Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Strange Case of the Two Sherlocks

by Pa Rock
TV Head

I don't watch a lot of television and when I do it is primarily PBS on the weekends.  But there are some shows scattered throughout the week that I try to follow.

Currently there are two programs about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, on television.  Both are set in the current time period.

Elementary is a 60-minute weekly program that airs on CBS and stars Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as his female sidekick and co-investigator, Jane Watson.  The show is set in modern day New York City.  Sherlock's brother, Mycroft, also makes regular appearances as a New York City restaurateur who has an occasional thing with Watson - a liaison that is very much resented by Sherlock.   The sexual tension focused around a female Watson serves to make the show and the detective a bit more interesting.  Elementary first aired in 2012 and has produced over fifty episodes.

The other version is Sherlock, a very smart British series that is set in modern London.  The series originally aired on PBS in 2010 and is now also playing on BBC America.  Each program is two-hours long, and far fewer episodes have been recorded than is the case with Elementary.  

Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the detective and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson, a war veteran who recently served in Afghanistan.    In the first episode a mutual friend introduces the two because each is in need of a roommate  - and a working partnership quickly ensues.   There is a lot of gay innuendo in the early episodes as other people assume Holmes and Watson are a couple.  The occasional remarks don't faze Sherlock, but Dr. Watson quickly gets ruffled and fires back angry lines like:  "Of course we will need two bedrooms!"  and  "No, this is not a date!"

There has been some recent litigation over whether the characters and stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are now in the public domain, with at least one US District Court ruling that they are.  But regardless of their legal standing, Holmes and Watson are two literary characters who have survived and thrived for more than a century - through books, stories, movies, and even television.   The growing body of work has taken the pair further than Conan Doyle could have ever imagined.

Elementary and Sherlock both maintain the complex art of detection that Conan Doyle invented, and each add to the cleverness and quirkiness of Sherlock Holmes.  Watson also seems to grow more complex and interesting with each retelling and expansion of their cases.

For those with a bent toward mysteries and detective fiction, both Elementary and Sherlock will not disappoint.

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