If you’re a fan of the BBC production of Sherlock, I think you might already know what I’m going to say. WTF!? No fricken way! This cheesy idea just STINKS on so many levels it’s hard for me to figure out where to sniff then plug my nose first. Let me break it down.
Firstly, Come on! Secondly, REALLY? Thirdly, WHAT? Watson is a WOMAN!?
Come on! Why is it that American TV people think they can take something already great and improve on it by making it American? Yes, yes, there have been many Americanized programs over the years that have become long time beloved shows. “The Office” is one I can think of quickly off the top of my head. Maybe that’s because the concept of “Wanker” can be translated successfully cross culturally and though the TERM is British, they certainly don’t hold any kind of exclusive rights to people who can be classified as Wankers. Wankers themselves are a cross cultural phenomenon. “All in the Family” is another one of those successfully Americanized BBC stories originally titled “Til Death do us Part”. (I apologize in advance to my American friends for the following statement, though they will probably tell me it’s true.) Americans can easily identify with a show about a narrow minded, bigoted wanker. It’s almost guaranteed that you know one or have one in your family. The show helps you to get past being appalled at his behavior to see the humor and ridiculousness in it. If you ARE a bigoted wanker, well, at least you can sympathize with the main character. Two other BBC shows that translated successfully to American versions are Three’s Company (Man About the House) and Sanford and Son (Steptoe and Son) again, Wankers and Bigots.
Secondly, REALLY? Let’s take a look at some of the BBC Americanized FLOPS. Number one on my list is “Life on Mars”. (Sorry Jason Omara, love your work on Terra Nova!)
This show lost ALL of its humor when translated into American English. Philip Glenister OWNED the Gene Genie. No question about it. The Americanized version was an over boiled, rotten egg. Another on the top of my list had two episodes that were so bad I believe they didn’t even air. (I found them somewhere on the net at one point…). Red Dwarf, http://www.reddwarf.co.uk/news/index.cfm a hilarious sci-fi spoof based on the books by Rob Grant and Grant Naylor, starring Craig Charles as Lister, the last surviving human, Chris Barrie as a hologram of his “gimboid” bunkmate, Danny John – Jules as a humanoid cat evolved from Listers pet, and Robert Llewellyn as their mechanoid manservant. Again, no one can top the British actors in the original and it lost all of its wacky humor when translated into American English. The BRITISHNESS of these shows is a large part of what makes them great! Americanizing Sherlock Holmes is like Americanizing James Bond! It’s sacrilege, pure and simple. Here’s a link to a list of other Americanized shows :
Only a handful of these were / are successful.
Thirdly, WHAT? Watson is a WOMAN?! This issue is a whole article by itself but I will try to address it here briefly, well semi – briefly. Ok, at first glance you might think, “Hey, that’s cool! What a great way to modernize the old story and bring it into the twenty-first century”. EEUURRR (insert buzz sound here) WRONG! Let’s take a look at the most controversial element of bringing Conon Doyle’s work up to date. How do you deal with the issue of two adult men, not even college students, living together in the same apartment? Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss have dealt with this issue BRILLIANTLY.
Sherlock has been described even by the Actor Benedict Cumberbatch , who plays the role, as being “asexual” (Benedict is of course the expert on his own character, but after seeing A Scandal in Belgravia, I would argue this point!). Watson has professed over and over that he is NOT gay, yet the two of them live together as a couple, which was pointed out very directly by the Irene Adler character again in Scandal in Belgravia.
Sexuality, in truth is ambiguous. There is no black and white when it comes to human sexuality and Americans have not been able to come to terms with this fact. One can be heterosexual yet have attractions to the same gender; also, it is completely possible for two men to have a deeply caring relationship without being gay. So now the American TV lords have a problem on their hands. How do you deal with sexual ambiguity? Obviously if two men are cohabitating, we would have to resort to the usual effeminate male gay stereotype typical in American television. We would have to have a Sherlock or a Watson that flounces around in pink heels and talks with a lisp, because the American audience can’t handle the grey areas. “I know!” says one, “Let’s make Watson a woman!” Bingo! Problem solved. Or should I say problem avoided?
So, in short, American TV producers have an opportunity to expand our collective consciousness a little bit but they take the cowardly way out disguised as being progressive by hiding behind women’s equality. Yellow is what I call this.
American Sherlock, FAIL!
(Here is a link to the Great Sherlock Debate, voice your opinion https://www.facebook.com/GreatSherlockHolmesDebate )
- TV in Review: Sherlock, “A Scandal in Belgravia” (polentical.com)
- Lucy Liu to play Dr Watson in ‘radical’ US adaptation of Sherlock Holmes (independent.co.uk)
- Sherlock Holmes news: Dr Watson sex swap for US show (thesun.co.uk)
- Adler Cracks the Whip! Sherlock: “A Scandal in Belgravia” (tor.com)
- Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (sunshinetomorrow.wordpress.com)