Monday, 24 September 2012

A Baker Street Dozen of Sherlocks

Kate Beaton's excellent Hark, A Vagrant has a wonderful series of sketches featuring an increasingly frustrated John Watson, faced with adaptation decay following decades of film, television and literary homages.

I have to admit I felt a bit nervous about BBC's return to the trough with Sherlock - I needn't have worried. The series proved to be a loving tribute to the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, with the modern setting playing off the strengths of the iconic tales surprisingly well. At its most basic, the adventures of the Baker Street detective have played with the nature of the partnership. Beaton notes that Watson is often turned into a buffoon in order to emphasize the intelligence of his partner, but the more interesting adaptations instead play up the friendship between the two men, how they compliment each other intellectually.

The result is we cannot have a Sherlock without a Watson anymore. What do we do about two Holmeses though?

That's exactly what we are faced with now though, with CBS launching their own modern update Elementary this week in the States. Jonny Lee Miller has donned the scarf, which added an additional frisson of rivalry between the two productions when it emerged he sought Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch's blessing - which was not forthcoming.

To make an especially awkward situation even more so, the two worked together on stage as part of Danny Boyle's Frankenstein.  In a wonderfully significant decision by Boyle, he had the two actors exchange roles each night.

Of course it gets weirder when Mr David Mitchell and Robert Webb enter the proceedings. During the first season of their sketch comedy show That Mitchell And Webb Look the lads produced a story about two actors so wrapped up in their egos, when both are cast as Holmes and Watson in a stage production, they insist on switching roles with each performance - and resort to increasingly aggressive acts of public violence.

So far Miller and Cumberbatch have not taken to fighting each other, but this feels weirdly prophetic. Here's the sketch itself - enjoy folks.

Elementary premieres September 27 on CBS.


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