Goodbye Originality: Welcome To The Age Of Rewhatever

July 30, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ reinvention of Sherlock Holmes is the latest in a long list of remakes and reimagining’s that is swamping both television and film. Though Moffat and Gatiss have taken a uniquely original approach to well-worn source material, Sherlock nevertheless adds to a growing infection within screen story-telling. Where are the new ideas? Where is the creativity?

In recent years we have been treated (though I use the term loosely) to a plethora of television remakes, or ‘updates’, which have brought revered shows into the twenty-first century, often with varying degrees of success. The BBC’s Survivors was generally favourably received, though the ratings slowly tailed off. Another Moffat creation, Jekyll, performed well. Shane Ritchie’s Minder, which the makers described as a revival rather than a remake (notice the frequent use of ‘re-‘ to denote a lack of original thinking), only lasted for six episodes. Doctor Who’s rejuvenation has been a great success though.

But should we be worried by these reimaginings, retellings, reinventions or whatever whimsical word they want to prefix the term ‘re’ to excuse the dredging up of old material? The new American series of The Prisoner was received with mixed feelings – which given the cult status attached to the original, was something of an achievement. But despite all this chat of “bringing classic shows to a fresh audience” shouldn’t these great pieces of television be left alone, ala Blackadder? Indeed it speaks volumes when you consider that the two most popular pieces of drama on British television today are a show based upon a century old character and a show which was conceived over four decades ago.

However it’s not so much a lack of ability to create good drama that worries us (programmes such as Dive and Lennon Naked) have proved that the talent still exists within the industry, but what we are lacking is a fresh character with the ability to go for at least a couple of series. Has modern television become too rooted in reality?

But if the TV community is guilty of redressing the same old material of late, then we could be forgiven for thinking that Hollywood has almost given up with the very notion of new characters. Rambo, Die Hard, The Terminator, Rocky… the list of films based upon premises that had been out of action for several years has grown exponentially of late. Indeed just this week the new Karate Kid hits screens across the country… Other 80s classics to be given a face-lift include Nightmare on Elm Street, Fame, Clash of the Titans and Robocop. It is little wonder that the movie community reacted so positively to Inception – after all here was a film that was largely original as a blockbuster movie..

John Wiltshire says:

I’m glad it’s not just me that thinks Sherlock is just Doctor Who without the TARDIS. Like the Doctor, Holmes is arrogant, all-knowing, notices things that no-one else does, rushes around righting wrong, is impervious to harm and always puts the world to rights single-handed.
I’ve been trying to work out why I don’t like Sherlock, and I think it’s because there is no audience engagement. There’s no chance for viewers to see the clues, try to work things out, and then realise at the end that the answer was staring them in the face all the time. This Holmes knows everything, so – what’s the point? At least with Doctor Who you get some decent CGI monsters and a gorgeous companion (Amy, I mean!).
(And by the way, I’ve written a couple of Holmes’ pastiches, which people seem to find amusing! Free copies on application…).