A Study in Sherlock

Since the fifth grade I’ve been a big fan of the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in just about every incarnation. I loved watching Basil Rathbone puff at his tubby pipe. I enjoyed the film, Young Sherlock Holmes for its introduction to the whimsically stoic detective. I appreciate Robert Downey Jr.’s personification, as well. I find that his interpretation explores the aspects of the character that most others ignore or minimize.

As of late I find myself addicted to the new BBC series, Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the sleuth as he might be in a contemporary setting. Still unhindered by emotion or societal propriety, the modern Holmes conducts his investigation through Wi-Fi transmissions and text messages. His stubbornness and disregard for others is still intact in this manifestation, but his addiction is confined to tobacco and nicotine patches.

I recently read something about one of the networks looking into creating an American version of Sherlock, and I became utterly baffled.

Hmmm. Let me see. We need a television program in which the main character is some kind of detective. He must be a genius, but at the same time be horribly hateful and abrasive. He should be a cynical atheist—agnostic, at least, who believes the worst about everybody. He should spend all of his time trying to solve interesting puzzles he faces daily. He also should probably save peoples’ lives occasionally.

He should be talented musically. He should be a drug addict. He should have a close friend that he often hates, who hates him back when the situation calls for it. He needs a superior with whom he also can share a love-hate relationship. And let’s give him a “thing”—a prop that can be his calling card. Not a hat—too British for an American character. Not a pipe—too archaic. How about a walking cane? It can be both his metaphoric and literal crutch.

Wait a minute… I think I know this man. But his name isn’t Holmes; it’s House. And his friend isn’t Watson; it’s Wilson. Wow! That is strangely similar isn’t it?

Why should my blog smack sarcastic when I obviously adore all things Sherlock? My point is simply that House already embodies the American Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is so inherently British that to transplant him on this side of the pond requires more than a little cosmetic surgery. It necessitates reconstruction.

If America demands Sherlock, I suggest give the BBC whatever it requests and purchase the series as-is. I understand that the format of three ninety-minute episodes per season doesn’t conform to the networks’ schedule. Make a deal. Compromise. Spend the money to make it happen—but do it the right way.

Don’t force a Holmes character to live in New York City as a private detective who sometimes consults with NYPD to stop ripper-type serial killers. Just don’t. Please.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.