The New ‘Sherlock Holmes’ May be the Worst Thing Ever
For a while I knew what the worst thing ever made for television was. It was the U.S. remake of Spaced. For those unfamiliar with Spaced (shame on you) it is an immensely funny sitcom made for British television by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Jessica Stevenson. It was brilliant, funny and above all unique. It was made with the distinct style and humour of the aforementioned. It could not have been made by anyone else.
Try telling that to Fox and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle director ‘McG’, who felt they should remake it for US audiences. They had obtained the rights and jumped right into production without making a courtesy call to the original creators of the show. They hired uncharismatic actors to deliver the exact same lines from the original script while overplaying the ‘slacker’ part of the character. For some odd reason they replaced all the drug references to the characters craving for ‘creme puffs’ and added an idiotic video game sequence. It was so bad that Pegg, Stevenson and Wright, along with a legion of fans, created such a wave of complaints that it got canned. Good riddance.
But suddenly a new contender for the crown of Worst Thing Ever has risen its head. The first episode isn’t in the can and yet it’s such a terrible concept people want it sunk before it even leaves the port. We’re talking about Elementary – a CBS made version of Sherlock Holmes set in modern day New York. Now before we get into the nitty-gritty of why this is a terrible idea, let’s discuss why this is so pointless.
Simple fact: we have a modern day Sherlock Holmes already on the TV. It’s called Sherlock and it stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson in modern London. It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest things that has ever happened to television. Creators Moffat and Gatis produce smart, funny and brilliant scripts that does little to satisfy the viewers need for more. Setting yourself up to compete with this series has already put you at a massive disadvantage.
Even if you were looking for a more Americanised take on the character, there’s the current movie franchise with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law. It’s not as good, but it’s still fun.
So Elementary is already running on a twisted ankle coming out of the gate. One thing that has made the previously mentioned franchises such a success is the casting. Who does CBS have to play the famous duo? For Sherlock Holmes we have Johnny Lee Miller, known to our slightly older readers as Sick Boy and the young demographic as the guy from season 5 of Dexter. To those with really good memories he’s also the original Mister Angelina Jolie.
He’s not a terrible choice. You can tell form his rather thin resume that outside of a few cult hits he’s not the most talented actor in the world, but they could’ve done one hell of a lot worse. He’s got a certain edge to him that would be interesting in the character. At least, it would be if he was playing Sherlock Holmes. The changes made to the character are kinda stupid – he’s still the same detective consultant but he has left Scotland Yard to attend rehab in New York.
Putting aside that sending a person to New York to get off drugs is a akin to offering a drowning man a glass of water, Sherlock Holmes has never been an addict. He’s a man who controls his environment and whilst he has been depicted as partaking is drugs it has always been to enhance his deductive skills by clearing his mind of distractions. The notion of a Holmes who has become a victim of his habit is unseemly.
Then we come to Dr. John Watson. Oh sorry, I meant Joan Watson. In this version of the classic Watson will be played by Lucy Liu – not someone I could believe is a qualified doctor of medicine.
Watson has also undergone some changes. Aside from a newly equipped vagina Watson also has a new backstory that is less about being a field doctor for the army and more about having her license revoked after killing a patient. Now we have an unqualified doctor who has hit the skids to the point that she’s bunking with a recovering drug addict. The noble, patriotic, stiff upper lip of John Watson has been replaced by day-time drama.
The sex-change also stirs up other problems. One of the biggest selling points of Sherlock Holmes is the dynamic between the characters. Barmy, forward thinking Sherlock and dapper, sensible Watson. The odd couple who compliment each others strengths and weaknesses. The original bros. You make one of them a woman and the dynamic shifts. We’re looking at one of three possible outcomes. First – the easy road out – is make one of the gay. A cheap excuse for a gimmicky sex-change to work. The second option involves them becoming romantically involved, which throws the entire concept of the characters out the window. Finally there’s the Mulder/Scully option – sexual tension. This would be worse than anything else as it not only kills the dynamic between the characters, but everything about how the standard Sherlock Holmes narrative functions.
Which ever way they want to play it, it’s not gonna play well.
I’m sure some people are also getting their noses out of joint about the geographic relocation, but that’s a minor quibble. There’s no reason why a modern Sherlock couldn’t work in New York. It’ll loose something but it may not kill the whole series. But with all the other problems mounting up against it they should just dump the whole project and pretend it never happened.
Now to wipe the palette clean: it’s time to rewatch Sherlock.