Friday, May 30, 2014

Sherlock vs Elementary

Quite a while ago (January 2013) I wrote a post about the two modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes, British series “Sherlock” and American series “Elementary.” I was undecided then, but I certainly am not undecided now.

To be honest, “Elementary” couldn’t really hold my interest past the first two or three episodes. I just didn’t feel comfortable with the series, I just didn’t feel that ‘I must absolutely watch the next episode’ feeling that defines a good series for me. And I think I’m not alone, considering the airing in Germany switched from a very major station (SAT1) to the much less major station Kabel1 (which normally mostly does reruns of series and movies).
What did I miss in “Elementary?” Perhaps the spot-on casting of BBCs “Sherlock.” Perhaps the nice and well-done renewal of Doyle’s own stories (from “Study in Scarlet” new-interpretation “Study in Pink” to the “The Empty Hearse” interpretation of “The Empty House” so far, still watching my way through season 3). Perhaps I like my Sherlock much more in London. I can’t really say. What I can say is I watched “The Empty Hearse” yesterday in German, because I stumbled over it and, despite the fact that I hate the German voices, I was caught. In three seasons of three movies each, two were weak (“The Blind Banker” in season 1 and “A Scandal in Belgravia” in season 2 - for me, that one dragged terribly). And even those were nice enough to watch, they just weren’t ‘must watch again in a hurry’ material.
Maybe the Sherlock Holmes in “Elementary” was just too ‘American’ for my taste. Perhaps he strayed too far from the original. Or, perhaps, the fact that the BBC version keeps to the old stories, even while redoing them, is what makes it more interesting for me. I started reading Sherlock Holmes stories at the age of 12 - and I never stopped completely. But no, I’ve read my share of ‘new’ cases written by other authors. It’s not Doyle himself I miss in the American version. I can’t say what it is, I only can say “Elementary” has vanished from my radar for good. Not watching the episodes, even though they’re running at the moment.

For many people, Jeremy Brett was the ultimate Holmes, at least before Benedict Cumberbatch. Not for me, but I recognize he shaped the role to a certain degree, even so far that the Sherlock Holmes in Frogware’s adventure games seems to be modelled after him. For me, Cumberbatch was the ultimate Holmes the moment I saw him in the role first. The whole setup of the series, the whole style it was made in (with the facts rotating over the screen, for instance), the casting, it all worked together so well. Sherlock’s remark that he steals Lestrade’s badge when he’s annoyed at the Inspector in “Study in Pink” made me laugh, not because it was from the source material (it’s not), but because it seemed to fit this Sherlock Holmes so well. I can imagine him swiping Lestrade’s badge when he gets annoyed or bored, just for the fun of it. He admits to being a sociopath, after all. (The whole ‘consulting detective/consulting criminal’ thing with Holmes and Moriarty in season 1/2 only works because, if you really, really look at it, both are sociopaths. So much for the old theory that they’re two sides of a coin.)

It’s been a terrible drag to only get three 1 1/2 hour movies per season with “Sherlock” - and having to wait so long for season 3, with both Cumberbatch and Freeman occupied with “The Hobbit” and other stuff. The next season will also take its time, but at least there will be one.
On the other hand, I haven’t missed “Elementary” since I stopped watching. I haven’t even thought about checking the series again, now that it’s running once more (whereas I would most likely stay up until 2 am in order to catch the rest of “Sleepy Hollow” - just saying). That says it clearly, I think.

In the long run, “Sherlock” has won the battle. Not that I thought there would be one, but evidently there was. Some people might love “Elementary,” but I’ll keep to the British variety.

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