had this show with the details listed above come on a major network and called the detective "Chauncey Nichols," I doubt a single Sherlockian would care much about the start of its third season. We'd be talking about Ioan Gruffud in Forever, or whatever Benedict Cumberbatch is doing between Sherlock seasons, or maybe the original stories of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, two lifelong friends who raised the art of detection to previously untouched heights.

But for those of you curious about "Chauncey Nichols," and how his story begins its third season on October 30, here's a synopsis from The Futon Critic site. *SPOILER ALERT* (We used to just call this the TV Guide description, back when spoilers had not been invented yet.) The names have been changed to protect the innocent (as in "the original Canonical characters").

"Chauncey Nichols returns to New York with a new apprentice and a renewed interest in working with the NYPD after being fired by London's MI6. However, Captain Martin won't let him resume consulting for the department without the permission of his former partner, Marge, the NYPD's go-to private investigator."

Boy, that Chauncey Nichols sounds like kind of a loser, doesn't he? Well, we'll be finding out come October 30th, just what ol' Chauncey has going for him as he confronts villain Allison March (didn't have to change that name at all).

*Heavy sigh*  Here we go again.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A world without Sherlock Holmes -- 1884 to ABORT! ABORT!

Sometimes an idea can be intriguing to start with, but eventually just not seem worth the effort.

Case in point: A world without Sherlock Holmes.

As I was thinking of the sacred sixty, the original Watsonian works on Sherlock Holmes, I was thinking about how every one of them is a story about people who aren't Sherlock Holmes. It's what makes them so great, and a side to it that modern Holmes tale-tellers often miss: The characters in the story who aren't Sherlock Holmes are what make an individual story better or worse. Holmes is our reason for being there, and our focus, sure. But without those other folk, he'd just be working in his little lab or laying on the couch.

So I decided that it would be interesting to look at the stories of all those folks in Sherlock Holmes had not come into their lives.

It's an interesting thought, yes, but . . . oh, so very sad, even as a mental exercise. (A fact I was quickly reminded of by Baker Street Queen on Twitter.)

And the point of being a Sherlock Holmes fan, to make the "duh . . ." statement, is being in it for Sherlock Holmes. One can wander off to related topics, yes. Conan Doyle. Movie actors. The history of Holmes fans themselves. But those are the past-times of Sherlock Holmes fans who have time on their hands, even if it's just a little bit extra. When time is short, when all else is running you ragged and you only get a moment to pause and think about one thing . . . well, then, it's all about Sherlock Holmes.

So, for now, I'm letting my little mental exercise on the world of Sherlock Holmes without Sherlock Holmes go. Feel free to take it up, if you'd like, but man-oh-man, there is definitely a reason we have Sherlock. And will continue to have Sherlock.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Seeing ripples from Sherlock.

We expected to see a lot of television inspired by Sherlock Holmes this fall, but there's more than even the most hopeful Sherlockian probably saw coming. Take last night, for example.

The premiere of the CW superhero drama The Flash premiered, based on a decades old comic book character. And yet what do we see in the first five minutes of the show?

A forensic scientist at a crime scene . . . and his observations are appearing on the screen as white characters. Just like we saw first on BBC Sherlock. A career field that's been traditionally inspired by Sherlock Holmes and a screen visual inspired by his recent screen adaptation, both in one scene.

Of course, I was appropriately late in catching The Flash on TV, watching it on-demand the morning after, with the fast-forward ironically disabled, as I was out last night with friends. But when I walked back in the house shortly after nine, what was on the television?

Someone who looked a lot like Sherlock Holmes. A lot like Sherlock Holmes.

Well, he was a little good-looking for a classic Holmes, though many a fan of Holmes actors over the years would disagree. But there he was, laying flat on the floor stretched out to get a close look at some tracks. Pulling out his out-of-time forensic kit and working that scene to find clues missed by the official force.

I had seen Ioan Gruffud playing the immortal doctor in the new show Forever before, but walking in mid-program, I wasn't watching Forever, I was watching a passable Sherlock Holmes.

This new television season is getting very interesting. And a certain goofy show that borrowed the name of "Sherlock Holmes" without quite living up to the legend in the eyes of many had better step up its game. Because the competition seems to really know what Sherlock Holmes is about.

And it could be a very interesting year for Sherlockians . . . as the ripples from the recent Sherlock Holmes wave start to spread.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A world without Sherlock Holmes -- 1881 - 1883.

When the creators of BBC Sherlock first decided to yank Sherlock and John forward in time to 2010, the general assumption by creators and viewers alike was that their whole world moved with them. Yet the history of their world remains much as ours. Clarke Russell didn't suddenly become a best-selling novelist signing books in Barnes and Noble. Brigham Young wasn't managing an upstart religion in Western America. And what of the lesser lights of our historical Canon? What if they were left behind in a world suddenly without a Victorian Sherlock Holmes.

Well, two fellows named Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson, sad to say, would still have died pretty much as they did in A Study in Scarlet. Their killer, Jefferson Hope, would have died from an aneurysm shortly after, too, though his killing was done in any case, with those two gone. The papers would have had one less story to print as other more sensational crime overtook the deaths of two foreigners no one cared about. The street urchins near Baker Street would have had to find other ways to get the occasional shilling . . . which would probably be the first pulse of a rising crime rate in London to come.

All in all, England of 1881 pretty much remains untouched by the absence of a neophyte detective named Sherlock Holmes. Reginald Musgrave might still be wandering around wondering what happened to his butler and just what that ancient family secret is. Life for the broken Trevor family certainly wouldn't have changed. But what of the others? Those who came later?

What of Helen Stoner, a.k.a. the First To Die Without Sherlock Holmes?

1883 marks the first casualty in a Victorian England without Mr. Sherlock Holmes. We can't blame BBC Sherlock for this one, as John H. Watson's blog lets us know that Helen was safely brought into the modern day with Sherlock and John in that universe. But in any other world without Holmes?

Kaput. Done. Gone. And that is even saying nothing of the victims of Grimesby Roylott who inevitably came after Helen, once he survived the night that took her life. Sure, he had the estate and finances that the death of the twins secured for him, but a man who is sees murder as an available means to an end does not usually stop after solving one problem with it.

Grimesby Roylott is the first ongoing issue in a world without Sherlock Holmes. But he's hardly going to be the last.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cats and dogs.

Sherlock Holmes is a cat.  John H. Watson is a dog.

Holmes with his famous "cat-like love of personal cleaniness." His causing of the occasional suspect to exclaim, "You can't just sit there and play with me like a cat with a mouse!" His reference to criminals as "my natural prey."

And Watson . . . well, Lestrade may get all the "bulldog" quotes, but Watson isn't that kind of dog. He is man's best friend to a particular man, which no one will dispute. He has "that grand gift of silence," which means he'll sit there and listen. And when you need him to chase something, he'll chase it. "I am a dog-fancier myself," Sherlock Holmes once said, perhaps bending the truth a bit for the circumstances -- he did have a habit of causing the death of canines on occasion. But Sherlock Holmes did value a loyal and trusted companion, so maybe he wasn't speaking of the exact species, and a more metaphoric "dog" instead.

There is something about the cool intensity a cat can muster that just evokes Sherlock Holmes. I noticed that when playing with my cat this evening, a feline who has been through two Sherlockian owners. A dog will chase, attack, and fight, yes, but they always seem so angry about it.

And it's interesting to see whom Sherlock Holmes thinks is like a cat: the Baron Adelbert Gruner.

"A purring cat who thinks he sees prospective mice." "A precise, tidy cat of a man." "An excellent antagonist, cool as ice, silky voiced and soothing as one of your fashionable consultants."

Baron Gruner could almost have been Sherlock Holmes, given better motivations in another life.

And who always wins in a fight between a cat and a cat? Well, the cat that brings an extra kitty to help him of course! So it goes with Holmes and Gruner, quite literally.

Sherlock Holmes is a cat in a world full of dogs, really. Helpful dogs like Toby and Pompey. Troubled dogs like Roy or one of the Carlos. Nameless victim dogs. Legendary hell-curse dogs. Dogs that were not dogs at all.

And in the end, I think a non-Canonical Sherlock quote describes Holmes and dogs the best. (Isn't it wonderful that we have such things!) And that bit of paraphrase goes like this:

Sherlock was on the side of the dogs . . . but don't think for a second he was one of them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Oktoberfest of cranky begins.

Ah, rolling into my later fifties, it seems I have a lot of free-flowing anger, just looking for targets. Of course, I also have all other sorts of roiling emotional ebb and flow these days, with my parts all a bit looser like a high-mileage car.

So let's get to all those things that are punching a V.R. in my emotional walls this October 1. Fair warning, those sensitive about their own beloved Sherlocks should step away now. Don't be whining in the comments, now. I warned you.

First, of course, we have Elementary, continuing to blight the legend of Sherlock Holmes.

A nice little synopsis of the detective appearing in that program appeared on BuzzFeed this week "18 Tips For Being A Good Detective as told by Elementary." It seems a fairly accurate portrayal of Mr. Elementary. But, before you check it out, try to put your mind in a place where what you're about to see is a character whose name you've never heard before. And see if the name you come up with, after looking over that page with an open, blank-slate mind, is anything close to Sherlock Holmes.

Personally, I came closer to Inspector Clouseau. Interesting that we have a new TV series on Fox that's all about Batman without actually having Batman in it -- Gotham -- and still comes closer to its Canon than CBS has done with Holmes. 

Next, we have signs that Moriarty might not be happy about a book bearing his name and could be plotting little ways to discredit it. (Which sounds far more interesting than "publisher screw-up.") Yes, the first author "authorized" by the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. to write about Sherlock Holmes is at it again in a sequel, obviously trying to get a non-Sherlock spin-off off the ground. And that's definitely not a first. (And, in fact, that other first wasn't really a first either, as Adrian Conan Doyle surely authorized his own work in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes.)

And what's with Forever, the new ABC show about an immortal master of observation and deduction? Where does his body go when he dies? Is there are pile of clothes? If not, where do his clothes go when he goes to a nearby body of water. There was an old school of Sherlockian thought about Sherlock figuring out how to extend his life, growing a bit old but never dying . . . interesting that no major adaptation has given us an immortal Sherlock. But now that he's been successful as a modern, perhaps we won't.

But, as an angry aging Sherlockian, why restrict myself to just current pasticheurs? This is how bad it's getting . . . let's take some news that everybody in the Sherlockian world should meet with delight: The discovery of lost William Gillette footage . It looks like we're going to get a fresh chance to see that reknowned Sherlock Holmes as they did on movie screens back in 1916. How could William Gillette's return piss anyone off?

Because it will probably put me to sleep! Old black and white Sherlock Holmes films have always made me unnaturally dozey, going back to seeing Reginald Owen in the 1933 A Study in Scarlet while still in my twenties. (I was not in my twenties in 1933, mind you.) Sitting in auditoriums with other Sherlockians, at home on the couch, it doesn't matter -- black and white Sherlock starts putting me in a coma.

T'were it 1916, and having all the developed movie tastes of a person of that era, Gillette's Sherlock Holmes on the screen might be a different experience for me entirely.  But the prospect of yawning, "Yay, historic Sherlock!" in 2014? Well, it's no reason to get angry, I know . . . for any reasonable person.

But I'm a cranky old Sherlockian now. And those damn kids better get off my lawn, too.