Americanization of Sherlock Holmes: how bad an idea is this?

I’m seeing initial waves of nerd rage over this news that CBS is trying to develop its own pilot for a modernization of Sherlock Holmes, set in New York City. The timing of this, given that there is another active modernization of Sherlock Holmes in production with the BBC, is not a coincidence; note that this article says that the producers of Elementary apparently approached the producers of Sherlock to ask about taking their show over to the States, and were rebuffed.

I’m just full of “buh?” about this, myself. Mostly negative “buh?”, too, expanded out from the comment I just dropped on criminalelement.com’s post on the matter.

Part of it is the ongoing weariness of the trend of remaking every single idea that was ever popular in the last 50 years over and over and over and over and over. This goes for TV AND for Hollywood movies. Enough with the remakes and reboots already.

Part of it is the disgust with the idea that any fun concept out of non-American media or culture has to be Americanized in order for American audiences to actually watch and enjoy it. Certainly this doesn’t seem to be a problem at all for American geek culture–though I sadly admit that it’s a legitimate concern once you’re outside said geek culture.

Part of it is certainly the bad timing of trying to launch this show while Sherlock itself is still in active production.

But really, what it boils down to for me is just not trusting that the idea won’t suck. Mostly because of the fear that in transferring Holmes and Watson not only to the modern day but out of England entirely, too much will be lost that make these characters recognizably Holmes and Watson. And even more importantly, I’m leery of the risk of cultural appropriation, since so much of what makes these characters who they are is that they are, in fact, British.

I’m not inherently opposed to another attempt to modernize Holmes, mind you. I’m not even inherently opposed to porting Holmes and Watson over to the States–in the hands of suitably awesome writers, such a porting could be pulled off. There was a graphic novel a while back that explored an alternate history for Superman, asking the question of what would have happened if baby Kal-El’s ship had crashed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas. userinfosolarbird, who’s read it, liked it quite a bit.

However, I’m much leerier about American TV writers, who by the very nature of their work are trying to attract as many viewers as possible and therefore have to think about things like “how much do we have to screw around with the source material to make it appeal as much as possible to our target audience?”, doing this with non-American cultural icons. Even if those icons are now in the public domain.

So yeah, I’m extremely dubious. Though I also have to admit that I’m curious enough that I’ll keep half an eye on this and see what reviews are like once the show finally shows up.

What do you all think? Does this have DO NOT WANT stamped all over it for you, or are you willing to check it out when it airs? Here, have a poll! (And if you’re reading this on LJ or DW or Tumblr, please to click over to the original post to leave your answers!)

Americanization of Sherlock Holmes: Good idea, bad idea, or wretched?

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Angela Korra'ti

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.