Intellectual Property

Ripping, Mixing, and Burning Arthur Conan Doyle


Here's Steven Moffat—co-creator of the excellent BBC show Sherlock, in which Sherlock Holmes solves mysteries in modern London—with a refreshing attitude about imitators:

The body you saw falling was actually Jeremy Brett.

[He] was also asked for his thoughts on the upcoming US version of a modernised Sherlock Holmes, called Elementary.

Steven said: 'CBS approached us about remaking our version of Sherlock Holmes and we said no, but they went ahead did their own version anyway. You can interpret what I think about that at your leisure. But I don't know. I don't own Sherlock Holmes, I don't even own modernising Sherlock Holmes.

'I want there to be lots of them. I love the Robert Downey Jr. films. I love House which is actually a modernisation of Sherlock Holmes. He's been around for over 100 years, there will never be one definitive version…'

Elsewhere in Reason: Ripping, mixing, and burning Mark TwainMickey Mouse, and everyone else.


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  1. The best thing about that is that it keeps the guys from League of Gentlemen employed. So it keeps up my hopes that there will be a reunion.

  2. Dude really seems to know what he is talking about.

  3. Also do you think he said that because he had to? Basically if he gets mad about any aspect of it being (re-)copied he looks like a huge douche. Which is a downside unless you are a US politician.

  4. I love House which is actually a modernisation of Sherlock Holmes.

    Yeah, Fox beat the Brits to it, with their own Hugh Laurie. The CBS version of Holmes will probably suck. I can’t imagine they will allow a flawed hero.

    1. House was a great twist on the old character, and Sherlock is one of the few modernizations that I like. It’s quite good, and I like the “movie” format.

      1. For some reason the show bugged me even though it was well done.

        For me it didn’t capture the spirit of the characters. Why was Watson (Martin Freeman) such a wimp? Freeman was excellent in Life on Mars, and not a wimp at all. And Holmes was too slick, not nearly as flawed as, say, House, or the original Sherlock, IMO. Watson always had trouble keeping up, of course, but he was never a pussy.

        1. Freeman was excellent in Life on Mars, and not a wimp at all

          Think you mean John Simm buddy

          1. Oh fuck me, well there’s the problem!

        2. I’m not so sure it’s so much that Watson is a wimp as that they are trying to show him as having unresolved issues trying to fit back into civilian life.

          Manifestations of these conflicts are the limp he maintains in spite of the fact that his leg wound is completely healed and the fact that he is going through psychiatric treatment for PTSD.

          My impression is that civilan life in the city is not providing the kind of exitement and adventure that war did and he is conflicted and even guilty over it.

    2. If CBS is doing it, then it will probably have Holmes and Mrs. Watson having an on-again-off-again romance, and every episode will involve someone dying in an apparent auto-erotic asphyxiation.

  5. Great response.

    I’ve never understood why responding with a lawsuit when your art is used in ways you didn’t approve is considered the indie or punk thing to do (eg. Tom Waits).

  6. I subscribe to the Krusty the Clown theory of intellectual property: “If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you’re stealing my bit.”

    1. Gabbo, Gabbo!, GABBO!

    2. Krusty: I’ve had plenty of guys come after me, and I’ve buried them all. Sea Captain. Joey Bishop.

      Pennycandy: Don’t forget the Special Olympics.

      Krusty: [wistfully] Oh, yeah… I slaughtered the Special Olympics!

    3. Krusty: Well okay, but here where it says, “What I got you gotta get and put it in ya,” how about just, “What I’d like is I’d like to hug and kiss ya.”

      Flea: Wow. That’s much better.

  7. Of course there was a definitive version. Jeremy Brett. As a lifelong SH fan, I was disturbed the first few times I saw the Brett versions, but quickly realized that I was wrong, he was right, and that he’d seen things in the character I had never imagined.

    1. Yeah. I think Brett was just about perfect. The only problem with his Holmes is that because the actor was not in great health for a lot of the time they were making that show, so the character could not be as active as he should have been in many episodes.

    2. Terrible series. Jeremy Brett was a constant nervous wreck. They gave a lot of Holmes’ lines to Watson in an effort to make Watson equal to Holmes. They showed the crime at the start rather than let the witnesses tell it or Homes investigate it. They changed clues and mixed stories for no reason.

      Rathbone was a better Holmes than Jeremy Brett.

      1. Where can I get some of those drugs you’re using? The stories were quite true to the Conan Doyle originals, and Brett convinced me that Holmes was indeed neurotic and probably gay.

        Rathbone? Are you fucking kidding? Sherlock Holmes driving a car and fighting Nazis? Really? REALLY???

        1. Rathbone as a character, not his awful movies.

          If Brett convinced you Holmes was neurotic, that proves my point. As for gay, who gives a crap? His sexuality never came up in the books one way or the other, so if Brett convinced you it mattered, that’s another strike. Read the stories. He was far more Rathbone than Brett.

          The episodes *were not true* to the stories. Like I said, they moved lines from Holmes to Watson in a pathetic attempt at feeling sorry for Watson, who certainly wasn’t as dumb and slow-witted as in most portrayals, but moving lines around to rehabilitate him was stupid. Some lines were taken from other stories too. I have practically memorized the canon, I recognized them as wrong, looked them up, confirmed it.

          1. The gay thing was never explicitly stated in the stories and likewise never in the TV series. But you couldn’t help but get that impression. Once I understood Brett’s portrayal, when I went back to the canon, I understood better that Doyle (who was something of a fruitcake himself) really did mean Holmes to be neurotic.

  8. All of the “idea guys” must have left Hollywood 20 years ago, because it seems like single thing on broadcast TV now is based off a European original, and every movie is a remake or based off a comic book or video game.

    I know there are only so many plots out there, but seriously…

    1. I don’t know, Once Upon a Time may be based on fairy tales we all grew up with but it seems like a pretty damn original treatment of them.

      1. Isn’t the premise similar to the Fables comic? (question mark because I haven’t seen the show)

        1. Don’t know, I havn’t seen the comic 🙂

          That said a quick scan of the wikipedia entry on it would seem to indicate not, at least not in the first season of the show.

          The one element they have in common is the fairy tale characters being transported to our world, however the major difference is that in the TV show none of them knows who they were, or even that they came from a different world and the bad guy in the TV show (the evil queen from Snow White) was also transported to our world and rules over the town they all live in as mayor. Also a major part of Once Upon a Time that does not seem to be relevant to Fables is the blending of the story lines between the past in the fairy tale land and the present in Storybrook (the town they live in) with episodes splitting time between both worlds more or less equally.

          So while both stories have a common element (fairy tale characters transported to the real world) there doesn’t seem to be much more that they have in common

    2. Totally disagree with this. American TV is fantastic these days–is Parks and Recreation based off a European TV show? Ron Fucking Swanson! American movies suck ass, at least the expensive ones, but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. But European movies suck ass also–take a highly melodromatic plot and dress it up lots of fancy pretentious cinematography and you’ve got every French film in the last ten years I’ve attempted to watch, and many of the British and other European films as well.

      1. is Parks and Recreation based off a European TV show?

        Well, it’s a watered-down version of The Office, which was based on a European TV show…

        (Note: I actually agree with you. About American TV, anyway. I’ve seen some good French movies in the last 10 years.)

        1. Okay, but in that case The Office was mostly just Spinal Tap with some Larry Sanders thrown in (okay, and a healthy dash of Fawlty). Ricky Gervais freely admits that Spinal Tap is his favorite movie of all time and it was obviously hugely influential, especially the mockumentary format.

        2. Parks and Recreation is okay, but I find Raising Hope to be the best sitcom at the moment.

          1. Veep is hilarious and a great antidote to bullshit shows about politics like The West Wing (ok it’s based on a British show).

      2. I was engaging in a bit of hyperbole. There is some good TV out there, and obviously much of it isn’t based on foreign programming. For me, the real culprit in suckitude is reality TV, of whatever origins.

        Also, it seems like cable has assumed the mantle of providing quality TV, allowing the networks to focus on dancing and singing shows, with the occasional sitcom thrown in for good measure.

  9. CSI:Miami was cancelled. I assume the Sherlock show on CBS will star David Caruso and the pilot episode will go something like this:

    At scene of grisly murder at high school football stadium. Detective Watson, who was on the scene first, comes up to talk to Lieutenant Holmes

    Det. Watson: Sir, we don’t have any witnesses, but that kid over there says that she was his Biology teacher.

    Lt. Holmes: Looks like solving this case…(Holmes puts on his deerstalker)…will be elementary

    YYYYYEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! (cue opening credits)

  10. Here! Here! Or, perhaps, Hear! Hear!

  11. So, I’d like to see that ‘hound’ in the Hound of the Baskervilles actually be a werewolf/hellhound/demon-dog instead of a ‘hallucination’ or some merry fuckin’ prankster.

    That story never fails to be a letdown…

  12. Isn’t that Mentalist Guy also really Sherlock Holmes?

  13. It was only a few months ago that I learned the TV serial Lost was based primarily on Doyle’s collection Tales of Terror and Mystery. Lost had plenty of other allusions, many of them thematic (such as those to Watchmen, Illuminatus!, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Seconds, and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil), but the Doyle stuff (which doesn’t include any Holmes stories) was primary.

    The upshot, if you familiarize yourself with the 1898 story therein, “The Lost Special”, its subsequent dramatic adaptations, and its historic basis (an incident on Sept. 22, 1892 in Lindal), is that Lost has yet to come to its conclusion. There will be an epilog in which a Big Mouth will tell us what it was really about — whose secrets were being shut up by having their airliner disappear and a double put in their place.

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