In my happy meditations of the new Sherlock minisode, which brilliantly sums up modern Sherlock's Great Hiatus in seven minutes, I once again come 'round to that topic upon which I tend to displease a few folks, so here is my usual disclaimer: Elementary fans, you might not want to be reading this. Here's a link to a lovely extended version of the show's opening credits music you can go to and then forget to come back. That is my Christmas gift to you.
And a few one-one-thousands to give them time to wander off, and . . .
The new Sherlock minisode, "Many Happy Returns," not only brings happy anticipation of season three of that original modern Sherlock Holmes adaptation, it . . . in seven minutes . . . reminded me so well of why that guy in Elementary has never been Sherlock Holmes for me, and doubtless never will.
"Many Happy Returns" has two parts. The first shows us Sherlock Holmes without showing us Sherlock Holmes. He is a faceless figure doing what he does best, because "he can't stop himself." We see a bit of the climaxes to three solved cases, as relayed by Detective Inspector Anderson, one of Sherlock Holmes's biggest antagonists at Scotland Yard, now acting the bearded prophet and what almost seems Sherlock's biggest fan. Without ever seeing Sherlock Holmes, we see the greatness that is Holmes, that ability beyond all others, that enthusiast in the art of detection who can't stop being who he is, even when he's roaming the world to get away.
That guy in Elementary? After his "Moriarty moment," he had a total breakdown, went complete drug addict, then had to have his daddy buy him a minder after he fled to New York City. Does that sound anything like Sherlock Holmes to you? Maybe you can still squint and see it. Not this little black duck.
But the Sherlock minisode also somewhat explains why we have that weird Elementary alteration of the character with its second half: the cut footage from Watson's birthday video. Even I have to admit, Moffat and Gatiss have altered the character of Sherlock Holmes for their version as well, playing up Sherlock Holmes's social awkwardness due to his genius and his penchant for brutal honesty. People often don't feel comfortable with the bald truths of life, which Sherlock is all about. This BBC version of Holmes plays up Watson's trials in being a friend to such a man, eliciting teary sympathy from viewers much more than Doyle ever had a mind to, but here's the thing: In making Holmes a bit of a social bastard, they don't reduce the character's powers or make him a lesser detective just to add viewer sympathy.
The guy in Elementary has others solve his cases. He's living off his daddy's money. He has weakness after weakness added in because the show's creators seem to go along with the American TV model in such cases: If you show a smart and successful person that might seem to wound the ego of Joe Average, you have to make them an awkward nerd, or in some other way show that those very intelligent people come with flaws that make them no better than the rest of us. Probably even lesser than the rest of us for all their book-l'arning and big-brain IQs. Probably a psychopathic killer, too . . . you know how smart they always are!
But Sherlock Holmes was created in a time when a true genius, a man at the top of his field, didn't have to be a psychopathic killer or a nerd. As we move toward the world of Idiocracy more and more with every passing day, we need more Sherlocks and less Elementarys to fight the rising tide of the lowest common denominator being our standard-bearer.
Just my opinion, perhaps, but I suspect even Detective Inspector Anderson can see that need coming. (And I never thought I'd like that guy quite so much.) It's amazing how much we got in one seven minute minisode this time around, and it has raised an already high interest level in the new series even further.