BBC’s television hit “Sherlock” is based upon the famous works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and is such a success that the BBC could possibly state it as being, “Elementary my dear, Watson.” Over time, various versions have been produced and the infamous sleuth has been portrayed by actors such as Basil Rathbone, and the ever popular, Benedict Cumberbatch. The stories take place in modern day London, England. Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Dr. John Watson, Martin Freeman, set out to solve crimes that the police officers of London can’t solve on their own. As Sherlock would call it, he’s a “Consulting Detective.” Sherlock has the ability to look at a person and is able to tell where they’re from, what they own, how much money they make, their exact age, and basically anything else you can possibly imagine. Currently the BBC show only has 9 episodes, 3 episodes per season, and they are a huge success. So why the major popularity over a few episodes using stories written over 100 years ago?
With reference from an article by John J. Miller, in his lifetime, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about 60 stories featuring the detective, and was one of his most popular works. Unfortunately, he soon grew tired of writing about him and tried to kill him off in the story, “The Final Problem” where Sherlock faces his arch-nemesis, Moriarty, at the Reichenbach falls. To Doyle’s dismay however, fans were angered that Sherlock had died and complained so much, that Doyle later on revived the character for more stories in the 1902 story, “Hound of the Baskervilles”. In Doyle’s time, there was a large production of magazines and newspapers, which he saw as his chance to produce short stories. Previously, he had published around 4 novels featuring Sherlock, which were incredibly popular, but he didn’t feel the format worked all too well for what he wanted. Instead, he began publishing short stories in the local papers which proved to be a hit with the public, as they lined up each week at news stands for the next installment.
In our times today, newspapers and magazines still exist as a daily part of everyone’s lives. However, they’re not as crucial for marketing and success as they were in Doyle’s times. Taking advantage of the technology, during the much anticipated third season of “Sherlock”, the BBC promoted the use of using a hashtag to promote the return of the detective, and also get everyone prepared for the upcoming season; the hash tag, #SherlockLives. Using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, along with showing a preview of a scene from the series showing the use of the hash tag that covered the screen completely, the BBC put into the public’s eye the product they were trying to sell and promote. For fans of the show, the hash tag made them wonder how he had survived because in the previous season, Sherlock was shown dead on the ground after a suicide jump. For those who were unfamiliar with the show, I believe it caused them to wonder what it was about, possibly looking into previous episodes and starting to become potential viewers for the next season.
Still image from a preview for Season 3 of Sherlock featuring the #SherlockLives hash tag, followed by a screencap from the show featuring the hash tag, as well as a few others that were used to spread the show as well.I feel that the BBC had used the Tastemaker approach to push “Sherlock” into becoming a pop culture icon by using the actors to promote the show, I have chosen however to discuss a quote from an interview with NPR’s pop culture blog writer, Linda Holmes, because I feel that what she says explains why we enjoy this show so much:
“[Well, what I saw in that story was the best possible proof that presidential debates, like television and movies and everything else that we take in, have become so choreographed and so meticulously planned that anything that you know was not planned suddenly has this massive appeal because people have this giant craving for anything that’s authentic.] [Everyone understands what – that that’s happening in an unplanned, spontaneous, human way. And that’s what that story really communicated to me, was that people are just thirsty for anything that feels real.]”
I believe that what she is explaining is that the reason we love “Sherlock” is because we do not know what is going to happen next, and that we see a man with almost superhuman powers doing the world justice and going beyond the police force to help save another human, we are in a way connected because we feel safe because we believe, even for a moment, that if we were in the victim’s place Sherlock Holmes would be there to save us. The story, and the show touches us deep in our hearts, and give us a small bit of comfort in that way. We also connect on another level of humanity through Watson, who can be seen as a portrayal of the average human going throughout his life assisting Sherlock. The reader, or viewer, can imagine themselves in his place and feel his joy, sadness, confusion, and pain.
Unfortunately, the success of “Sherlock” will be a short victory, as the seasons are panned out in long intervals, with a possible rumor of the series ending come next season. However, this doesn’t mean that Sherlock Holmes will not remain a popular character, as he has proved himself to still be a success over this long period of time. For now is seems “the game is on.”
Go be like Sherlock and watch this great show on Netflix!