Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Can 'Sherlock' survive without B.C.

Usually I cut and paste pieces at times here and link a credit to the source.
But this one was so badly written I thought I would just post the question brought up in the piece instead.
With all the talk that the principles are all to busy to continue their output for 'Sherlock', the question was asked; "If Benedict Cumberbatch does not return again, can the series survive without him?"

While replacements have at times worked, such as Batman, Jack Ryan and our own Watson from the Granada series, Capt. Kirk, etc., it hardly, to me, seems likely that another actor could take over from the fantastic job Benedict Cumberbatch has done. His performance is so nouanced that I can't imagine a replacement

What do you think?


  1. Actually, that is a fascinating question, because one has to do thought experiments in which "what if" questions are answered with both a more-or-less factual or unbiased assessment of the cultural and popular impact of the subject and personal opinion. A movie franchise such as James Bond can survive because the character is larger or more iconic that the actor portraying him. The same is probably true about the movie Batman. Jack Ryan, while not iconic, has an insulating effect from actor/character identification (a/ci) because the viewer does not have the weekly a/ci that a TV show does. In Hunt of Red October, Sean Connery, not Alec Baldwin's Jack Ryan was the star of the movie and easily replaced by bigger-movie-star-than-Baldwin Harrison Ford. One can argue that the post-Ford Ryan movies were not as popular and may have suffered by replacing an aging Ford to keep the series going.

    Star Trek The Original Series is an interesting case as I doubt that the TOS crew could have being replaced any earlier that 40 years after the end of the series. Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly and the others were the original faces of the crew and it would have been unthinkable to reboot the show in the 70s or 80s with a new cast. In fact, when The Next Generation was announced many fans declared they would not watch the new show because it wasn't Trek. It took many years and new crews (as well as fan-created pastiches of the original series) and new audience generations to make the idea of new faces as Kirk, et al palatable.

    With TV shows, it's much harder to replace actors in roles because of a/ci. While secondary characters might be replaced and have the show continue to be a success, such as Bewitched, usually what TV shows do is kill off characters and replace them with new characters, such as M*A*S*H, or just replace them without any in-show explanation.

    BBC Sherlock is different in several ways. One, of course, is there can be no character replacement for Sherlock Holmes. But more important is the chemistry between Cumberbatch and Freeman--and Cumberbatch and the audience. I would argue that if BBC Sherlock were exactly the same as it is now, except that the two leads were played by different actors, the show would not be the world-wide phenomenon it is. (I would also argue that if BBC Sherlock were exactly the same except that Cumberbatch was Fred Pennywhistle and Freeman was Henry Lurch, the show would still be the phenom it is because the Sherlock Holmes element is secondary to its success. It is the character's relationship that is the crucial factor and the hero and his best friend trope has been around for millennia. Xena and Gabrielle, Batman and Robin, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, etc.) Cumberbatch is Sherlock (not, mind you, Sherlock Holmes the literary character) and he never could be replaced by another actor. In a generation from now could the show be rebooted, successfully, with new actors? Doubtful. The original Perry Mason was on TV for nine seasons (1957-66) and was rebooted as The New Perry Mason in 1973 with a new cast and lasted only half a season. Yes, it is possible to replace Douglas Wilmer with Peter Cushing, but there it's like you have two different TV shows about the same character, even though their Watson is the same.

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