The View from Sherlock Peoria
2 . . .
On A First Name Basis
Almost ten years ago, when we first created Sherlock Peoria, I felt a little uncomfortable about using Holmes's first name in the title.
Really. I didn't.
It was kind of a Victorian thing, modeling one's self after our Canonical role models, of course. Dr. Watson never called his friend by his first name, why should we be so familiar? Among Sherlockians, we even would call each other by last names sometimes, just to relish one more of the quaint, old-fashioned ways we love to read.
But in everyday American life, first names are our standard stock in trade. Even when kids try to be respectful, it seems to be "Mr. Brad." It's America, where we pride ourselves on social mobility and lack of set class structures. First names are what we do here, unless you're in some especially dominant or subservient place, or just have a cob up your butt.
So when the BBC decided to go with "Sherlock" as the title of a new series, it wasn't completely uncomfortable. And when the characters on said show started using "Sherlock" instead of "Holmes" when talking to our young, modern hero, well, it started feeling pretty good.
Could it be that one of the biggest contributions that result from Moffat, Gatiss, Cumberbatch, Freeman, and company . . . our getting to think of Sherlock on a first name basis?
Fine by me.
The WelcomeHounds Troll and Me
It's been a long time since I've thought about the Hounds of the Internet or WelcomeHolmes, the two classic Sherlockian listserver groups. These days, when Facebook lets you create your own social network, and pick and choose whose thoughts you'd like to hear on a regular basis, they seem a bit old-fashioned.
But during a dull moment this week, I took a look at the latest digests from WelcomeHolmes and found my neighbor, doing what he's done ever since he first connected with the internet . . . trolling. I don't think Bob is even familiar with the term, but he's definitely a career offender. The Hounds of the Internet kicked him off time after time after time, but WelcomeHolmes has been a bit more acceptable of his particular peccadillos. He's a troll, and, I suppose, trolls need love, too.
Think I'm being overly mean? Here's his critique on the second season of "Sherlock": "I saw the first Cumberbatch a year+ ago. That was drivel/trash. I did watch about 15 minutes of 'Belgravia' last night. That, too, was drivel and trash."
Comparing the levels of "Sherlockian" versus "troll" in that bit, my readings definitely come down on the side of "troll." And trust me, from all the anti-Obama pass-along e-mails I get from him, he doesn't limit his trolling to WelcomeHolmes.
And even at this late date, I've noticed that he's been able to stir up kerfuffles between long-time Sherlockians who should know better. It has discouraged me from getting involved with the likes of WelcomeHolmes on occasion, as you don't really want to go drinking at the bar with the friend you know is going to pick a fight. He's your friend, so you know you're just going to get into it, no matter what your intentions, especially if you have a bit of a temper yourself.
So I mostly avoid the online watering holes and hide on my own little website, peeking out at Facebook and Twitter now and then to check out the Baker Street Babes.
Unfair to CBS
Well, it bears mentioning that I have unfairly judged CBS television's upcoming fall series "Elementary" based on a three minute preview. I have pretty much already decided that it sucks and am not going to be rushing to watch it, which sounds a lot like something from my neighbor the WelcomeHolmes troll. Honestly, I was surprised at how much I hated it. Felt a little bad, really.
But then I remembered what Sherlock Holmes always said: "You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles."
And my pre-hatred of "Elementary" is entirely founded upon the observance of trifles in a trifle of a preview. The trifles I saw sucked. And trifles are key.
"They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains," Holmes also said, and I wasn't seeing the sort of attention to detail there that I've come to love in BBC's modern take on Sherlock. When I watch what Moffat and Gatiss have done, I can feel their respect for the original material. They take pains to get references in that no one but a Sherlockian will get, and use homages to all sorts of Sherlockian culture to tell their stories, mining from some excellent sources for pure gold. "Elementary," on the other hand, seems to have that attitude of "We can tell this story better!"
It's what makes the difference between a good superhero movie in the theaters ("The Avengers") and a bad one ("Superman Returns"). Respecting that the original material had worth and value. Turning Watson into an addiction counsellor hired by Holmes's father is not respecting the original characters in the slightest. It's claiming "We can tell this story better!"
Some freshening up is a wonderful thing. But if you retool an adaptation enough, you lose the certain something that ties a pastiche to the original, and that is what the trifles I saw in that first "Elementary" preview are telling me.
One could say I'm prejudging. Or one could say I'm just observing.
Personally, I think it's the latter.
After putting up with PBS making us wait all the way until May for their commercial-bracketed, Alan Cummings intro-ed, "We're calling it Masterpiece Mystery so we can pretend we have our own programming" release of SHERLOCK, the digital signal from our cable company went out halfway through the final episode.
Good-bye, broadcast television, I am officially done with you. I'll download my entertainments from the internet from now on and watch them when I please.
Your humble correspondent,
Past 2012 Columns