Television: Thoughts About Sherlock

I actually have all my thoughts on the BBC One program Sherlock collected on my writing blog. Here are links to the summaries I've written for Series 2:

"A Scandal in Belgravia"

"The Hounds of Baskerville"

"The Reichenbach Fall"


Movies: Highlander Reboot

A little tidbit from Variety in my inbox today: Ryan Reynolds is in talks to lead in the Highlander film reboot. I can pretty easily picture Reynolds brandishing a sword. I'm just wondering whether we really need more Highlander.

This is quite the statement coming from a girl whose college nickname was Methos. (There are a certain number of people who still call me this, in fact; they may not actually know my real name.) A core group of us tripped into the collective name of "Zeistmeisters" after a laughable dinner discussion in the dining hall. Admittedly, I was more a fan of the television series, which was on when I was in high school and college, than the films, but in any case, Highlander occupies a special place in my heart and personal history.

That being said, there are a couple of [biased] reasons for my not wanting to see more of these movies: (a) I've outgrown them and would rather leave the past in the past, and/or (b) I don't want to see something old, familiar and comfortable rehashed and/or ruined.

I'm also not sure who the target audience is for something like this. Older people who have fond memories of the original movies? (I was too young for those.) People like me who remember the television series? (But were terribly disappointed by the movies that followed.) Are they rebooting Highlander in the hopes of starting another action franchise that will appeal to younger audiences? It's a mystery, but it seems possible any new outing might fall through the demographic cracks.

Then again, if they get Ryan Reynolds . . . Except he proved not to be such a huge draw to Green Lantern . . . My guess is more women want to see him in a heartthrob lead than as a swashbuckler. Even an Immortal, emotionally damaged and vulnerable heartthrob swashbuckler. And Reynolds doesn't seem to be man's man enough for the other side of the equation.

Not having seen a script, I can't make any more than passing guesses at the whole of a new Highlander franchise, with or without Reynolds. Anything, if done right and well, could work. But some things are difficult to do right and well; they require a delicate balance and very fine tuning. Something action/fantasy-oriented like Highlander is just that kind of thing—something easy to do badly and incredibly onerous to do well. Curious to see how it turns out.

Or maybe not.



CBS has slated this modern take on Sherlock Holmes—set in New York as opposed to London—for Thursday nights at 10:00 (9:00 Central). There has, of course, been chatter as to this being an American Sherlock, but Elementary looks to be quite a bit different . . . And if it makes more than three episodes every couple years, it will at least have that much going for it.

Jonny Lee Miller will play the new Sherlock and Lucy Liu will be his Watson. A girl! Yes. So besides the change in scenery, we've got a gender switch that may or may not work for core Holmes fans. Chemistry between the stars is said to be strong, and Elementary had quite a bit of buzz at upfronts, so I guess we'll see.

An American Sherlock Holmes will necessitate some additional changes in sensibilities, even simply from a cultural standpoint. Though it's hip to be an Anglophile these days, a British detective (who may be asexual or gay) won't capture wide swaths of Peorians. My guess is Elementary will play more like the procedurals that are so popular, C.S.I. and the like.

Fun aside: Jonny Lee Miller played opposite Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch on stage at the National Theatre, London, in Frankenstein. The two switched off playing the Monster and Victor Frankenstein and won the Olivier for their efforts. (You can actually see a filmed staging of the play, coming to selected movie theaters across the country in early June.)

As a fan of Sherlock, I'm certainly curious about Elementary and will be giving it a look. Holmes seems to come in roughly 20- to 30-year cycles of popularity, and he's at his height again now with movies and television shows and new anthologies coming out. Too much of a good thing? We might be headed toward a saturation point, but with the Robert Downey Jr. films widely spaced and Sherlock almost as rare, there may yet be room for a regular weekly appearance by one of literature's most beloved figures.


Dropped Shows

There comes a time when a television show does one of a number of things: (a) ends, (b) changes direction, (c) gets routine and boring. When a show ends, one hopes it's on a high note, leaving people wanting more while simultaneously understanding that giving them too much of a good thing will only leave them so full they're sick. When it gets routine and boring, well, that speaks for itself. More of the same each week, and a lot of people might continue to tune in, but eventually a lot of people will tune out.

Changing direction, meanwhile, is tricky. Because the change can be for the better. Or it can be for the worse.

After a few years on the air, networks will sometimes come to a show whose ratings are beginning to flag and say, "Let's change it up a bit." Collective groan from writers and show runners. (It's worse when someone at the network has "an idea" about how to change things.)

The flip side of this might be when, even if the show is doing well in the ratings, the writers and show runners are starting to feel stuck and decide for themselves to change things . . .

Either way, it can be dicey.

Two shows I used to love made some major changes recently, and I've since dropped them from my must-see-TV list. Bones is one. I love the ensemble cast, the characters' quirks, the great dialogue and chemistry between the actors. But then everyone started having babies. And while I can understand the desire to move away from crime-of-the-week stylings and plumb the depths of various relationships on the show, I just found I couldn't care any more. Brennan having the baby in "the manger" was the last straw. Too over the top. I cut the show from my schedule.

The other show is Mad Men. Don Draper was a very interesting and complex character, dark and trying to find his happy. And then he found it. Her name is Megan. And Don Draper as happily married is just not compelling to me. And trying to fill in with other characters' issues doesn't do it for me, either. I like Peggy, sure, and Roger is a riot, but the supporting cast doesn't quite carry the show. I watched the first four episodes of this season and decided not to waste any more time.

A few seasons ago, I felt the same way about House. Right around the time he and Cuddy started to be an item, I just couldn't stomach watching any longer. House is a show that could have benefitted from some big changes, but not the kinds they made with the rotating interns and the on-and-off romances. No, see, they should have stuck with House and Wilson sharing a living space and turned it into a dramedy from that angle. That would have been hilarious. I'd have watched it forever.

Some shows are smart enough to quit while they're ahead. J Michael Straczynski knew he wanted Babylon 5 to be five seasons long. He had it planned out. It struggled at first but gained a core audience. But when asked to extend the show, JMS said no. He knew better than to wear out his welcome. He'd told the story he'd wanted to tell. B5 was like a novelization on TV, and it was perfect.

I read somewhere that Matthew Weiner plans to finish up Mad Men over three seasons (this and two more). I hope for his sake that he plans as well as JMS did. From what I watched this season, everything seemed to have been slowed down so that the show feels like it's being stretched at the neck and strangled.

So now that Bones and Mad Men are off my schedule, what do I watch?

  • Smash
  • Modern Family (though it hasn't been in top form, so it's on my personal bubble)
  • 30 Rock (probably good, though, that next season will be its last, as it's running on fumes)
  • The Office (also not so funny lately, but loving Catherine Tate)
  • Sherlock and Doctor Who (when in season)
We had been watching Grimm for a while as well, but after a big cross-country move, we just didn't care enough to go back and catch up. And we're in temporary housing, so without HBO we haven't had a chance to see this season of Game of Thrones yet but intend to catch up as soon as possible.

For the first time in a long while, then, I'm looking forward to a new crop of television options come summer/fall. Upfronts have created buzz for things like Elementary (another modern-day Sherlock Holmes) and a host of others whose names I can't remember, and I don't have a copy of Variety at hand. Sort of at an out-with-the-old point as far as television is concerned . . .