Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 02:39 am est

Conan Doyle’s detective welcomed on the small screen

Posted on February 5, 2014 | by Nivea Serrao

Courtesy of BBC One

Sherlock Holmes is no stranger to screen-time. Currently the world record holder for most adapted character, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective has been translated into radio plays, films and television shows, including two that are currently on the air. While literary adaptations like “Harry Potter” tangle with how to preserve the accuracy of their texts, bringing Holmes to life brings up a second issue: how to find new ways to adapt such a beloved character.

In terms of modern revamping tendencies, both BBC’s “Sherlock” and  CBS’s “Elementary” chose to reassign their brilliant sleuths to cases in modern times. This shift works on many levels. Changing the setting from Victorian England means that only the characters and, more importantly, their relationships to one another, remain constant.

Holmes and Watson’s friendship remains at the heart of the stories, Watson serving as the reader’s window into Holmes’ life. But while the good doctor has always acted as a narrator for their adventures in the books, the power of video transforms this one-sided relationship and gives Watson more responsibility than just chronicling the duo’s adventures. Instead, he becomes an important part of solving them. But revitalizing the character can be done in other ways as well.

“Elementary” writers chose to cast Lucy Liu as Watson. Despite the initial uproar among Holmes fans, actress Liu has grown into her role, turning Joan Watson from a glorified babysitter for an unstable Holmes into an amateur sleuth-in-training, adding a teacher-student aspect to the partnership.

“Sherlock,” on the other hand, does not attempt to reinvent the wheel. After all, the Holmes-Watson dynamic contributes greatly to popularity. Instead, co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat reached for an aspect of the Holmes canon that is usually left alone: his cases.

While most adaptations simply translate Holmes’ cases for the screen, Gatiss and Moffat try to rethink the different facets of each mystery, allowing them to twist and spin devoted fans’ expectations. This approach remains faithful to Conan Doyle’s stories while showing off an intriguing new angle.

Part of the success of this strategy is that “Sherlock” only generates three episodes per series. In comparison, “Elementary,” with its 24-episode season, creates a case per week, thus turning it into a procedural. Audiences seem to like both tactics, as each show consistently draws audiences in the millions.

Thanks to these television adaptations, many viewers are much more familiar with the shows than the literary material on which they are based. The same can be said for “Game of Thrones,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Pretty Little Liars,” all of which are immensely popular book-to-screen adaptations. In some cases, the shows even offer improvements on their original sources.

Though fans of literature are often disappointed by film adaptations, it appears television proves a much more satisfactory medium — especially when the adapted character is Sherlock Holmes.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 5 print edition. Nivea Serrao is a staff writer. Email her at entertainment@nyunews.com.

Comments

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next