Monday, October 08, 2012

Sherlock vs Elementary: Two TV shows take on the modern Sherlock Holmes

Starring: Benedict CumberbatchMartin Freeman

Starring: Johnny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Adian Quinn

Category: Mystery, Drama

When Sherlock came out, I was blown away. I had no expectation whatsoever. First, the movies studios have expanded and shaped the Sherlock Holmes stories to suit their own mold and the result is that many people who are aware of Sherlock Holmes have the movie images and stories in their minds. This sometimes is not true to the books. Second, there have also been too many interpretations of the Sherlock Holmes series that have tried to be different but end up no where near and often incomprehensible. I'm looking at you The Return of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes Returns.
You have to go back to the original stories to appreciate Holmes entirely. His character was often less pleasant and manners more rough than the movies often show. This was acknowledged by Dr, Watson who serves as the narrator in almost all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Most of the movies characters come across as polite but slightly eccentric Englishman. Did you know that the hat that is famously associates with Sherlock Holmes, the deerstalker hat, was never mentioned in any of the stories directly? He also never wore them often or in the city. It is his unique character in the stories, alongside his brilliant powers of deduction, that made him so appealing. In fact, Dr. House from the TV series House was noted for his similarities with the Sherlock Holmes in that they both use methods of deduction and logic, apply the knowledge of science and being sort of out of the mainstream social behavior. I consider Dr. House a worthy successor to Holmes but with the medical knowledge (and responsibilities) of Dr. Watson.
After watching Sherlock, the BBC version, I felt like giving it a standing ovation. The BBC series captures both of the characters wonderfully. The series not only captures the essence of Holmes, especially his idiosyncrasies, but manages to transport the character and intellect intact into the modern world. He is not easy to get along with as he is a driven, logical and focused individual. Like other geniuses, he worldview is different than most and that makes it harder for others to understand. What they see as something surprising and unexpected, Holmes sees as mundane and predictable.
And this is not just any modern world but modern-day London with it's character and personality intact. If this were an American production, you would have gotten cliches by the truckload. But since this is the BBC, London itself is a character, the more dank and dark one that Holmes inhabits.
The deep character links to the original books extend to Dr. Watson. While Dr. Watson severs as the narrator in many of the Sherlock Holmes books, there are some details as to who he was before he met Holmes. I found it especially delightful that they managed to incorporate and update his experience in Afghanistan. The original Dr. Watson was in the Anglo-Afghan war while the modern Dr. Watson also served in the modern day war on terror in Afghanistan. Both left the war with scars.
The storylines bear some resemblance to the original but appropriately updated and expanded. The pace is unsettling as it speeds up and slows down on a dime yet looses none of the drama that it tries to invoke. I thought I would be offended with the expansion of several of the minor characters but I wasn't. They were done with a purpose and properly fleshed out to add to the mystery but not enough to distract or bore.
Elementary, on the other hand is a mixed bag. I first wanted to write this off as another American TV series literally stealing from their British counterparts (you would be surprised how many popular shows are just copycats). But again I was surprised. I would like to say that Johnny Lee Miller was taking cues from Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Holmes but he could have easily been sourcing from the source material. It's easy enough to point to other TV characters and draw parallels. But you have to remember that almost every cop show where some thinking is required to solve crime owes something to the Sherlock Holmes stories (sorry, Walker Texas Ranger and Fall Guy). And every anti-hero, anti-social detective character has their roots to Sherlock Holmes. So the question of who is copy whom should never arise. Finally, Adian Quinn, playing the Lestrade role, makes a good bridge between Holmes's existence and the law. I hope he has more to do and his character further expands.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

From the Google Plus Stream: Humor of all kinds

Did you know that MyWatchlist has a Google Plus page? It's where I quickly share links or other posts related to what I am watching. Sometimes there is a link to videos,too. There is also a Wandering YouTube G+ page which is dedicated to what I find on YouTube. If you are into watching YouTube a lot, this will point to some videos I found or watching that may be not so mainstream. Just subscribe to the MyWatchlist Google Plus by clicking the G+ button on the side of this site.
These are some of the posts on my G+ stream that I found downright hilarious.

50 Shades of Hey. A play on the famous book of the similar name. Either the video is a examples of the various usage of the word "hey" or an indictment of how overused the word "hey" has become.

A follow-up to the post on the funny YouTube videos of Birdbox Studio. It's a series ads that they made for vodka company.  The post shows how 3 cowboys settle on how to enjoy their drinks. The video will the show other ads made at the end of the video. Click on those to see more. Some are ok but some are really funny.

And finally some reality-based humor. It's either a bizarre sense of entitlement or rugged individualism running amok in all the wrong directions. Either way, it's hilarious when a someone call 9-11 to complain about a fast-food joint's new menu. The complaint is that it's healthier and the person wants the old menu back. Funnier when animated.