Friday, October 20, 2006

Shit. Sherlock. No!

The Delightful LA Actress emailed to say that all the copy written so far for her website was right on the money and the remaining material we requested would be dispatched shortly. Which was good. If I can get the rest of the coy that needs to be written, written over the weekend everything should be on schedule.

Out last night meeting up with colleagues. Pubs and bars are too damn noisy and restaurants generally insist that you pay up and bugger off once everyone has finished eating, so, for what is turning into a regular get together, hotel bars have become the most viable option. They may have sniffy waiters and outrageous prices but you can hear yourself think and are always great for people watching.

The location this time was across from The British Library near Kings Cross, which meant the clientele was... interesting. It was only when I was heading back home that I had the opportunity to read the paper, whereupon I came across:

Jonathan Pryce is to make his return to British TV, playing Sherlock Holmes in a new two-part adaptation for BBC1. The actor, 59, whose last lead role on UK television – blah, blah, okay, lets skip to the end – It is part of a bid by the BBC to create more flagship “family viewing.”

Sherlock Holmes. Again?

A writer friend in LA once told me that to be a successful writer, read Conan Doyle’s canon of Sherlock Holmes stories. Think he’s blowing me off? Here’s his reason why:

The Sherlock Holmes stories are founded on the concept of deductive logic. That you don’t just look but you see, you perceive. What do I see? What do I know? What does something tell me? The way someone dresses. The way someone speaks. Their body language. The angle of their body when they speak. This can provide for you massive amounts of knowledge and information. The more information you have, the smarter you are, the more you control your life.

I started with A Scandal in Bohemia and gradually understood what he meant.

On film, Sherlock Holmes for me was always Basil Rathbone, with Nigel Bruce as the faithful Dr John Watson, even though the films typically strayed far from the source material, which in some instances were so slight that there was little to dramatise. On television, Jeremy Brett probably came closest to the definitive Holmes in four series made by Granada TV from 1985 to 1994.

Which makes me think, why remake them? What can a new adaptation provide other than a different actor under the deerstalker?

At the same time ITV was transmitting Jeremy Brett’s Holmes, the BBC was showing a series of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple dramas starring Joan Hickson. After appearing on stage in Appointment With Death in 1946, Christie wrote to Hickson saying, "I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple."

In the twelve murder mysteries, Hickson created perhaps the definitive screen version of Agatha Christie’s amateur sleath. Which meant that when ITV screened their Marple series in recent years, Geraldine McEwan played the character as a mischievous pixie, while the stories, co-produced by Granada and WGBH Boston, were spiced up with sex and overpopulated with an all-star cast with turned it into overblown pantomime.

Both Holmes and Marple are safe options that fit perfectly into the English tradition of murder mystery. Having been done, wouldn’t it be better for the BBC to take a chance and opt for original drama instead?


At 2:44 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

Short answer - yes.

Why do they keep remaking them indeed? Ive been trying to think of some N American examples of something that keeps getting remade or at least that often and can't.

Hey Technorati is working! I've arrived!

At 3:48 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

I think that it does somewhat give the lie to the much-touted implication that UK TV drama has been revitalised of late, and that commissioners are much more open to new, speculative and/or experimental writing.

Sounds like we've still got the same cocks in suits that we've always had, afraid of trying something different, of sticking their necks out and perhaps, just for once, making a fucking decision of their own.

I could, of course, be wrong... ;-)

At 7:52 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

The best Holmes-related series of late was Daniel Petrie’s Murder Rooms which featured the fictionalised adventures of the student Conan Doyle and Joseph Bell, MD, the Edinburgh University tutor whose methods of deduction inspired Sherlock Holmes.

After the initial television drama, subtitled The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, the BBC, in partnership with WGBH Boston, made only one series of four stories. Shame really.

At 8:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Murder Rooms was very good, but it was by David Pirie, not Daniel Petrie. I never figured out if it was the same David Pirie who told me off for not reading Jane Eyre when I was at Manchester.

At any rate, it was a good deal better than the BBC's later effort with Rupert Everett.

At 9:55 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Of course it was Daniel Pirie, he of Natural Lies and The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. How I could mix him up with the director of The Betsy and Cocoon: The Return is anyone's guess.

(checks diary)

Oh right, today is Idiot Boy Day. Which is probably why I watched tonight's episode of Robin Hood.

At 10:00 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

And yes, Murder Rooms was far, far better than both The Hound of the Baskervilles, with Richard Roxburgh as Holmes and a CGI Scooby Doo-from-Hell as the hound, and the stupid Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking with Everett.

At 12:38 am, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

I think Mike Hammer might qualify as a character that keeps getting remade...usually with Stacey Keach.


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