Thursday 2012-06-21

Just watched the first 6 episodes of Sherlock; which is a contemporary adaptation of several Sherlock Holmes stories. They seem reasonably shallow and inconsistent; you're not likely to find any gems of social criticism or superb human performances, however they're still fun to watch.

Given that they updated Sherlock to the present age, it's surprising that Holmes seems more a user of technology (looks up weather on smartphone, thinks viruses can be written with a handful of bytes) than a hacker... since one of the things that impressed me about the original Sherlock was his use of the Baker Street gang to extend his reach throughout London.

He could tell one of them to shadow a person and the kid would do a fair job of it. The current version has a network of homeless people, which is great; however, London now has a tantalizing array of cameras, a vast network of cellphones, and tons of data on companies' servers. And our new Sherlock hints at none of this?

Aside from digitally handicapping Sherlock, the writers also unfortunately re-animated Moriarty. The world has enough chaos and bad actors who occasionally get lucky/brilliant that we don't need an Antagonist; so much for moving past simplistic morality. Not to mention that writing for the interactions between two exceptionally smart characters is setting oneself up for failure.

Production-wise, they film everything more or less the same; when Sherlock clues the viewer in as to what he noticed, we get slow-mo close-ups. Since Sherlock doesn't see the world the same way everyone else does, it'd be fun to abuse everyone's HDTVs by focus-stacking the scenes where we're really supposed to pay attention. When Sherlock explains, just show the same frame again, with the object of note highlighted. This allows everyone to play along, while also possibly improving their skills.

Lastly, the writers seem to have fallen on their own swords of inadequacy. The sixth episode makes the self-referential joke that this crap only makes sense if you're writing it and know how the crime was committed in the first place.

That, however, is how one fails at writing a mystery. How consistent is the story? How many different paths to the actual history exist? What characters / motives / situations were possible? How did the story progress to reduce the possibility space?

Since it seems like the writers are writing without a bible; here's me writing the core for them:

  1. Sherlock lives, breathes, and hacks his world. His intimate knowledge of the practical runs deeper than any of his human relations because he is in love with Reality.
  2. There is only one Reality, and our perceptions of it, though flawed, are perfectible.
Everything derives from this; even his moral calculus. If you don't grok this, keep writing until you do.

Of course, there are many Sherlocks: the Zen/Mot-Juste Observer, the Ben Franklin-Philanderer King, the Pub-Critic-with-a-Laboratory. Decide on who or what he loves first, abide by the second, and you will have your Sherlock.