The Sign of the Four Sherlocks


I’ve been watching rather a lot of Sherlock Holmes of late. I became so hot under the collar that I wrote about it twice. Unable to decide which one to offer you, here are both.

The Sign of the Four Sherlocks

“Why have I suddenly become so popular?” My friend Sherlock Holmes lowered his newspaper and sighed. “I am portrayed in cinematic tales and televisual programmes, yet never as myself. And you, Watson! You are treated even worse. Why?”

Holmes was referring to a surge in interest that has led to Robert Downey, Jr. appearing in two cinemascopes portraying Holmes, with Jude Law as myself, I’m told. One wouldn’t look at something like that, of course.

There is also a British televisual series called simply Sherlock — confounded impudence — in which he and I are ‘updated’ into the 21st century. Holmes’s investigative senses are retained, but ‘updating’ includes making Irene Adler, the only woman Holmes ever admired, a naked lesbian dominatrix because the BBC, which makes the series, holds so low an opinion of its televiewers.

The Americans followed, as they always do, transferring Holmes to New York, where he remains irritatingly brilliant. Over there, I have become transgendered, to use a vogue term from the new era, and am played by a Chinese woman.

“Watson!” Holmes expostulated. “Stop daydreaming and answer my question. Why am I of such keen interest and why, for Goodness’ sake, are we portrayed in these egregious styles?”

“The way I see it, Holmes, is this,” I said. “You have become popular because the modern fashion in entertainment is for what is called ‘superheroes’: all manner of aliens, vampires, werewolves and God Knows What. Whereas you, Holmes, are flesh and blood.”

“Is that your medical opinion, Doctor?” Holmes asked with asperity.

“You live in London, Holmes, where life is intolerable. This humanises you for those who consume popular entertainment.”

“Exactly. You’re a superhero for all time and all places,” I said. “Perhaps my articles in The Strand weren’t such a bad idea, what?”

Holmes stared moodily out of the window. “Very well,” he said, “but why must it be lesbians and you a woman?”

“Yes, well. The problem is partly what modern people call ‘equality’. It has something to do with social engineering. More importantly, there was an actor called Jeremy Brett. He played you in a televisual series in the 1990s and inhabited the role so closely that his performance can never be bested,” I said.

“Yes!” cried Holmes, clapping his hands. “So the gravely impaired versions of ourselves into which you and I have been decanted are what is needed to catch the eye of a jaded audience, and mask an appalling lack of originality or quality in any of the more modern work!”

“Quite,” I said.

“I expect Mrs. Hudson will be depicted as a Sumo wrestler or a gigantic hound,” Holmes said drily.

“Mrs. Hudson, mercifully, does not feature in the American programme, Elementary, at all,” I pointed out.

“Poor Mrs. Hudson,” said Holmes, turning to the dealer in crack cocaine who was sitting in my chair. “Your usual, Mr. ‘Olmes?” asked the dealer.

“Oh, make it a pound,” Sherlock said. “Me and the lesbian dominatrix is headin’ uptown innit. Need to kick it up good. Lively up ourselves.”

“Good Gracious, Holmes,” I said, with some force. “Whatever has happened to you?”

“Watson, I and I is, like, the next great incarnation of my bad self: black Sherlock Holmes, street-wise, crack-addicted, secretly married to Mrs. Hudson.”

“Am I in this one, Holmes?” I asked.

“You are, Watson; how could you not be?”

“In what guise do I appear this time?” I asked.

“You are the evil mastermind Moriarty, Watson, from another planet.”

“Good show,” I said. “Do you suppose Mrs. Hudson could wrestle us up some sandwiches?”

* **

 At The Meeting

The offices of a film studio in Hollywood. A Director is pitching a movie to an Executive. A Marketing Man is in attendance.

Executive: Sherlock Holmes? OK, OK. Who plays the chick?

Director: There is no chick.

Executive: No chick? Holmes and Watson are gay caballeros? (sucks on cigar)

Director: No, Holmes … he … see, he’s all about the brain.

Executive: Brains don’t sell tickets. Get a chick. Holmes was a ladies’ man, right?

Director: No, he …

Executive: He never had a woman in all those endless stories?

Director: Well, there was one woman, but …

Executive: One woman, perfect. Very zeitgeisty. The new Bond only has ‘em one at a time. Get one o’them Emmas or Cates. Big, you know. (Pause) Who do you see for Holmes?

Director: We’re thinking DeNiro.

Executive: And Watson?

Director: Tom Cruise.

Executive: Nah, Cruise would never work with DeNiro.

Director: Okay, then. Johnny Depp.

Executive: Now ya talkin’.


Three weeks later


Executive: So ya got Downey, kinda Iron Man meets Chaplin, huh?

Director: Kinda.

Executive: And this (looks at the movie proposal) Jude Law guy. He’s something? Some new guy ya found?

Director: He’s a big star.

Executive: OK, OK, name me two things I’d know him from.

Director: Top Gun and Mission Impossible.

Executive: That’s Cruise.

Director: Ah, yeah. Well, anyway, we got Downey.

Executive: OK. So: plot.

Director: Yeah.

Executive: Doesn’t matter. Get the girl’s clothes off early. Sherlock is off his mark, some crime happens, he’s stuck. She leaves, he solves it.

Director: That’s what we thought.

Executive: It’s done. Make two to start.

Director: There is one mystery, though.

Executive: What?

Director: How we gonna sell this puerile pigswill … to anyone?

Marketing Man: Leave that to me.

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