Belfast Telegraph

I'm detecting Sherlock's TV drama is close to shark bait

By Mike Gilson

Has Sherlock jumped the shark? I think the blockbuster TV drama may have done. Quite refreshing it may still be, excellent acting for sure and, for the most part, the quirky cuts and rapid deductions still delight.

But, well, it's jumped the shark, hasn't it? Have to be careful here, because Sherlock is loved and fawned over by millions in the Twittersphere in a way that is staggering to behold, all fighting to be first to smart-arse post about the show while trying to concentrate on the plot. I'm not sure I want to swim in that piranha tank.

Yet there comes a moment in the life-cycle of most successful things when a consensus begins to emerge that a peak has been passed. Jumping the Shark is the phenomenon and so powerful has the phrase become in US TV land that its very uttering in executive corridors spells doom for a show.

The term was given life by a TV critic after an episode of the sitcom Happy Days, which readers may remember was a 1950s nostalgia comedy where kids (who looked 40) hung out in a soda joint, eyeing girls and wisecracking and little else.

They were lorded over by the Fonz, a supercool dude in leather jacket, who had all the chicks swooning at his feet. So far, so mildly amusing.

Trouble was the Fonz character became so dominant that the ensemble became but bit parts. To the point that, in one now-infamous episode, the Fonz took up a challenge to water ski in his trademark leather coat and swimming trunks and jump over a shark to prove his bravery.

It was a long way from the jukebox jive, teenage angst and Dr Peppers of the soda joint and marked the point when the audience realised, after five series, that Happy Days had eaten itself.

So, in a convoluted link that even the writers of Sherlock would throw out, has the detective also now leapt over the ocean-going predator?

This Sunday past it may have done. Two episodes in, it has already become too self-reverential, too pleased with itself and too in love with online devotion. Witness the tiresome theories about how Holmes survived his death plunge at the end of the last series.

Last Sunday's episode, Holmes as Best Man at Dr John Watson's wedding, felt drawn out and ever so slightly smug. What's worse, the show has almost completely abandoned even a nod to the sort of linear narrative that Conan Doyle's murder mysteries need to be able to draw the reader in and build suspense.

Instead, we are simply asked to marvel at how autistically clever our hero is, while applauding the post-modern verve of the scriptwriter.

Sure, the show is still a nice antidote to the likes of Bergerac woodenly shuffling around Guernsey (or was it Jersey?), gloomily investigating why half the island's population has been bumped off, but it was sad to be in on the moment of inevitable decline.

The truth is nothing can be good forever. At some time in our lives, we all skip over the Selachimorpha (scientific name for shark to you) no matter how good we've been. It's just that few of us know when we've reached that point.

But, and sorry for the mixed metaphors, to jump the shark you've got to have reached the peak at some point. Sherlock was ground-breaking TV drama for a while.

Now it's time to bring back Basil Rathbone, say I.

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