Corrie-lyn Dyson is Watching the Detective [Fierce Anticipation]

Every so often, my husband’s vocabulary greatly (and suddenly) improves. He begins using the kind of unnecessarily long words that he normally mocks me for employing. This inevitably means he has either been reading or watching Sherlock Holmes.

Let me clarify, he has either been reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories or watching the brilliant Granada version of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett. The Granada TV presentation of Sherlock Holmes is beautifully true to the original text, unlike many other versions which are… what’s a fancy turn of phrase I can use here?… dumb as shit. I adore the BBC’s Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing and has the best name since Sherlock Holmes, himself, but have you seen A Study in Pink? In my mind, someone told the writer, “You borrowed this scene from The Princess Bride. Don’t you think people will notice?” The writer then responded, “Inconceivable!”

A Study in False Advertising

As I imagine is true of many of my peers, my first introduction to Sherlock Holmes was Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. This film featured the mouse who lived beneath 221B Baker Street. The mouse detective is named Basil so it is pretty clear they are using Rathbone’s series of Sherlock Holmes movies as their source as opposed to the actual stories. Naturally, the mouse wears a deer stalker, the Watson character is a bumbling idiot and Moriarty is the bad guy. From my early youth, I was given the standard movie tropes instead of some genuine Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock is up there with Frankenstein’s monster in being misrepresented to the masses.

The next incarnation of Sherlock Holmes to cross my path came in the form of Without a Clue in which Michael Caine plays a dim-witted actor hired by Watson (Ben Kingsley – future knights abound!) to portray the hero of his books. Watson is the genius but Sherlock is the star. It’s a clever twist on the premise and a charming movie. It has nothing to do with the source material but it captures the manly friendship of Holmes and Watson. They are of a time before “bromance”, back when the term “confirmed bachelor” could be used without a wink. Robert Downey, Jr. (in the Guy Ritchie films) is currently having fun digging into the controlling and possessive aspect of Holmes’ friendship that is hinted at in the original text but Caine and Kingsley embody the kind of love that totally dares speak its name.

I finally fell in love with the real Sherlock Holmes in my late twenties while working in a hospital. I didn’t work for the hospital, I just had to be in the hospital while the sex offender, with whom I was doing a 1:1, volunteered (I was there to protect the entire population of the hospital while my client helped people find their way around). I spent her six hour shift reading because I wasn’t actually allowed to follow her around (that might have tipped people off that she was a sex criminal and, apparently, that would have been a bad thing). I polished off Dan Brown’s ANGELS AND DEMONS and found that short chapters are nice when you are reading in a distracting environment. That’s why I brought the massive Sherlock Holmes paperback that I had bought for my husband. I began with A STUDY IN SCARLETT as one should. The introduction of Holmes and Watson is fascinating, funny and intriguing. Then there’s the boring mystery bit. Doyle wisely realized the gold in his story was Sherlock Holmes. He took the character and embraced him forever more (except that time he killed him).

The Valley of Schlock Sherlocks

Sherlock Holmes was loosely based on Henry Higgins in Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Pygmalion was famously turned into the Broadway musical and the movie My Fair Lady in which Jeremy Brett (the Granada Sherlock Holmes) played Freddy. P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves was inspired by the butler in THE ADVENTURE OF THE MUSGRAVE RITUAL. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie played Jeeves and Wooster in the wonderful BBC adaptation. Fry has gone on to play Mycroft Holmes in the Guy Ritchie films while Hugh Laurie is small screen Holmes-clone ‘House’ (Holmes-House, I get it!). What does it all mean? Nothing but it demonstrates that Sherlock Holmes is everywhere. I doubt you need a full six degrees to attach everyone in Hollywood to Sherlock Holmes, especially since everyone and his father has played the role (Leslie Howard played Henry Higgins, his son Ronald played Sherlock in a TV series – it is that incestual).

As long as they’ve been making dramas based on Sherlock Holmes, they’ve been writing goofy mysteries and useless Watsons. While Watson is self-deprecating in his narrative, it’s clear he is not a stupid man. He is Holmes’ trusted advisor and friend and while Holmes will torture Watson a bit for the sake of solving a mystery, the friendship is always true. The actual stories are full of little domestic interactions such as Holmes getting out of cleaning the living room by telling Watson about one of his earlier cases. While Basil Rathbone is an appealing Sherlock Holmes (and has a name that sounds like a Holmesian baddie), it’s hard to believe he would really bring Nigel Bruce along on his cases. The man didn’t exactly inspire confidence. It’s funny that so many Holmes fans are worried that the new American series, Elementary features a female Watson, which will reduce the character to a weak damsel in distress. Watson as damsel is a pretty typical Hollywood representation. The real Watson was usually packing heat and, not getting kidnapped by every bad guy in town. Despite the constant character assassination of Watson, my husband and I will still watch just about anything Sherlock Holmes because he’s just that good a character. Thankfully, there have been some good Sherlock Holmes adaptations (the Granada series, novels by Caleb Carr and Michael Chabon) and Sherlock Holmes is blowing up (almost literally in the Guy Ritchie films) and is currently all over the place.

The Sign of the Three Sherlocks

Sherlock has been rocking the small screen for a while now, but he’s been using pseudonyms. We had Monk, the defective detective. Instead of a drug addict, he was OCD and instead of solving really complicated crimes, he solved the easiest cases ever. The murderer was always the only other guy in the show. House kept the drugs, the doctor buddy (Wilson for Watson), he banged his Lestrade (Cuddy) and went off the deep end. However, he did solve some tough crimes while being very eccentric.

After lying low for a while and using pseudonyms, Sherlock Holmes is back with a vengeance! On the big screen, Guy Ritchie has Robert Downey, Jr. looking hot and kicking ass with Jude Law. I’m not even sure the movies have mysteries but they are gorgeous and fun to watch (the movies… and the actors). Is it an accurate representation of the source material? No, but there are nice touches that hint a true Sherlock fan was involved.

On the small screen, the BBC has Sherlock, a modern version of our favorite detective. The mysteries are mostly terrible but Benedict Cumberbatch is charmingly bizarre and Martin Freeman (Tim from The Office) was born to play long-suffering. He has one of the best sighs in the business.

Always on the cutting edge, America is now going to have a new Sherlock Holmes series (featuring a modern version of our favorite detective) but they’ve got a twist. Sherlock will be played by one of Angelina Jolie’s ex-husbands! Oh, and Watson is being played by Lucy Liu. That gives us our first female Watson since Joanne Woodward in They Might be Giants and I believe our first hint of ethnic diversity.

It’s interesting that Arthur Conan Doyle openly dealt with racial discrimination and drug addiction and yet the most modern version of Sherlock skirt the issues. BBC’s Sherlock hints there may be some recreational drug use in his history but right now, he’s on the patch. Guy Ritchie brought in Robert Downey, Jr. and totally avoids Holmes’ addiction to cocaine. Serious? Robert Downey Jr. and you are not going to deal with the character’s self-destructive need for constant stimulation?

Perhaps with all these sexy young Sherlocks on the scene, we’ll actually see a Sherlock Holmes mystery that resembles the clever and subtle mysteries created by Arthur Conan Doyle. A Holmes who is charmingly eccentric in his behavior and clever in his deductions. Until then, I’ll watch whatever Sherlock Holmes the media wants to offer me. I need my fix like Sherlock needs his 7% solution. (Seriously? We saw Jeremy Brett shooting up but not Robert Downey, Jr? Are we in The Matrix?)

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featured image credit: zoomar - Elementary image credit: TNYF/