Sunday, May 1, 2016

Letting fictional Doyle wander unattended.

After the whole CBS Elementary thing, I've pretty much decided that giving an honest reaction to Fox's Houdini and Doyle in these pages isn't worth the keystrokes. The show also suffers from that America-lag issue that BBC's Sherlock had so very badly at the start: Other parts of the English-speaking world have seen it long before us, and reviews aplenty already exist.

And must we all give our opinion on everything these days?

Well, yes, but it's also good to pretend to show restraint now and then.

Which brings me back to Houdini and Doyle. I don't have to use any restraint not to review that show, nor even not to watch it. Fictional Conan Doyle has just never had an attraction.

The real Arthur Conan Doyle was interesting enough. He led the sort of life one rarely sees in a modern man: from whaling ships to ghosts, with an incredible list of varied experiences in between. No fictional version of Doyle could ever hold all the life that the real Doyle did, because stories just aren't big enough.

The only time fictional Conan Doyle ever served any sort of purpose was when Sherlock Holmes himself was on copyright lockdown and a writer wanted to tell a Sherlock-Holmes-ish with a stand-in for Sherlock. It was a misuse of Doyle, sure, but at least one could see the reason behind it.

At this point, the one author I might give a shot at reading a fictional Doyle would be Seth Grahame-Smith, whose Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter show the sort of care and attention to detail that the best Sherlockians in our past used in playing the Grand Great Game (whatever we're calling that thing now that the horse is out of the barn). Grahame-Smith knows how to have some fun with the past and can weave the most outlandish premise together with existing facts or story, so the resulting written work would surely rise above schlock, even if its movie adaptation didn't.

Houdini and Doyle will be taking the spot of Lucifer on Fox, right after the season-closing episodes of Gotham. Fox's view of the fictionalized magician and mystery author as fitting right in with the devil and the Batman, entertainment-wise, but those other two properties were based on comic book stories. This show is "inspired by," as the popular tag goes, history. Which means it will have less to do with its originals than either of the comic book shows. The fact that we're more faithful to comic books than history these days is a little sad when you think about it.

And if I was going to subject myself to any tortures for blogging's sake, I'd still be watching that accursed CBS monstrosity. (Shakes fist at sky for its very existence.)

So let me know how Houdini and Doyle goes. Or better yet, enjoy life.


  1. I've made a note to watch the one episode a Sherlock Holmes persona is in, but as far as the rest goes, I've read enough to know I'm not going to invest time in watching it either.

  2. Conan Doyle was an odd duck in a way because he led an eventful life, but he wasn't really interesting as a person.

    I mean, he didn't have the verbal flair and wit of Oscar Wilde. He wasn't as outrageous as Shaw or Norman Mailer. He didn't have the messy personal life of Dylan Thomas. He doesn't stand out in multiple ways like Mark Twain (who had no less than three people who knew him write books after his death, including his housekeeper).

    Conan Doyle's books were far more interesting.

  3. One could fill a library just with Doyle as a fictional character, if one wanted to. I read some - and prefer the ones where supernatural events DO NOT occur. No ghosts need apply, even with 'fake' Doyles.

    1. Hey, Jim, I need to pick your brain about a past endeavor Could you zap me an email at ?

  4. Eh, it's okay. Like the accursed CBS monstrosity, I just pretend the names are coincidental.