One of the biggest television hits of the last five years has been the BBC’s version of “Sherlock.”
This is due to a multitude of things, including taking the classic detective and moving him into modern-day London without really changing who he is. He is still the most intelligent man in the room, carefully analyzing every little detail about the human behavior, yet still having the social behaviors of a three-year old.
Another reason is the actor playing Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch. His energy and passion for the role really leaks onto the screen as he gives long speeches of information and deductions at lightning fast speeds. Cumberbatch makes the role of Sherlock fun, down to even his little facial expressions as his eyes light up when he gets a case.
These two elements combine, alongside others such as the wonderful writing by Steven Moffat and still captivating mysteries, and you get a timeless tale of an insane detective.
Yet it seems that other television studios have realized the popularity of this show and have done their best to ride its success, whether they know it or not.
Two shows immediately come to mind: CBS’s “Elementary” and Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow.” The former more so, because it is literally taking the same premise: Sherlock Holmes in modern day, except he has relocated from London to New York.
While “Sleepy Hollow” is another classic tale of mystery and intrigue, but updating it so that the creators could make interesting situations. In this case, it is the tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman (though most of what I’ve seen shows him not riding a horse, so could he really be called a “horseman”).
Another possibility is ABC’s “Once Upon A Time” which takes classic fairy tale characters and puts them into modern times as well, though most are not aware they are from fairy tales. To be fair, “Once Upon A Time” is taking its own spin on it with juxtaposition between the real world and the tales and not just completely copying the source material.
So why has “Sherlock” spawned so many other shows trying to copy its success?
The answer is elementary: Television producers have been doing this a long time. This is nothing new.
One of the more recent cases is “The Office,” which was originally a 14-episode series in the United Kingdom, created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, but eventually spawning an American series of the same title, which lasted nine seasons and over 200 episodes. Heck, this sparked a trend in ‘mockumentary’ television shows, which would eventually lead to programs like “Modern Family” and “Parks And Recreation.”
Or how about the family sitcom boom of the early 1990s? Shows like “Roseanne” and “Married…With Children” were some of the instigators to other big name shows like “Home Improvement,” “Saved By The Bell,” “Boy Meets World” and “Full House.”
The release of these shows are normally not coincidences, but studios seeing a television show is popular and doing their best to draw in the same people who like those shows.
A good show though will do its best to make the similarities between the two programs hardly noticeable, which is why “Modern Family” feels so distant from “The Office.” Then you get a studio that won’t even try to hide that they’re blatantly copying something, and then you get “Elementary.”
So, in the end, I hold nothing against “Sherlock.” It is still a wonderful show and it’s not the shows fault that studio executives wanted to copy it. That’s just the way television works and Steven Moffat and his crew should be flattered for that.