You’ve got to hand it to the Brits. It has been nearly 250 years since their taxing of the colonies set off the American Revolution and during that time they have remained vigilant in their holier-than-thou judgment of the United States. Making it worse still is the ultra-British way that this cockiness is portrayed, not with swagger and bravado, but with a snootiness that belittles the very need for a debate. It presents itself in curious ways. For every Monty Python or Led Zeppelin, you get 13 excruciating seasons of Are You Being Served?, but it is all delivered in the same golden container, awaiting our praise or else. It is this unilateral belief that unwavering support of their British by-products will eventually lead to universal acclaim that has prolonged the careers of the brothers Gallagher and David Beckham. The trouble is that sometimes they are right. Sometimes it is the Office or Adele or what-have-you and in those instances they are sitting there with a disapproving monocle waiting for the world to catch up, which brings us to Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes as source material is a trap. To a large extent, the modern portrait of detectives and mysteries were born in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hallowed pages. From Batman to CSI, the intellectual sleuth who outwits his opponents is now a beloved archetype. And whether it is Monk or Psyche or the Closer or Law and Order: Criminal Intent, we are presented with a flawed, yet brilliant protagonist whose eccentrics belie his abilities. The saving grace of all these characters is that they are merely an homage to Sherlock. They are derivative, but gain freedom in that separation. To the contrary, Sherlock Holmes will always be held to its source material. Moreover, it will also be held to the standard of its string of offspring. This legacy becomes a burden, but it doesn’t stop us from having a Sherlock Holmes franchise of movies, a Sherlock Holmes TV series, and another Sherlock Holmes TV series (Elementary) all in simultaneous production. Of course, only one of the three is worth its bandwidth. The movies tried to give a modern feel in a dated time period and it was a huge failure. Elementary tried to give a modern feel in a modern time period and it also failed, perhaps more epically. The BBC’s Sherlock has a classic feel in a modern time period. Note that I changed out dated for classic, because the show could very easily feel dated and end up in the junk pile with the other two offerings. Instead, the show masters the art of updating the environment, but maintaining the essence. Last night’s episode (which those damn Brits saw months ago) had a classic set up where the villain maneuvered and manipulated the situation to outsmart Sherlock, but failed to realize that Sherlock’s logic and actions aren’t bound by traditional tenets of morality. For those who DVRed the episode, I’ll let you watch it before I start with the spoiler.