Why so much Sherlock? It's elementary...

Sherlock

Image Credit: Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection; Claudio Carpi

Everyone loves a good mystery, but it seems lately there’s only one detective that fits the bill: Sherlock Holmes. There have been more than 200 films about the quirky resident of Baker Street since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books were first published in the late 1800s; Sherlock made his first onscreen appearance in a 1916 silent film. But lately the detective and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, are having a bit of a comeback.

So far, there’s the popular BBC series Sherlock, which imagines Holmes in modern times, solving obscure cases around London and the Continent. Creator Steven Moffat confirmed on Twitter recently that there will be a third season of the series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. And of course the popular Guy Ritchie films Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows envision the detective as a master street fighter in a dark, dreary turn-of-the-century London. This week, CBS threw its deerstalker hat in the ring, announcing plans for a new series, which would bring Holmes to modern-day New York.


Why are we so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes these days? Well, it’s elementary, dear PopWatchers. With the success of shows like the CSI franchise, we love learning the details of crimes and using technology to solve them. Sherlock didn’t need scanners or lab tests in 1891, but he certainly was passionate about using the tools available and inventing new ways to gather information, which makes him easily updatable and adaptable. The networks and studios know that we can’t resist a good detective story, and the Sherlock Holmes novels are timeless. There’s sex, there’s violence, there’s technology — all elements that are easy to bring into modern times and tweak to fit a variety of audiences. I doubt Conan Doyle would have imagined the nude scene that riled up the British press, but I think he’d be pleased that Holmes has figured out time travel, with a little help from the magic of film and TV.

While the namesake remakes are down-to-the-letter Sherlock, if you look a little deeper at the TV landscape, Sherlock-inspired characters by any other name are constantly in our TV midst. There have been dozens of quirky detectives with some special skill that lets them help the authorities (well, save maybe for Sherlock’s well-documented cocaine addiction). Take the classic Tony Shalhoub character of Detective Monk, who dropped in when the cops needed him, but his OCD prevented him being in the day-to-day on the force. Or even more recently, Claire Danes’ character Carrie Mathison on the Showtime series Homeland. It’s her manic depression that makes her such a brilliant, observant agent: She sees things we don’t. On Medium and The Mentalist,  it’s psychic powers that are called upon to figure out the crimes. And on Castle, it’s a mystery writer who sees through the muck.

Would Conan Doyle fancy himself a character on a TV series? Was Sherlock a victim of mental illness? What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you into the resurgence of Sherlock or will all these new interpretations make Detective Holmes as formulaic as another CSI franchise?

Follow Laura on Twitter @laurahertzfeld

Read more:
‘Sherlock': A dominatrix, a nude scene, and Holmes in love? PBS gets revved up for the detective’s return
‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows': EW Review

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