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Dave

Actually, Joanne Woodward -was- Watson; Dr. Mildred Watson. One of the great underrated movies ever.

Chris Andersen

"They Might Be Giants" is one of my favorite movies.

Another great twist on the genre was done a few years back with Michael Cane as Holmes and Ben Kingsley as Watson. Except that it was a comedy, Holmes was an idiot and Watson was the genius. Watson hired Holmes (who was an actor) to play the part of the genius so that he could do the real work behind the scenes while Holmes became the target of all the attention.

actor212

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are each excellent on their own, but together they are the best Holmes and Watson team ever, and I’m still a big fan of Brett and Edward Hardwicke and Brett and David Burke.

This. And about the only time the ex and I come to blows is arguing this out. I've always believed that Brett was imitating Rathbone and so played Holmes as too fey when he's clearly just disinterested, not elitist (my goodness, the man walks in the gutter with snipes and urchins. Hardly the stuff of Mitt Romney!). She thinks Cumberbatch lacks a certain spontaneity with his gadgetry.

Gary Farber

"But if you put Watson in it, then he should be Watson or else the fundamental relationship changes and you don’t have Holmes and Watson."

Lance, I'm not following how changing Watson's gender inherently makes Watson not Watson.

"And not only is a female Watson not a new idea. These days it’s practically retrograde."

The idea of having an overwhelming disparity of males to females simply appearing on tv, or in magazine and newspaper photos, is a hell of a lot more retrograde, and damaging to society.

I'd consider waiting until there's actual gender equality in the media before complaining that rebooting a story to actually include a female protagonist, even secondarily, is retrograde.

How long, after all, has this retrograde problem of too many male characters being rebooted as female been going on in American media?

Also, you appear to be arguing with a claim made by the idiot Michael Ausiello, not CBS. Has CBS claimed that Watson-is-a-gurl has never been done? Which CBS statement are you arguing with? Could you link to it, perhaps?

Lance Mannion

Gary, I was referring specifically to pairings of male-female leads with a particular dynamic (none of which involves gender-switches) that I think has become a cliche. And I thought I implied a feminist criticism of it---the man is almost always the genius.

And Watson, as opposed to a Watson, is a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle. He has a biography, temperament, and personality all his own. Change any of those things in a major way---like making him a woman---and he's not that character anymore. She's somebody else. The fun of the BBC series is that they didn't have to change Watson very much to move him to the 21st Century. They were even able to have him wounded in Afghanistan. And the point I was making is that if you've changed your Watson into somebody else, you might as well change your Holmes into somebody else (like into a woman. Why does this new version have to have a male and female lead? Why not two women?)and then do something truly original with it.

Gary Farber

"And Watson, as opposed to a Watson, is a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle. He has a biography, temperament, and personality all his own. Change any of those things in a major way---like making him a woman---and he's not that character anymore."

And Starbuck was created by Glen Larson, with a biography, temperament, and personality all his own. This made rebooted Starbuck "not that character anymore"? An inferior version?

That certainly was Dirk Benedict's view, but I will strongly assert my view that legendary characters -- or trivial characters -- can always be played with in endless varieties of ways that change them somewhat, or even drastically, and, when done by a sufficiently talented person or persons, have the result be an artistic triumph.

If the creators do a crap job, they do a crap job, but that's not inherent in making changes.

"And the point I was making is that if you've changed your Watson into somebody else, you might as well change your Holmes into somebody else (like into a woman. Why does this new version have to have a male and female lead? Why not two women?)and then do something truly original with it."

Almost no argument with you there. Where I'm left disagreeing is the idea that gender-switching -- or any number of other changes in a character -- inherently makes the character so "somebody else" that to new version is necessarily a wrong artistic choice.

It seems to me that that determination has to be left to be made after judging the individual work when it's done.

One can certainly make an argument that Holmes and Watson are so linked to the 19th century, or London, that to move them from either makes them "somebody else." I wouldn't, but I'm sure many would and do.

And it might be true. But my opinion is that it's the quality of the writing (and in visual media, the other creative factors) that determines that result or not.

This, is, of course, simply opinion, and not something I require anyone to agree with me about. ;-)

Lance Mannion

The Starbuck of the new BSG was a different character. And a more interesting character. And a better-acted character. What she wasn't was a character stuck in a done to death TV trope.

Roy Perkins, impartial dogcatcher

Between Joanne Woodward and Margaret Colin, there was Jenny O'Hara as "Doc" Watson (probably not a reference to the bluegrass musician), the social worker assigned to Sherman Holmes (Larry Hagman), a policeman who after suffering a head injury believes himself to be Sherlock.

This was in RETURN OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST DETECTIVE, a 1976 TV movie and failed series pilot. It obviously owed a great deal to THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, but I do not recall James Goldman getting any credit.

Kaleberg

I think George Orwell covered this ground nicely in his essay 'The Art of Donald McGill':

"What they are doing is to give expression to the Sancho Panza view of life, the attitude to life that Miss Rebecca West once summed up as 'extracting as much fun as possible from smacking behinds in basement kitchens'. The Don Quixote-Sancho Panza combination, which of course is simply the ancient dualism of body and soul in fiction form, recurs more frequently in the literature of the last four hundred years than can be explained by mere imitation. It comes up again and again, in endless
variations, Bouvard and Pécuchet, Jeeves and Wooster, Bloom and Dedalus, Holmes and Watson (the Holmes-Watson variant is an exceptionally subtle one, because the usual physical characteristics of two partners have been transposed)."

I'm with George Orwell on this one. We'll always want stories like this as long as we have bodies and souls.

Lance Mannion

Kaleberg, Thanks for the Orwell quote! I'll have to look it up in my collections of his essays and read the whole thing. I wonder what he meant that Quixote's and Sancho's physical characteristics were "transposed" in Holmes and Watson. Holmes is quite Quixote-esque in his thinness and angularity and Paget's drawings make Watson look fairly average in build.

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