My opinions are subject to revision, of course, but when first hearing the official news (hat tip: digital spy) about CBS’s Sherlock-series pilot late last week, I thought, UGH! Can’t possibly NOT suck.
I know, I know, there are talented Justified alums involved, but that doesn’t guarantee lightning strikes twice. Are any of these hard-core Sherlockians like the UK version’s producers, creators, and writers, the team of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, who also stars as Mycroft? Or, are these talented types just coming in as hired guns, so to speak?
Well, I took the cowardly position that if I couldn’t say something nice, yadda, yadda…
Back in September, we reported the non-specific network inklings about a similar franchise update in the works for U.S. television. Now we know. CBS has firmly announced its own contemporary, Sherlock-themed series called *shudder* Elementary, which will be set in New York. We at HQ are, as before, dubious about its prospects of not sucking donkey danglers.
Since that very recent news, however, the plot has thickened considerably! The Daily Mail reports that the producers of BBC’s Sherlock are now threatening legal action if CBS’s series has too many similarities:
’We understand that CBS are doing their own version of an updated Sherlock Holmes’, said executive producer at Hartswood Films Sue Vertue [also the wife of series producer/creator/writer Steven Moffat].
’We are very proud of our show and like any proud parent, will protect the interest and wellbeing of our offspring,’ she told The Independent.
Ms Vertue said that CBS had made an offer to the BBC ’a while back’ about filming a remake of the series but nothing had come of it.
She added that reassurances had been made about the network’s integrity during talks and she hoped that their own version did not resemble the BBC’s production.
The current series has been a huge hit in the States but is currently shown on PBS.
Now, let’s belatedly talk about the pachyderm in CBS’s earlier press release, the thing that made me temporarily speechless with squick.
ELEMENTARY? Seriously?! (Why don’t you update Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With the Wind and call the series Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn? Perhaps a Cary Grant biopic called Judy, Judy, Judy?) Naming the upcoming series to refer to one of the most frequently misattributed and misquoted lines is not the way to get canonical fans on your side. Even if “Elementary” was the sole content of Sherlock’s response via Arthur Conan Doyle, it still feels like thumbing serious fans in the eyes with your disregard for the original stories. Maybe that’s just my take, but I thought it presaged weak sauce indeed.
And how could this re-imagining not be weak if the network did, in fact, originally inquire about a straight-up remake of BBC’s and is only now scrambling something else together after being refused? Remaking the UK version is also a crappy notion, by the way, but slightly less misguided, as Forbydelson did find life as The Killing. Of course, that Danish series wasn’t filmed in perfectly transferrable English or aired here on another channel!
Since the BBC series will air here long before the CBS series can be produced—the former not only updating the canon, but employing magnificent production values and acting while winking and nodding to Conan Doyle’s works in a frequent, fun, and reverential way—it’s impossible to see the CBS news as anything but network TV re-molding someone else’s hard-to-improve-upon notion into a Big 3 butt nugget.
And frankly, my dear, the prospective series’ title was all I needed to hear to dread that.
Clare Toohey blogs here and at Women of Mystery. She recently had a surreal short story published in Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices, and thinks in cases of art, if you can’t beat them, join the cheering section.