Archive for BBC Television

Holmes for the Bewildered

Posted in Literature, Television with tags , , , , on January 9, 2012 by telescoper

Being back to work full-time, now that the new teaching term has started, I find myself in a position to do quick lunchtime blog post while I eat my sandwich. I was going to blog about this topic last week, but thought I’d wait a week in case anything happened to change my negative opinion on this issue. I’m aware that I’m in a small minority and didn’t want to expose myself to public disapproval without due care and attention. Well, last night my opinion certainly changed, only it got even more negative. So now I’m going to take a deep breath, gird my loins, and state for the record my honestly-held opinion that the new BBC TV Series Sherlock is complete and utter tripe.

It’s not that I object to the idea of  placing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great stories in a contemporary setting. Not at all. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most memorable creations in all of fiction and the plots – at least most of them – are so well constructed that the stories should be translatable into a contemporary setting quite easily. There have been so many “traditional” versions of  Sherlock Holmes that I welcome the attempt to do something different with the character.

Neither is it that I object to Sherlock Holmes being played for laughs. The character does indeed possess a great deal of comic potential, which  a number of other interpretations have exploited with a greater or lesser degree of success.

What has happened in this series, however, is that the original plots have been butchered to the point where they make no sense at all. Instead we just have a series of thinly related comedy sketches, with only feeble attempts to link them to a viable mystery story, like a duff combination of the worst bits of Jonathan Creek and The Fast Show.

Last night’s puerile Hound of the Baskervilles was especially dire in this respect. The original story – a full-length novel rather than a short story – is a genuinely intriguing mystery-thriller, laced with undertones of the supernatural, and full of memorable characters, including of course the fearsome Hound itself.

For reasons best known to themselves Forced to squeeze it into one hour, the producers of last night’s version of this classic tale abandoned most of the original plot and introduced a load of silly nonsense about werewolves and hallucinogenic fog and the CIA. The Holmes-Watson double-act was quite amusing – and some of the dialogue very witty – but the plot was so thin it just reminded me of Abbott and Costello meet the Wolfman and other such films I watched when I was a kid. I thought the first episode –  A Scandal in Belgravia – was bad enough, but last night’s episode was truly excruciating. I won’t be watching any more.

It’s a mystery to me why so many people seem to think this tosh is so good, but then I’m used to being in a minority of one. Perhaps if you watch a lot of TV your expectations are lowered so much by the constant stream of drivel that anything that even tries to be original – which Sherlock admittedly does – sends you into raptures?

No, dear critics, I don’t think Sherlock is “great TV” at all. In fact I think it’s dreadful.

There. I’ve said it.