Friday, July 11, 2014

"Sherlock" - One of the All-Time Greatest Shows?

Why do we love television? If you ask me, it's the escape that we enjoy. Whether we're watching a drama or a comedy, television allows us to escape for 30-minutes, an hour (or in some cases hour-and-a-half). Over time, we come to love and care about the fictional characters portrayed therein and the show slowly becomes a part of our lives.

It is of course obvious that some television shows are better than others and some have gotten the distinction of being loved by a large following. We in the Sherlock Holmes community know a thing or two about this as Sherlock has taken on a life of its own taking the detective to places and being presented to people to an unparalleled extent. What's more, Sherlock has been critically-acclaimed and is oftentimes regarded as one of the best shows on television. I have not come to dispute the show's quality today, I have come to pose a question: in the years to come, will Sherlock be remembered as one of the greatest shows of all time? According to the 2002 edition of TV Guide the sitcom Seinfeld is the greatest show of all time followed by I Love Lucy. The first drama on the list is The Sopranos which ranked number five. Now, how reliable is this list? The fact that it is obviously outdated makes it a bit less reliable as some of the shows which are today regarded as being the best have only come along in the last few years or so.

When I first saw Sherlock in 2009, I thought that there was nothing like it with its rapid-fire dialogue, intricate plots and stellar acting. Few shows have rivaled it in my mind and there really isn't anything else Sherlock on TV today. It's for that reason that I think that the show shall be fondly remembered. The only potential problem is the number of other beloved shows out there today. I started investigating this post on IMDb and looking at the average viewer ratings for some of the most popular shows on TV today. Though not exactly the most trustworthy source, these ratings do put things into perspective. Sherlock: 9.3/10. Doctor Who: 8.9/10. Hannibal: 8.6/10. Game of Thrones: 9.5/10. Breaking Bad: 9.6/10.

I for one was pretty surprised by this. Breaking Bad was an excellent show with some brilliant performances from Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul and some complex writing. However, the character development was what made the show so good as you become drawn into the characters' plights and it was nearly impossible not to find yourself hooked at parts. But, what I found surprising was that Breaking Bad is a show which is no longer on the air. Usually, the new and the current is what is most popular and by some standards Breaking Bad is old hat - a show to be enjoyed by those playing catch-up on Netflix (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Now, I do not watch Game of Thrones, my knowledge is based purely on what I have read and from what I have heard from friends who do watch. However, there is something I know above all else - this show has a large and very devoted following. What's more, just about everyone with whom I have spoken has never really had a bad thing to say about Game of Thrones. This, I think, sets the show apart from others, Sherlock especially. Upon the release of Sherlock's third series, there was some fall-out from fans who believed that the show had dropped in quality. While both Sherlock and Game of Thrones have large fan-bases, it seems to me that the latter has a large devoted fan-base. I could be completely wrong with all this, but that's the way I see it. The other interesting thing concerning these two shows is that both of them are in part literary-based. One wonders why television doesn't have more literary adaptations anymore. It's pretty clear that people seem to enjoy that sort of thing and I think there are a number of books or book series' which could make fine television shows or mini-series. Maybe with the success of Game of Thrones and Sherlock, TV executives will think about more adaptations in the future. Maybe we have already seen a glimpse of things to come as NBC has had some success with Hannibal (based on the characters of Thomas Harris' book series) and their recent two-part adaptation of Rosemary's Baby.

 But the real question that we're trying to answer here is how Sherlock will be remembered in the future. For this, we have to work our way backwards a bit. One of my favourite shows of all time is the '90's sitcom Frasier, the brilliant spin-off of Cheers with Kelsey Grammar reprising his role as psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane. The comedy is I think one of television's best shows which featured both hilariously funny moments as well as poignant character moments. Interestingly, Frasier is not as well-remembered today, despite its high ratings and multiple Emmy Awards at the time of its run. I wouldn't really call Frasier a cult-show today as it had a large following at the time (and ran for eleven seasons) but it is not as fondly remembered as other sitcoms of the time such as Seinfeld or Friends.

Could this be the future of Sherlock - fondly remembered by those who watched it, but slowly fading into obscurity? I think not as the fan-base for Sherlock is a large-enough one with enough people who will keep the show alive. The fact that Sherlock appears on PBS in America is perhaps also helpful as Masterpiece Theater is a long-running, beloved show on public television, and often crops up on those Best of Television lists.

So, will Sherlock be remembered as one of the all-time greatest shows? At this time, I really cannot say as it currently has quite a bit of competition, but there is one thing which I can say without fear. Sherlock will be remembered fondly, and for years to come in Sherlockian circles by people (like myself) who view it as the best Sherlock Holmes series since The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. However, in regards to my original question - I suppose the answer for present is that only time shall tell.

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