Except for the grumpy old man contingent (‘Get Sherlock out of modern day!’), fans of Holmes, including scholarly geeks like me who make their own newsletter, overwhelmingly liked this new show and the three episode season one.
I don’t know too many Holmes fans (other than GOM group: see above) who disliked this show. Even those who were moderately approving seemed pleased and intrigued with it and willing to tune in for another season.
So, season two came along, and more huzzahs and approval. I don’t remember Holmes friends of mine thinking it was going south. I certainly didn’t: I thought the first two seasons were brilliant and fun updatings of the great detective. I found cool references to Doyle’s tales all over the place.
Once again, no comments that it jumped the shark. Folks were absolutely looking forward to seeing how Holmes survived his Reichenbach Fall. It was one of my five all time favorite tv shows and probably battling Justified for number one.
And then season three (finally) arrived. Hoo-boy. Not only did I see, I observed. And for the first time, I saw and observed a notable amount of unhappiness with the show. And with the second episode, it was certain that a shift had occurred among the fan base. It continued through the third (season finale) episode.
A significant number of folks grumbled about season three. Where there had been very little unhappiness with the first six episodes, an entire contingent of fans did not like season three and it impacted their overall attitude towards the show. It went from competing for number one to dropping out of my all time top ten.
I will state categorically that the excitement for season four is not nearly as great and certainly isn’t as universal as it was for prior seasons.
Now, a bit of that could be due to the loooong delay (season four has now been pushed to 2017).
But instead of creating an “Oooh, get here soon. I can’t wait!” anticipation, that has just increased the deprecatory comments about the show in the interim.
Now, we will have a Victorian-Era Christmas episode this year, and I am excited about that. I hope it’s excellent and I really am looking forward to it. Though the first clip was released after I began writing this post and I’ve got a concern (read on!).
Season three was polarizing. At least, that’s my assertion: I’d be happy to hear from folks about other reasons the show went from being almost totally loved to having a vocal, split fan base.
And I guess you could argue that there isn’t really a large group that came to dislike/be upset with the show, but I’m pretty sure that group exists. And I’m a member of it.
So, Bob, after all this blather, why don’t you tell us why the show ran into this “alleged” problem? Ok. The show’s creators and producers got swelled heads. They thought that they were bigger than Doyle and they could take Sherlock into their own realm, saying “Look at us. Look at what we did. Aren’t we creative and clever?” And they left a lot less Doyle in the three episodes.
Charles Agustus Milverton is one of my favorite stories in the Canon. Yet I actually had to force myself to watch all of season three, even though he was the villain. Watson as an ex-CIA assassin. Seriously? I mean, really, SERIOUSLY? And Mycroft idly watching Sherlock being tortured. And after enduring a completely un-Canonical Moriarty for two seasons, you make it look like he’s coming back in season four?
END OF TINY SPOILER
For me, season three (which was a bit dull on the story side) seemed like a giant Sherlockian selfie. And as much as I loved the first two seasons, I was disappointed in the third.
Paul Bishop (whose post on Robert E. Howard’s boxing stories you surely read here, right?), had this to say after twice watching the season three opener:
“Sherlock hasn’t jumped the shark yet, but it is in danger of becoming self-congratulatory, self-involved, and worst of all, smug.There were so many in-jokes and obscure references firing fast and furiously across the screen it became impossible not only to keep up with them, but to also follow the main thread of the episode’s plot at the same time – too much wait what was that? What just happened?”
“Self-congratulatory, self-involved and…smug.” I’ve heard variations on this from others. It’s not just all in my head (or Paul’s either). Seasons one and two felt clever with Doyle always in mind. Season three felt like folks pushing their way into the front of the picture, putting Doyle in the back and hard to see.
As I’m sure somebody will say, “Well, what about Elementary? That’s not Doyle.” True. But as I’ve said here before, I think that show is a police procedural with a Sherlockian overlay. And it works. I don’t expect a ton of Doyle, but I like it when it shows up. And Johnny Lee Miller is a far less obnoxious Holmes than Benedict Cumberbatch,, which helps.
Below is the clip released at San Diego ComicCon for the upcoming Christmas special. I think it’s amusing. And I love the Victorian atmosphere. Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait.
That’s a cute scene and I like it. But imagine similar bits reoccurring throughout the ninety minute episode. And you’ve got exactly what I talked about above: “Aren’t we funny? Look at our cool Holmes stuff.” With Doyle shoved off to the side.
Now, I’m commenting on ninety-ish seconds of a sample. I know. But since that sample is symptomatic of what I think wrecked season three, it’s got me a little worried. I’ll be quite happy if that’s the exception rather than the norm and we get an episode more consistent with the first two seasons.
I’m hoping to see more Doyle in season four (scripts haven’t been written yet) and for Sherlock to reclaim fans like myself. I’d bet it more likely than not that there won’t be a season five. Cumberbatch (and to a lesser extent, Martin Freeman) are very hot properties and carving out time for a three episode tv series doesn’t strike me as a big return on investment for them.
And personally, I think Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis are getting tired of the all the criticism and the large role the show is playing: for example, they complain about fans hanging all over shooting and sending cell phone pictures (which I find silly: get a life) and will be happy to give it up. Heh: reminds me a bit of Doyle.
So, there you have it. I find the fact that the show was so popular across the board before season three but so criticized (while still popular) after said season quite interesting. And I don’t think anyone can blame the quality of the acting, which was stellar yet again. It got too cute and too self-congratulatory. For me, at least.
I do think we the disaffected want to see a quality season four and will jump back into the happy camp. I’d guess it’s a small minority that are so pissed off they want it to tank. But I do think it’s a significant number that are quite worried it will be more like three than like one and two.
You can read Bob Byrne’s ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column here at Black Gate every Monday morning.
He founded www.SolarPons.com, the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’ and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.