Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's Elementary, Sherlock: U.S. and U.K. Interpretations of the Popular Mr. Holmes, Plus Writing News

Lots of new Sherlock Holmes- or Benedict Cumberbatch-related writing news:

On Saturday, October 5, I'll talk about Sherlock Holmes and John/Joan Watson during the Popular Culture Association in the South's conference in Savannah, GA. Entitled "It's Elementary, Sherlock: U.S. and U.K. Interpretations of the Popular Mr. Holmes," my Saturday morning presentation illustrates the very different approaches to Holmes and Watson taken by, respectively, the BBC and CBS. (I might even have a few things to say about the season premiere of Elementary, filmed in London, and #setlock rumors for Sherlock S3, so I probably should issue a spoiler alert at the beginning of the discussion.) If you're planning to attend PCAS, I hope you'll come to the lucky 13th session (13.3 Television Sights and Sounds), where I'll be a panelist. To give you a better idea of my topic, here's the conference abstract:

Since 2010, the BBC’s hit television series Sherlock has intrigued audiences and accumulated numerous awards for the series as well as its lead actors, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) and Martin Freeman (John Watson). This modern adaptation emphasizes Sherlock’s bromance with John almost as often as it twists Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon into interesting new stories. Although Sherlock became a cult favorite on PBS, U.S. producers approached Sherlock’s creators to discuss developing an American version of the British hit. When that approach failed, CBS went ahead to modernize its own Sherlock Holmes adaptation, Elementary, which debuted in 2012. In part to legally separate itself from the BBC’s series, Elementary’s Holmes (played by Jonny Lee Miller) is a former New Scotland Yard consultant now living in New York City following a stint in drug rehab; Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) begins the series as his sober companion. Elementary primarily emphasizes Holmes’ addictive personality and his passionate mood swings. The series fits well with CBS’ preference for CSI-styled detectives and hour-long police procedurals, whereas Sherlock builds movie-length story arcs that often involve a growing personal threat to its title character (e.g., that posed by Moriarty, S1-2). Sherlock underscores the detective’s “otherness,” but Elementary often strives to make Holmes seem more “normal.” As viewed through the lens of very different cultural expectations for a modern Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock and Elementary say a great deal about their creators and audiences and our expectations for a modern Sherlock Holmes adaptation.

I'm thrilled that author/editor Carlen Lavigne allowed me to develop a much more in-depth look at both Sherlock and Elementary in a chapter for her new book, Remake Television: Reboot, Re-use, Recycle, which will be published by Lexington Books. In my chapter, "Smart, Sexy, and Technologically Savvy: (Re)Making Sherlock Holmes as a 21st-Century Superstar," I cover not only character development in and comparisons between characters in Sherlock and Elementary, but I also draw comparisons between Cumberbatch's and Miller's portrayals and that of Jeremy Brett in the popular Granada series.

And, while mentioning Miller and Cumberbatch, I'll introduce the article recently published in the scholarly journal, Studies in Popular Culture (35.2, Spring 2013, pp. 1-21). "It's Alive! National Theatre Live's Frankenstein" offers my analysis of the phenomenon of NT Live's famous broadcasts of Frankenstein, starring Cumberbatch and Miller. I consider whether a recorded theatrical presentation broadcast to cinemas worldwide can ever meet the definition of "film" (even as a recording) or whether it always will remain a unique hybrid of live theatrical and filmed performance. For those who want to read the article but aren't members of the Popular Culture Association, just be patient a few months longer. Back issues "come alive" online for public viewing, and--ever self-promotional--I'll be sure to post the link when it's available.

I've had some good news this week about future presentations/publications.

"Khan Games: Benedict Cumberbatch and Star Trek: Into Darkness" will be my presentation at the Popular Culture Association's annual conference, which will be held in Chicago in April 2014. Not only do I enjoy researching Cumberbatch-as-Khan, but now I have to read IDW's Khan comic book series that starts in October. Life as a researcher/writer is difficult....I guess I'll also have to review how many fan sites include the Cumberbatch shower .gif--you know the one. The text of my presentation most likely will become a book chapter during the next year.

Finally, I can't quite announce officially but will say that it looks very promising that my next academic book will be about Vincent Van Gogh. And you thought I only write about television, film, literature, and actors.

In the name of full disclosure, I should probably mention that I'm fond of "Vincent and the Doctor." And there's Benedict Cumberbatch's lovely performance in Painted with Words....However, the Van Gogh book is the result of a glorious trip to the Netherlands and Belgium this summer and my research at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in particular. (Remember my FB posts featuring chocolate hedgehogs and wheat fields blowing in the breeze? All research.)

Now I merely have to find time after teaching and developing a new course about film/television adaptations from literature (The Hobbit? Sherlock? Elementary? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?) to take the books and papers from inside my head and get them onto my laptop--and eventually to you.

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