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Moffat listens to fans?
January 3, 2014 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Beware of fans influencing the TV they love. And casual fans are being alienated by shows with devoted fans (spoilers for Sherlock).
posted by crossoverman (142 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's obviously working. I don't know about Sherlock, but the Doctor Who BBCAmerica ratings were GOLDEN.
posted by Renoroc at 7:54 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I can't speak towards Gatiss' origins, but wasn't Moffat one of the 'superfans' online before he started writing for Doctor Who? It only makes sense that he pays attention to those sitting in the same telly-room armchairs from whence he shipped, no?
posted by carsonb at 7:58 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Well, in the second article, his complaint against The Hunger Games is silly. He went to see a sequel to a movie he hadn't seen, based on a book he apparently hadn't read. He couldn't use context clues to figure out what a tribute was and he wants to blame super fans for this how?

I am usually watching popular shows all alone long after they have gone of the air. So I love being a Dr. Who and Mad Men fan right now. Even when I'm only just "casually" watching the shows it's inspiring to see the energy and creativity other fans put into their fan stuff. Nobody's ruining anything with their TARDIS painted Converse or their "Father Abraham Had 7 Sons" remix.
posted by Biblio at 8:01 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


Here's Moffat postulating on the nature of The Doctor's name in 1995.
posted by carsonb at 8:01 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


From the second link... Look, Sherlock only had six episodes before this one. It is intensely character-based and it has a continuity. It does not take being a Serious Fan to have watched the previous six episodes in preparation for The Empty Hearse. Yes, there's a ton of fan service in TEH, but I really didn't expect the second link's complaints to revolve around the fact that series 2 ended on a cliffhanger and the first episode of series 3 started off by addressing the cliffhanger. This is a person who evidently went to see the second Hunger Games movie without spending a couple of hours to catch the first one and seems to have considered it a fault that the film did not spend extensive time catching everyone up on the events of the first movie. That's not expecting people to be "devoted fans", that's anticipating that you will not try to jump into a series midway through.

Next up, complaints that the Lord of the Rings is really confusing if you start reading at The Two Towers.
posted by Sequence at 8:01 PM on January 3 [12 favorites]


The new Sherlock (The Empty Hearse) was absolutely full of fanservice, to the point where the actual plot was sidelined - but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy every minute of it. I'm probably part of the problem.
posted by stolyarova at 8:04 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


Fully half the episodes of Sherlock so far have been some variety of terrible anyway. We've had racism, sexism and just-plain-bad, it's about time pandering had a turn.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:08 PM on January 3 [38 favorites]


And without remembering it in detail, I felt quite adrift. I suppose I should have rewatched it – but that’s a bit much, isn’t it? That suggests to casual, or even semi-professional, viewers that their attention is not enough. They must also do homework.

HELLO YA TRILOGIES.

If we ever got to the point where a 2 page precis of what happened in the last book could be added to the new book, it would be awesome, because for the trilogies that I sort of like but not more, I generally end up disliking the last book because who the fuck remembers what happened 18 months and 300 other books ago?
posted by jeather at 8:08 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


The first article was a more interesting discussion on the relationship between fans and the object of their fandom. The second was, yes, a bit of a whine.

I think that relationship is important when you consider a scene like the Morlock/Sheriarty sequence in The Empty Hearse. If the back and forth between fans and producers is positive, that scene (like the other theories presented) is a sly nod towards the fandom speculation. If the relationship is a bit more standoffish, that scene can come off as tremendously dismissive.
posted by dumbland at 8:08 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Spoiler warning for U.S. Sherlock fans please!!!??? Or did everyone who cares already download it?
posted by girlhacker at 8:18 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Fully half the episodes of Sherlock so far have been some variety of terrible anyway. We've had racism, sexism and just-plain-bad, it's about time pandering had a turn.

If you asked me what I thought about Sherlock I'd say "I love it!" and yet, upon looking back at the episode synopses, I realize had a huge problem with three of the first six episodes! The Blind Banker was just the worst kind of Magical Oriental nonsense and the plot didn't make much sense; the stuff with Irene Adler was, well, basically she was River Song, and her character also showed the world how little Moffat understands lesbians; and I had actually totally forgotten about the thing with the magic hallucination gas from The Hounds of Baskerville, both because it was fucking ridiculous and also because it was so stylistically similar to the Doctor Who episode Tooth and Claw that I mentally conflated them.

Huh. DO I like this show?

Actually, I guess I like it in the same way I like Doctor Who: even the shit episodes have great characters in them. So they're really only... half shit.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:21 PM on January 3 [17 favorites]


Spoiler warning for U.S. Sherlock fans please!!!??? Or did everyone who cares already download it?

You clicked on this thread knowing that the episode had already aired, ya know.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:22 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


You clicked on this thread knowing that the episode had already aired

On the BBC, in the UK. It airs on BBCAmerica on the 19th. Why the heck they're still staggering Sherlock like this I have no fucking clue. Doctor Who caught up on that bag a while back, didn't it?
posted by carsonb at 8:25 PM on January 3


Steven Moffat is the reason why I stopped watching Doctor Who and intend never to return. Not one decent story since "Blink".
posted by Quilford at 8:25 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


It does not take being a Serious Fan to have watched the previous six episodes in preparation for The Empty Hearse.

Wait, what? Yes, it does. Of course it does. You are so deep in fandom you can't even see your way out. I am a fan of a lot of things, but there is nothing I am a fan of enough to rewatch old seasons in preparation for the new one.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:26 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


You clicked on this thread knowing that the episode had already aired, ya know.

There is nothing in the post write-up to indicate that the first article contains significant plot points for Sherlock which has not officially aired in the U.S. I'll flag it and move on. (I saw it; just warning others.)
posted by girlhacker at 8:27 PM on January 3


[Added "spoilers" warning with OP's permission.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:31 PM on January 3


In the intervening two years I re-watched SSNs 1 & 2 of Sherlock several times, sucked down the entirety of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock, the entirety (including the feature-length episodes) of Jeremy Brett's Sherlock, and even in my desperation watched a few seasons of Poirot. I even watched Elementary, which was WAY better than I was expecting, hello strong female Joan Watson character indeed!

That makes me a super-fan, I guess, but it also serves to illustrate that there was A LOT of time between SSNs 2 and 3; not many would have found disservice in re-watching at least The Riechenbach Fall.
posted by carsonb at 8:32 PM on January 3


noone- I think they meant, it doesn't take being a serious fan to have EVER watched the previous six episodes. Like, when they aired.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:32 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


I am a fan of a lot of things, but there is nothing I am a fan of enough to rewatch old seasons in preparation for the new one.

I haven't watched any of the Sherlock episodes since they originally aired. The Reichenbach Fall episode aired two years ago - and I was fine watching The Empty Hearse; the episode itself catches up the audience with what it wanted answered in detail AND reminded me of little details I'd forgotten (like the girl who screamed when she saw Sherlock).
posted by crossoverman at 8:33 PM on January 3


Steven Moffat is the reason why I stopped watching Doctor Who and intend never to return. Not one decent story since "Blink".

Yes, it has been a bit downhill since the most superlative episode of the show aired in the entire half-century it's been shown, now that you mention it.
posted by figurant at 8:33 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Look, there's been a lot of squabbling already in this thread, but I think that if we concentrate and try really hard to focus on Love together the episode will turn out favorably in the end.
posted by carsonb at 8:36 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


Sherlock only had six episodes before this one...It does not take being a Serious Fan to have watched the previous six episodes in preparation for The Empty Hearse.

Are you out of you mind? You are seriously on god's green earth suggesting that sitting down for, IIRC, something between nine and twelve hours of re-watching a series is not too much to ask to "prepare" to see a TV show? You're demanding a someone spend literally every waking hour for an entire day, or more likely, a week's worth of their allotted leisure in order to prepare to spend another two hours of their time watching a murder mystery, and that's casual, to you? Good christ.

In re the first article, I'd say he's on to something. I saw the Dr Who Christmas special --- I have friends who are fans of that show and I've heard them talk about it, but I believe that was just the second full episode I've ever sat through. Didn't understand a damn bit of what was going on, and understanding narratives is usually one of my stronger points. But it was clear to me watching it that the show didn't really care if people watching who weren't steeped in the lore got it; they didn't even throw you a bone, really, exposition wise.
posted by Diablevert at 8:40 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Most Americans spend over 30 hours/week watching TV, so spending less than a third of one's weekly TV watching time rewatching 9 hours of especially good TV is not that ridiculous. It's certainly not all of one's waking hours unless you sleep 17 hours/day.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:44 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Wait. You had NEVER seen most of the series, and you're mad that you didn't get the most recent ep? No, of course no one is asking you to RE-watch it... but jumping in to the middle of a series having NEVER seen it, and then getting mad that you're confused, is just silly. Would you think it was perfectly understandable if someone picked up Order of the Phoenix for their first foray into Harry Potter and then complained that the series was too confusing?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:44 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


of course no one is asking you to RE-watch it...

I believe that's exactly what Sequence suggested. In the Independent article , the original author said that despite having viewed the previous episodes he found the most recent Sherlock confusing. Sequence replied that it was not too much to ask someone to re watch all prior episodes in order to prepare to view the new one and not be confused.
posted by Diablevert at 8:56 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I loathed that "Empty Hearse" episode and consider it an hour of the most dreadful television ever produced.

It is Jar Jar Binks bad.
posted by Catblack at 8:57 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


If we ever got to the point where a 2 page precis of what happened in the last book could be added to the new book, it would be awesome

Every one of the Thomas Covenant novels after the first one has had a "What Has Gone Before" section at the beginning, which I've always found helpful for a couple of reasons. First is, the plot rehash. Second, Donaldson uses this section to underscore themes in the books which he is working with. So you get a bit of a "from the horses mouth" literary lesson about the work in addition to being reminded of the plot. Great device, great stuff. I wish more authors used it, frankly.

Anyway, FWIW (and too late to do anything with), at least one of the three PBS stations I get here was running All Sherlock All The Time starting on NYE and going on for more than 24hours. I think three complete cycles of the 2 seasons. It was great.
posted by hippybear at 9:05 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Who says a "hit show" has to spread its appeal as thin as crepe batter and try to satisfy everyone? It doesn't. When the whole world can see you, you only have to appeal to a small percentage of it and you're still talking about overwhelming numbers. Your raving fans are the ones that will keep you going. The modern world is niche markets all the way down. Perfect opportunity to take risks and do something different. It won't succeed with everyone; it doesn't need to. The world of 4-channel broadcast tv captured with rabbit ears... it's gone.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:06 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


You are so deep in fandom you can't even see your way out.

I am fond of the show but I have not in fact seen it in the past two years because I kinda felt like re-watching was just going to make me impatient. And then, er, I sort of forgot it was going to be airing in the UK sooner, so I was planning on doing a marathon but ended up just seeing it cold. So for me, yes, I remembered plenty of the relevant details in the meantime. If you know that the new series/season of a show is coming up and you think, "Oh, I can't remember what happened at the end of the last one," in this case you're talking about, yes, nine hours of time to get completely caught up if it's important to you to be able to follow everything. Or an hour and a half just to watch the most recent previous episode. Out of the last two years. It's not a huge time investment.

Given the accompaniment of the comments about the Hunger Games, the complaint seemed to be the expectation that the audience should have any knowledge at all of the previous installments, even the most minor, and I, for one, refuse to consume media that has such low expectations.
posted by Sequence at 9:10 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Spoiler warning for U.S. Sherlock fans please!!!??? Or did everyone who cares already download it?

Well I certainly don't care and won't be watching it since the last series was beyond a steaming pile but you don't have to download it, just use MediaHint and watch it at the iPlayer site.

Steven Moffat is the reason why I stopped watching Doctor Who and intend never to return. Not one decent story since "Blink".

I held on watching this terrible show for longer but I've had enough as well. I'll be back when I hear Moffat is no longer the show runner.
posted by juiceCake at 9:14 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Serial TV with deep continuity has been A Thing for a long time now, and it's only getting more popular. Personally I'd hate to see a show like that spinning its wheels catching people up over and over and over again and having to sit through that every week (or every episode in a binge watch, eesh). Being less ambitious and shying away from deep, entwined continuity would be an even bigger bummer because that's like the whole structure and it allows them to get away with rewarding payoffs in a way that toning the continuity down just does not. So, yeah, there are shows that ask you to make an investment, just like a lot of art does... and that's fine. There are other shows.

And there are about a million websites, and "where do I start if I want to get into Show X?" threads on forums, and YouTube videos and hell, even animated recap gifs to get brief summaries and catch up if you want to get the cliff notes and jump in whenever, like all those "Sopranos Seasons 1 - X in Y Minutes" videos that got popular and made the rounds and helped people jump in while that was on. If it's too much to ask that you meet something halfway when its entire structure is set up to reward longtime fans... again, there are other shows.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:24 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


I held on watching this terrible show for longer but I've had enough as well. I'll be back when I hear Moffat is no longer the show runner.

And I'll be back when no-one is wearing fucking celery on their lapel. Oh, wait. That hasn't been happening since I've been a toddler.

Current show, really not that bad considering.
posted by figurant at 9:27 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I watched the first episode of Sherlock a year or so ago and saw The Empty Hearse at a friend's house the night before last. I had literally zero difficulty following it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:37 PM on January 3


this thread is almost as terrible as the show, which one of you is moffatt

REVEAL YOURSELF VILE ONE
posted by elizardbits at 9:45 PM on January 3 [24 favorites]


And I'll be back when no-one is wearing fucking celery on their lapel. Oh, wait. That hasn't been happening since I've been a toddler.

Great to hear. That's wonderful.

Current show, really not that bad considering.

Fortunately, we're all individuals so what we consider differs too. It's firmly in the category of a show I can't recommend in good conscience. That others love it is not a problem for me. There are a ton of things I love that others don't and some things that I despise that others love. I have no problem with that or people saying so. I mean people love Nickelback and Doctor Who is the Nickelback of the science fiction world. Awful is often very popular. Sherlock is like Chad what's his face side project.
posted by juiceCake at 9:47 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Doctor Who is the Nickelback of the science fiction world

Woah woah woah there's no need to start throwing chairs
posted by jason_steakums at 9:53 PM on January 3 [45 favorites]


I mean, given the silly way they resolved the pool scene cliffhanger, it wasn't that much of a surprise that the season 3 opener was equally ridiculous (and fun). But there's in jokes for fans and then there's pandering. And as the episode went on, it's clear that Gatiss had 30 tumblr tabs open while he was writing. Kind of a mess.
posted by book 'em dano at 10:28 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I hadn't rewatched any of the second series of Sherlock (or the first) and I had no trouble following TEH. But then again, I'm on tumblr, so I don't have to rewatch the show to be reminded of, well, anything.
posted by immlass at 10:29 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


The TV market is getting smaller and smaller and more and more niche. I think the show runners have decided that it's better to get as much out of hardcore fans as possible than to try to expand to any new viewers.

The tightrope, of course, is that if you annoy the hardcore fans you're left with an unwatchable mess. It's hard to to figure out how the same team that came up with the awesome "Night of the Doctor" with Paul McGann managed to air the pretty unwatchable Christmas special.

As for Sherlock, I was kinda hoping the last hour of the episode was John hammering on him with a cricket bat, would have been more entertaining than the shaggy dog story we were left with.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:51 PM on January 3


I just skipped to the last paragraphs of both of these articles. Neither of them makes a lick of sense. It's like the authors want me to waste my whole life reading entire articles or something.

You people that read entire articles are ruining articles!!
posted by dogwalker at 11:06 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Ignoring the rest of the arguments: Seriously, both of them were just so fucking lazy that they should be an embarassment to British TV…
posted by Pinback at 11:17 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


It's really Twin Peaks that started this whole thing. If you missed anything past the 3rd episode, which had the widely-respected throwing-rocks-at-bottles-summarizing-the-show scene, it was basically impossible to have any clue what was going on at all. The thing is, the media landscape has widened so much since the early 1990s, it's highly unlikely that any show is going to be the water-cooler analysis show for today that Twin Peaks was back then.

Either you're watching reality television which requires no price of entry, or you're watching network sitcoms which require no price of entry, or you're watching sports, or you're watching news-based programming of some sort (Daily Show counts), or you're watching heavily serialized shows that DO require price of entry.

But then, the first week anyone spent watching General Hospital or Days Of Our Lives was entirely confusing, too.
posted by hippybear at 11:18 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I meant to say, if you started watching at any time past the 3rd episode, but I'm a dork and so I said something other than that.
posted by hippybear at 11:24 PM on January 3


Well, I spent the entirety of TEH shrieking in glee, so much so that I'm pretty sure my neighbors now think I'm either dying or that I have some sort of lurid and very attentive man-friend over, so I really don't care if other people didn't like it because I damn well did and you can't take that away from me. Ever.

I literally swooned when the Sherlock put his fucking coat back on for the first time since being away. Do you know how embarrassing that is? It's really goddamn embarrassing.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:38 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


Yes, it has been a bit downhill since the most superlative episode of the show aired in the entire half-century it's been shown, now that you mention it.

I wasn't comparing every episode since "Blink" to "Blink". I was saying that "Blink" was the last decent episode, full stop.
posted by Quilford at 11:45 PM on January 3


If you're having trouble remembering what happened in the previous episode/film/book just spend 5mins on wikipedia reading the plot summery as a refresher. Is that too much to ask of casual fans?
posted by Saebrial at 12:04 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Is that too much to ask of casual fans?

That sounds like work.

What is a tribute? I whispered to my long-suffering companion, finding myself whipped into a fury by an ending so inconclusive that it was quite plain that the filmmakers’ plot was no more sophisticated than to force you to shell out another £13 for closure next time

The ending of Catching Fire IS annoying, but it's also where the book ends.
(I have one tweak which would have made it work better, I think).

Why did you have to fake your death, Sherlock?

It's like he's not even familiar with the source material. At all. In any way.

He sounds like a prat.
posted by Mezentian at 12:22 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


It's hard to to figure out how the same team that came up with the awesome "Night of the Doctor" with Paul McGann managed to air the pretty unwatchable Christmas special.

This is where I think the premise of these articles is off - if DOCTOR WHO was written for fans, it would be exactly like "Night of the Doctor", full of obscure references to continuity and the return of pre-2005 Doctors. Whereas the Christmas Special was written for a broad audience - it's a spectacle full of lights and colour and the continuity stuff is thrown out like it's unimportant. ("You heard I only get 12 regenerations? Well, most people watching the show now don't know that so - ta-da, I've got 12 more regenerations now!")
posted by crossoverman at 12:41 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I think the key is, only super-fans are going to re-watch past seasons in order to prepare themselves for a new season. And it a very few shows are going to pander to them, that's ok with me.

I did this for Arrested Development, which unabashedly pandered to it's pre-existing fan base. I wanted to be able to catch all the wonderful in-jokes that I was sure would be coming*.

But it seems strange to make this case against Sherlock. As much as I love the characters and their interactions, the actual mysteries were all silly and their solutions magically ridiculous. All you really need to know is that it's a bromantic three-way between Sherlock, Watson, and Moriarity, and you're good to go. I don't need to re-watch nine hours of tv to recall this.

* So I was wrong. It was still great re-watching the first three seasons.
posted by kanewai at 1:02 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


What is a tribute? I whispered to my long-suffering companion, finding myself whipped into a fury by an ending so inconclusive that it was quite plain that the filmmakers’ plot was no more sophisticated than to force you to shell out another £13 for closure next time

Hey, nobody tell this clown that the next Hunger Games movie isn't the final movie in the series and will probably have even less closure than Catching Fire. You know, as a goof.
posted by dogwalker at 1:11 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I don't understand this piece at all, I mean comparing Doctor Who and Sherlock is ridiculous to begin with...one has what, many hundreds of episodes to catch up on and the other has like, six?

It sounds like Archie Bland just hates serialized fiction. I can't imagine the rage and confusion he must feel about comic books.
posted by trackofalljades at 1:17 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I'm sort of surprised that Sherlock doesn't depict groupies hanging around outside 221b Baker Street all day, like the Apple Scruffs that inhabited the pavements at the Apple offices and the studio on Abbey Road once upon a time. Hell, even the better recording studios that don't have a visible sign outside always have a few.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:17 AM on January 4


What is a tribute? I whispered to my long-suffering companion

I understood the concept of what a "tribute" must mean in The Hunger Games with only a very bare knowledge of the the story, without benefit of having read the book or watched the movie. It might be because I knew what the word "tribute" meant and managed to connect the dots?

trib·ute [trib-yoot] noun
1. a gift, testimonial, compliment, or the like, given as due or in acknowledgment of gratitude or esteem.
2. a stated sum or other valuable consideration paid by one sovereign or state to another in acknowledgment of subjugation or as the price of peace, security, protection, or the like.
3. a rent, tax, or the like, as that paid by a subject to a sovereign.
4. any exacted or enforced payment or contribution.
5. obligation or liability to make such payment.
posted by desuetude at 1:38 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks that Moffat is likely to be the wrong person to watch out over the era of Capaldi?!

They need someone who is more of a risk taker, more complex, and less deus-ex-machina timey-wimey. Above all, they need someone who can give the job their full attention, because this "no new episodes until Autumn" crap is what killed The Doctor in the first place.
posted by markkraft at 1:46 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I'm just glad we're finally arguing about Sherlock on MetaFilter. I've been waiting a long time for this.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:47 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


"It's not our job to give them what they want. It's our job to give them what they don't yet know they want." - John Walters, BBC radio producer.

[Walters is the man who protected John Peel's admirably adventurous Radio 1 music show from interference by timid populist BBC suits for many years.]
posted by Paul Slade at 1:54 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


I'm just glad we're finally arguing about Sherlock on MetaFilter.

We are Sher-LOCKED onto the subject for you.
posted by Mezentian at 1:56 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I think there's a difference between a show that demands a lot of commitment from viewers, and one which panders to an inner circle of committed fans.

The former 'demanding' type - let us say The Wire - represents the pinnacle of TV art. The people who make the show have something to say, and invite you to commit yourself to hearing it. They are focused on the show as art.

The people who make the other type of show, the 'pandering' type, are more focused on the existence of the show as a phenomenon. They follow the lead of the fans, rather than leading them. They have decided to give the fans what they want, rather than making the fans want what they have to give.

Although there has been an element of this in shows for decades, I think this new total focus on fanservice is quite new. I think it is the new wave. Sherlock and Doctor Who are right at the vanguard of this new style. I personally like the old wave, the demanding show. But obviously there is a massive audience for fanservice.
posted by communicator at 1:58 AM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Just noticed that quote from the brilliant John Walters made the same point a million times more succinctly :-)
posted by communicator at 2:02 AM on January 4


Nothing wrong with a bit of fanservice.
posted by Pendragon at 2:08 AM on January 4


I think we always yearn after fanservice, and cherish the times it breaks through. For example I yearned for those moments of love between Walt and Jesse. But the reason Breaking Bad was so brilliant was that it always made me want it, but never completely gave me what I wanted. I have a friend who says that fans perceive a Platonic version of the shows we love, which the actual show only hints at like those shadows on the cave wall. To me that tantalising never resolved tension is more exciting than seeing exactly what you want all the time. But - yes - a bit of fanservice is also very nice thanks.
posted by communicator at 2:14 AM on January 4 [7 favorites]


In the Independent article , the original author said that despite having viewed the previous episodes he found the most recent Sherlock confusing.

Yeah, but it's clear that the original author is a bit of a thickie so you can ignore that. Who after all goes to the second movie in a trilogy and then gets confused and angry that some things require a bit of knowledge of the first?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:25 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Is it his fault it wasn't called The Hunger Games 2: The Hunger Strikes Back?
It was not. The title was deceptive. And, really, did that tree really catch fire? And why name a film after such a throw-away line.

It's those money-grubbing bastards in Hollywood, forcing him to pay $13.
posted by Mezentian at 2:33 AM on January 4


I think we always yearn after fanservice, and cherish the times it breaks through. For example I yearned for those moments of love between Walt and Jesse. But the reason Breaking Bad was so brilliant was that it always made me want it, but never completely gave me what I wanted.

Fan service was the problem with the Breaking Bad finale, IMO. Bit like fried dough; enjoyed it during the process of consumption, felt queasy immediately after. Walter White dying alone and unloved on the run seemed like something that could actually happen in reality; Heisenberg's last stand was like something out of a comic book. But Walt dying and all of it having been pointless would have been too sad, so here he comes on his white horse to rescue Jesse and reconcile with his family and kill the slightly-badder-than-him-so-you-know-they're-really-the-bad-guys bikers and die burnishing his legend.
posted by Diablevert at 4:21 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about Bronies.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:24 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Since when do I need to read all of Doyle's previous Holmes' stories in order to enjoy the one I'm currently trying to read? Never. Did I also need to watch any previous episode of Doctor Who to enjoy pre-Moffat Doctor Who? Nope. Neither of these characters should have extended multi-season story arcs.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:43 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be about Bronies.

Now that you mention it, I really miss Derpy Hooves. Fanservice really backfired there.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:20 AM on January 4


While we're complaining, does anyone else find the orchestral swells during action scenes in Sherlock and Dr. Who to be intrusive?
They're so over-bearing they take me completely out of the story, possibly because I'm frantically reaching for the remote to turn down the volume and avoid waking my family at the odd hours I find to sit down and watch the shows.
posted by cardboard at 6:01 AM on January 4


Since when do I need to read all of Doyle's previous Holmes' stories in order to enjoy the one I'm currently trying to read?

Well, The Empty House, the first story in The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which is the analogue of Sunday's Sherlock episode. As luck would have it, while I was making breakfast this morning, I was listening to a Radio 4 Extra repeat of an adaptation of the story, and the the issues are exactly the same. Worse, really. The only reason the story exists at all is fanservice - the return of Sherlock Holmes - and it's assumed that the reader knows all about him and his demise. It doesn't have a plot as such, but there's the unconvincing explanation of how he avoided his certain death (in this case involving a made up Japanese martial art) and there's an apparent mystery which is cleared up by Holmes by introducing out of nowhere a character we've never heard of before who has superhuman capabilities with a murder weapon that frankly defies plausibility - we're told the victim couldn't have been assassinated from a house over the street because the window was only open a crack and, besides, no one heard anything. No matter - Sebastian Moran is a ridiculously good shot who killed the victim via that crack using a silent rifle. None of which we knew about until the moment Holmes mentions them.

I could easily see how the entire genre of the English detective novel, with its arcane and strict rules of what the reader must and must not be told, might have been set up as a critique of Conan Doyle.

It doesn't matter, though, because it's all hugely entertaining, just as this series is. The series is entertaining in a different way, often, but no less so. Packed full of so much stuff there must be something for anyone to enjoy in there somewhere. More to the point there must be something for anyone to complain endlessly about, as that seems to be how people get most of their gratification these days.
posted by Grangousier at 6:09 AM on January 4 [13 favorites]


While we're complaining, does anyone else find the orchestral swells during action scenes in Sherlock and Dr. Who to be intrusive?

"Wretched" is the word I'd use, but yes.
posted by trunk muffins at 6:25 AM on January 4


I saw the Dr Who Christmas special --- I have friends who are fans of that show and I've heard them talk about it, but I believe that was just the second full episode I've ever sat through. Didn't understand a damn bit of what was going on, and understanding narratives is usually one of my stronger points.

For what it's worth, I've watched every episode since they started back up in 2005, and I didn't really get what the hell was going on either.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:27 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Fans are the worst people to go to about a property. They want what's best for the fandom, not what's best for the show.
posted by Legomancer at 6:56 AM on January 4 [11 favorites]


The alternative to having and developing a fandom is to leave your story/show/movie working at a shallow, undeveloped level, with no continuity or character development. That would be better—how?
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:58 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


If you're having trouble remembering what happened in the previous episode/film/book just spend 5mins on wikipedia reading the plot summery as a refresher.

As it turns out, I have tried to search for recaps of certain YA books before reading their sequels, but since most of them aren't Harry Potter level famous, I haven't been able to find them. And there's a significant difference between books or tv shows I like enough to read the sequels to (or second halves of, in many cases for books) and the ones I like enough to rewatch entirely. And I just don't think that "stories that only appeal to the obsessive re-consumers" is a big enough market in the long run.
posted by jeather at 6:59 AM on January 4


Having and developing a fandom is good. It's when you deliberately cultivate the fandom that things start to go wrong. Tell the story you want to tell, not the story people say they want to hear.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:01 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


So, Sherlock is a wretchedly awful show, and I am comfortable with judging its fans' moral capacities based on that readily-apparent truth, but this writer guy is full of shit.

And people griping about Breaking Bad's final episode have apparently never heard of denouement, which means they also never read Lemony Snicket's The Penultimate Peril and therefore their opinions on storytelling cannot be trusted.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:31 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


So, Sherlock is a wretchedly awful show…


posted by sonic meat machine at 7:36 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


On the one hand there are a lot of good things about it, on the other hand just thinking about everything wrong with A Scandal In Belgravia makes me angry with rage.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:47 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


So, Sherlock is a wretchedly awful show, and I am comfortable with judging its fans' moral capacities based on that readily-apparent truth

Is that ironic or something, I can't tell? Are you suggesting that if I enjoy a particular television programme that you do not, I am somehow morally depraved?
posted by Grangousier at 7:49 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


The main problem with the Sherlock premiere was that the plot was built around making a "giant rat of Sumatra" joke rather than anything interesting.

The alternative to having and developing a fandom is to leave your story/show/movie working at a shallow, undeveloped level, with no continuity or character development.

It's okay to organically acquire a fandom by creating something with depth and continuity, etc. It's when you're actively trying to serve and write for that fandom once it's established that things tend to go wrong.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:58 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed both episodes tremendously - as well as the new Hunger Games movie. I really loved the meta-aspects of TEH and wouldn't have traded them for the world.

We can't go back to the old days where each episode of each show stands on its own. As we get to be more sophisticated observers, as we can communicate about each show over the Internet, the phenomenon described is going to happen more and more, and I for one welcome our meta-overlords.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:01 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I've watched every episode of Doctor Who ever, and watching Time Of The Doctor was... not great the first time.

I was reminded of the JNT years, when it was all fan-service and stunts for diminishing returns.
posted by Mezentian at 8:07 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


which means they also never read Lemony Snicket's The Penultimate Peril and therefore their opinions on storytelling cannot be trusted.

I just... saw the Jim Carey film.
I kinda think my opinions on storytelling can be trusted.

Unless that book contains one amazing secret I will be shocked by.
posted by Mezentian at 8:09 AM on January 4


Dan Harmon throwing a two-minute montage of faux romantic gestures into an episode of Community to acknowledge/poke fun at fandom is fanservice.

Harmon building the whole climax of a season of the show around The Darkest Timeline because fans flipped out over a two minute tag is Jumping The Shark. Which is what Sherlock did this week.

Fans aren't writers. I couldn't do what a writer does. So leave the task to the writers and just enjoy.
posted by dry white toast at 8:28 AM on January 4


Harmon building the whole climax of a season of the show around The Darkest Timeline because fans flipped out over a two minute tag is Jumping The Shark.

It's worth clarifying that Dan Harmon did not work on season 4 and thus had nothing to do with the entire season leading up to and including the darkest timeline finale.
posted by dogwalker at 8:36 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Serial TV with deep continuity has been A Thing for a long time now, and it's only getting more popular.

Partially because streaming is making it practical for everyone interested to catch up to the plot. When the shows were at the mercy of networks, it was only truly hardcore fans who would buy VHS tapes, Laserdiscs, or even DVDs of the episodes (if they were even available); now, practically anything good is simultaneously streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or something, and you can be reasonably sure that your audience is still involved.

I'd hate to see what this person would think of a series of novels.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:38 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


While we're complaining, does anyone else find the orchestral swells during action scenes in Sherlock and Dr. Who to be intrusive?

I paid less attention to the music during Sherlock, but complaints about Murray Gold's Who music are legion in my circle.

I'm a Moffat fan on Who overall (I have liked the broad direction of his showrunning compared to Davies') but I have to admit, as downright fun as I thought TEH was, it was a bit of a jump-the-shark moment.
posted by immlass at 8:57 AM on January 4


I really liked the first season of Sherlock, only made it through 1.5 episodes of the second before bailing (which was more than a year ago), and just watched the newest episode on BBC iPlayer. There is a lot of time spent at the beginning of the episode explaining what's going on. And the show is not so deep that the mythology is that sprawling - in all incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, he has a nemesis named Moriarty, a sidekick named Watson, and a sibling named Mycroft.

But, the new episode was not very good. For those that enjoyed it, what got you hooked on the show in the first place? For me, it was a neat re-imagination of the Sherlock Holmes' stories and had creative updating of the mysteries. I also have a soft spot for Tim from The Office. This episode didn't seem that creative - do people really like watching things that are exactly how they would write it? I want to see people who are better writers than me make an interesting, imaginative show. I don't think stuffing a show full of "meta" is that imaginative or original, especially if you are only making 3 episodes a season - and each season isn't even happening annually. A little winking at the fans is ok - I'm not such a purist, but c'mon.
posted by bluefly at 9:11 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be about bronies.

So Tumblr tells me the MLP Facebook page posted this fedora-wearing pony with a Grumpy Cat cutie mark and many bronies are in a froth?

If true (I am not on the MLP FB page, so it might be a total fabrication), it would be less fanservice and more "yes we are mocking you."
posted by emjaybee at 9:20 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure this is the wrong place to say this, but I am definitely one of the people put off by fandom.

Everybody laughs at the Shatner "get a life" bit on the old SNL, but now fricking everybody's a trekkie. People have detailed, passionately held opinions about goddamned showrunners, whereas I miss the days when I'd never even heard the term, and it wasn't that long ago.

Really though it isn't the liking that gets to me- that makes me reluctant to read mefi threads about things I watch- it's the other. Like there's some competitive drive to pinpoint the moment when your favorite thing, which you love, frickin' rapes your childhood by having the worst episode ever.

I blame the internet, I guess. Pretty sure I wouldn't otherwise be aware that anybody, anybody at all, spends time thinking about TV characters having sex with each other. But it's not just that.

Maybe it's the economy's fault that we're apparently a nation of unpaid TV critics now, maybe it's that the barriers for entry into the showrunning field are unfairly high. Because the internet's obviously full of people who, given a chance, would know way better how to do it.

Just like the stereotypical couch-slug who spends his Sundays telling NFL coaches how to do their job by yelling at the TV (or the internet), or the even-moreso cab driver who'd be a better president than whatsisname, we're all sure now that if David Simon had replaced himself with us, we'd have kept the 5th season of the Wire from ruining everything

Don't get me wrong. I like stuff, I also dislike stuff. What I don't do is make it into a thing. The first season of The Simpsons is a thing. The 25th season of the Simpsons is a thing. You know what's not a thing? Your highly incisive judgment about exactly when it jumped the shark and made you into the inironic version of the Comic Book Guy.

But hey, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
posted by hap_hazard at 9:29 AM on January 4 [17 favorites]


Don't get me wrong. I like stuff, I also dislike stuff. What I don't do is make it into a thing. The first season of The Simpsons is a thing. The 25th season of the Simpsons is a thing. You know what's not a thing? Your highly incisive judgment about exactly when it jumped the shark and made you into the inironic version of the Comic Book Guy.

Fortunately on MeFi, for the most part, we get people talking about the faults or not, depending on your opinion, of the story telling, production, music, etc. and seeing a pattern, oft repeated, and expressing their disapproval or approval. I rarely see anyone making a "thing" about any of it or feeling passionately about their disregard or regard for a show. If it's the center of anyone's life here then that's sad, and a problem but nothing I've seen on this forum indicates that. It's just a healthy discussion amongst people that don't always agree. It's fun.
posted by juiceCake at 9:36 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Fans aren't writers. I couldn't do what a writer does. So leave the task to the writers and just enjoy.

I'd be interested to see alternative fan-driven final thirds of Lost or BSG, though. I think they'd be better. And I think some of the fan-oriented Star Wars stuff is better than the prequels (though, some admittedly, is entirely awful).
posted by tyllwin at 9:46 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Do you know how embarrassing that is? It's really goddamn embarrassing.

As well it might.
posted by glasseyes at 10:31 AM on January 4


It's just a healthy discussion amongst people that don't always agree. It's fun.

Worst. Comment. Ever.

I used to love this thread but now I can barely read it!

Heh heh. Well maybe you're right, but I'm sure I am too- there really is a lot of "this is when the formerly awesomest thing started sucking" in a lot of mefi threads. But on the other hand, the other stuff annoys me too, and I think it's because it reminds me of something you see in book reviews (and someone else pointed this out, but I can't remember who.)

Where what you get is not 'my review of the book that was written' but 'my review of how the book that was written fails to be the book that I think should have been written instead.' The first can be interesting or valuable, the latter is more likely wankery. Imho.

But then again, look where I'm writing that! Maybe I just like being annoyed by things on the internet.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:59 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Read this the other day in the Guardian, was hoping it would migrate to MeFi, nice discussion, heretics! I'm well consoled to find people waxing articulate about why both shows don't work for them. I used to love Dr. Who in the old days as much as I loved Star Trek, when both were distinctly uncool, minority tastes. What did they have in common? Quirkiness, originality, lateral thinking, economy: ie working within strict time and budget constraints in a way that forced innovation as much as it fostered just bodging through. Neither show took itself too seriously but neither undermined its own self either *squinting at you, Desolation of Smaug* ; and both shows were progressive, ST famously more so. But I could only get into the first three series of the Who reboot and after that The Doctor's and Rose's relationship got squickily sentimental and fan-pandering.

I blame the production team for picking too much of a pretty actor.

I truly cannot understand the popularity of Sherlock! The characterisation and plotting are fucking random! There is no consistency - one minute Sherlock is too emotionally dim to understand why Watson might be a bit narked at him, the next minute he's totally solved a puzzle that depends on nothing other than reading people's emotions and motivations. The clues, telegraphed monstrously throughout each episode or withheld without any narrative justification. That bloody taxi driver episode, shot with a loitering taxi in every midnight scene. Grar. The so called 'intelligence' of Sherlock, demonstrated with a couple of slick graphics packages. It's not as if that silly method reaches any very extraordinary conclusions. Coffee and a cigarette (or classically, cocaine, no sleep and playing the violin) would be a more plausible way of portraying someone enhancing their thinking process.

I got bamboozled into watching the TEH from all the internet fuss, but it didn't take long to remember why I think Sherlock is pants. And the emotional payoff, stopping the bomb: really shitty. Rubbish storytelling. Why should anybody care? What's wrong with Watson, why does he care?

AND ONE MORE THING, planned, scripted, deliberate subtext is the vegetarian bacon-flavoured snack of the TV world.

Ok rant over. Not criticising anyone for liking it but honestly, I just don't get it. Carnt understand it.
posted by glasseyes at 11:21 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I thought that Sherlock/Moriarty gag was really mean. Like a deliberate "fuck you" to the fandom.

And speaking as a fannish type, the fandom for this show has led me to dislike it intensely. (Along with, y'know, the racism and the sexism and Moffat being awful.) And that moment was still the one that made me turn off the episode.

Of course you shouldn't write to please your fanbase. But neither should you write to tell them that they suck.
posted by dogheart at 11:30 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I thought that Sherlock/Moriarty gag was really mean. Like a deliberate "fuck you" to the fandom.

If this is supposed to make one not like Moffat it's backfiring here.

Am I the only one who thinks that Moffat is likely to be the wrong person to watch out over the era of Capaldi?!

He's from Paisley, Capaldi is a Glaswegian. He just needs to get Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson on the show now. And work in a few shots of these. Cardiff indeed, what are they thinking.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:41 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Grangousier, I wasn't being completely hyperbolic when I said "every". Doyle stories was serialized of course, but it doesn't feel like the same thing. Doctor Who as well, but rarely every more than 3 or 4 "to be continued" episodes. Foyle's War I think is a perfect example of British drama that managed to have continuity without sacrificing the focus of that episode.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:15 PM on January 4


"Fans of Sherlock and critics of the Breaking Bad finale are moral degenerates, and if they'd recognize this if only they read enough Lemony Snicket." I'm going to cite this when describing to friends what debates about pop culture are like on Metafilter.
posted by painquale at 12:15 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


I'm very interested to see the first episode of the Sherlock third series. Because of Ask Metafilter, I ended up reading a lot of Sherlock fanfiction last spring and summer. Enough that when I saw a teaser for the new season I was surprised because I hadn't remembered that Sherlock hadn't returned yet in the actual show.

I felt pretty sure that nothing the show could do would match some of the most imaginative of the fan writing on the subject. They have imagined the reunion in just about every possible way, from John and Sherlock falling immediately into each other's arms, to Sherlock returning to find John raising their baby, to John punching Sherlock and walking out of his life never to return. One thing they did in a lot of the fanfic that I knew the show couldn't and wouldn't do would be to let their relationship take time to come back--in some of the fanfic, it's a process of months or even years as they rebuild trust.

I expect to be disappointed in whatever the show comes up with, but at the same time I'm intrigued by the spoilers I've picked up on. It will be interesting in any case.
posted by not that girl at 2:22 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I thought that Sherlock/Moriarty gag was really mean. Like a deliberate "fuck you" to the fandom.

I don't understand this criticism at all. I don't see how acknowledging a very small part of fandom - in the middle of one the BBC's biggest shows - can be interpreted as a "fuck you". Sure, they implied that it was ludicrous in the text of the show because it's ludicrous in the text of their show. If fandom doesn't get that, they need to take a long hard look at themselves. But they don't, because they are too busy slash pairing everyone in sight.

Also "the fandom" is a pretty nebulous term. I bet most of fandom doesn't ship Sherlock/Moriarty anyway. So you've got a subset of a subset of a subset of fandom whose very existence is acknowledged and it's a "fuck you"? How is that more of a fuck you than ignoring your existence altogether?
posted by crossoverman at 2:59 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


I think ignoring their existence altogether would have been kinder, frankly. And correct me if I'm wrong, here, but I got the impression that finding queer subtext in the ACD stories (especially in the Watson and Holmes relationship) was always A Thing--at least as long as people have been finding queer subtexts in things.

I don't know, man, I just read it as sneering and dismissive. If you didn't, that's fine, but I have negative interest in being fighty about it.
posted by dogheart at 3:29 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


As a confirmed fan, I think the thing that bugged me the most about the meta/fanserviceness of it all was... you know what, I had theories on how he did it; of course I did. And I was really, really excited to find out how they were going to be jossed, what kind of elaborate machinations they came up with that I never dreamed of. My friend and I started out our watching event by talking about our theories and how they were going to go down in flames. It was really fun. And then, having the series of coulda-beens was just kind of smug. Like they were playing keep-away. I wonder if they were thinking, "nothing we do will escape fans telling us how we screwed up," and just decided to avoid an explanation entirely, but it came off more "fuck you" than "fuck it."

I guess what I'm saying here is, if this is what fanservice is, I want none of it. Give me back my dubiously believable explanations with invented martial arts and implausible physical acts! I suspend my disbelief so the characters don't have to!

all that said, that toggle switch was just fucking stupid, for serious, you guys.
posted by sldownard at 3:36 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I think ignoring their existence altogether would have been kinder, frankly.

Yeah, I think the feedback loop ends up being a bad thing. A show should just be a show, existing in a separate universe from the fandom. The show can have things available which the fandom may appreciate, like when Twin Peaks coffee mugs were available for sale, or when thirtysomething put out a catalog of the clothing seen on the show... the show can have things available which reflect the show and allow the fandom to express their fan status in our universe, like calendars or action figures or picture mugs or whatnot...

But if you start having the fandom actually AFFECT the show, then what you end up with is this creepy "our universe is watching yours, and you know it" sort of bleedthrough, which in the end is going to ruin the fictional universe which is being watched, because nobody can know they are being watched without having it affect how they act, even if they are fictional creations.

This would be true if this were truly parallel universes which existed where one universe is watching the other for entertainment. This is even more true when the second, watched universe is actually being created by people in OUR universe.
posted by hippybear at 4:17 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I love the new Sherlock. I also love the new Doctor Whos, from Nine through Eleven and can't wait for Twelve. Both series are of course flawed, but I am also really confused by the opinions in this thread.

This is Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who we're talking about. Fun stories originating in different eras and genres, but at their core they are both above-average pulp fiction. They also both have a romantic-gothic streak a mile wide, which totally appeals to me. They aren't left-brained police procedurals, nor hard SF -- they are popular entertainment with an intelligent bent.

I don't know, it seems as if some folks want these stories and series to be something they weren't ever meant to be.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:36 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I got into Joss Whedon after everybody else did and I've always thought of "Jossed" as being arbitrarily killed to provoke an emotional response, like Wash or Tara or that guy in the Buffy pilot. Seeing it used properly is weird.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:54 PM on January 4


This would be true if this were truly parallel universes which existed where one universe is watching the other for entertainment.

Red Dwarf covered that rather deftly.
posted by sonascope at 6:54 PM on January 4


And then, having the series of coulda-beens was just kind of smug. Like they were playing keep-away. I wonder if they were thinking, "nothing we do will escape fans telling us how we screwed up," and just decided to avoid an explanation entirely, but it came off more "fuck you" than "fuck it."

Combined with "everyone's a critic", it did come off as a fuck you to fandom.

I'm waiting until after the next episode to put on my flouncing hat and leave fandom. Until then, I remain cautiously optimistic that moftiss have got the "no homo" jokes out of their systems and the wedding will be nice.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:41 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I thought the various "how did he do it?" bits were hilarious. The one with Sherlock and Moriarty faking their deaths just to honk off Watson and then making out had the whole room in stitches.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:48 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Until then, I remain cautiously optimistic that moftiss have got the "no homo" jokes out of their systems and the wedding will be nice.

I've always liked the fact that people have thought they were a gay couple in the text of this version of Sherlock. In no way do I think it's pointing and laughing at gay men. In no way is it "no homo" - which is a pretty insidious term used by homophobes.

And, frankly, the show plays the relationship so close to it being a queer relationship, the prequel mini-sode Many Happy Returns has John Watson so distraught by the loss of Sherlock, he's still mourning him after two years.
posted by crossoverman at 2:17 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


This is Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who we're talking about. Fun stories originating in different eras and genres, but at their core they are both above-average pulp fiction. They also both have a romantic-gothic streak a mile wide, which totally appeals to me. They aren't left-brained police procedurals, nor hard SF -- they are popular entertainment with an intelligent bent.

I don't know, it seems as if some folks want these stories and series to be something they weren't ever meant to be.


Well, speaking for myself alone, the fact that at their best the shows are witty, light entertainment is what cheeses me off about the idea that I have to sit and do my homework to enjoy them at all. I can accept the idea that in the best serialized dramas, if I sit down and watch an episode at random there's going to be whole layers of nuance and context between the characters that I'll miss, to the point where I may not enjoy the show or may find it confusing. But the Sherlock stories are basically movie-length stand-alones about iconic characters who don't grow and change as a consequence of what happens to them. Plus the fact that they're mystery stories. If the in-jokes and callbacks become so much the point that they displace the mystery as the center of the story, I think that's a problem. And if it becomes a necessity that you've religiously followed every previous episode to understand what's going on, then I think that's far too much to ask for light entertainment.

Plus, I'd argue that much of the time in the best serialized stories, even if you haven't watched the whole show the episodes themselves still have an arc and a completeness that makes them good viewing. I haven't watched the episode myself in a while and maybe I'll have to bite my tongue, but my bet would be that if you sat someone who had never seen The Sopranos down in front of "Long Term Parking" that they could still appreciate that episode and be moved by it even without having watched 4 seasons of Christopher and Adriana's relationship, because the stakes and the moral choices being made by the characters are clear.
posted by Diablevert at 5:23 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


I've just watched the latest Sherlock and Elementary. I wish they could resurrect Jeremy Brett or Basil Rathbone.
posted by pracowity at 6:46 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Plus, I'd argue that much of the time in the best serialized stories, even if you haven't watched the whole show the episodes themselves still have an arc and a completeness that makes them good viewing.

Well, you can argue that, but by definition serialized stories are a long story arc told in a series of episodes or chapters, if you will. It's like jumping into the middle of a novel and being cheesed off that you have to "work" by reading the first half.

And again, we're talking about two previous UK seasons of three episodes each -- it's not like you're having to catch up on the entirety of six different series, dozens of episodes, twelve feature films, and forty years of Star Trek canon.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:49 AM on January 5


But the Sherlock stories are basically movie-length stand-alones about iconic characters who don't grow and change as a consequence of what happens to them.

I understood the fact that John had gone on living (grown/changed) in the wake of Sherlock's demise to be a fairly major plot point in TEH.

The in-jokes and such were too thick for me even as a fan, and ditto the Christmas episode of Who, but part of that seems to be the Special Event problem with both shows: the return after the long hiatus plus the coming back from the dead in Sherlock, and the Christmas episode plus the regeneration and the need to tie up loose plotlines, emphasized after the 50th, in Who. It's certainly reasonable to think that the Who Christmas special and the opening of a new season of Sherlock should have been more approachable or contained fewer in-jokes or whatever, but it's not like (particularly in the case of the Who Christmas special) there weren't other factors weighing in.

If this means they're not the best serialized stories, well, I did say I thought TEH was a bit of a jump-the-shark moment. To me it all feels like Moffat is overstretched and the supervision of both shows is suffering for it.
posted by immlass at 11:25 AM on January 5


but at their core they are both above-average pulp fiction

I wish. They are far, far, far below above average pulp fiction. At their core they are melodramatic nonsense. Pretty much daytime soap quality of stories. But opinions differ of course.
posted by juiceCake at 12:53 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine insists on watching The Hunger Games movies despite not having read the books. Then she doesn't understand what is going on and gripes that they suck and I have to explain it all for her.

For crying out loud, NOT EVERYTHING IS FOR NOOBS AND CASUAL VIEWERS ANY MORE. And in the case of HG, anything that's a book adaptation is going to have to leave a lot of explanatory shit out because they can only have butts in seats for 2 hours. (Which is kind of why I am not the world's biggest fan of movies--2 hours is such a limited time compared to TV hours these days.) Certain things are better if you did your "homework" (or at least rewatched the last episode) beforehand. Recapping the previous episode takes away from your plot time and film time, and rereading "Where were we at the end of the last book" chapter recaps a la the Babysitter's Club books also gets old for those who remember or did.

Either you do a little bit of homework (oh, I don't know know, look for summaries on the Internet, perhaps) or you accept that you're gonna be somewhat lost and wo/man up about it. If you wander into a later season, episode, or sequel without having bothered with the first, that's the price you chose to pay, buddy!
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:52 PM on January 5


Wait, I've never read the Hunger Games books and have no trouble following the films. If I'm going to object to anything, I'll object to having to read the books to appreciate a film. If I have to do that, the film is flawed.
posted by crossoverman at 4:47 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Well, you can argue that, but by definition serialized stories are a long story arc told in a series of episodes or chapters, if you will. It's like jumping into the middle of a novel and being cheesed off that you have to "work" by reading the first half.

Yes, but chapters within novels have their own arc and structure. No, they're not self contained; the comprise a part of a larger whole. But each chapter of a large serialized drama should have a beginning and middle and end of its own, it should start somewhere and take you somewhere. You do not have to read the whole of Anna Karenina to be able to appreciate the scene where Levin proposes to Kitty by means of initials drawn on a tablecloth. There's enough context within the scene, enough of an arc, to understand the basic relationship between the characters and the moment of crisis in which they find themselves.

By definition, someone who is familiar with the broader context of Levin and Kitty's relationship will appreciate the scene, as The Onion would put it, on a much deeper level than someone who doesn't. But if you allow any long-form writing to become shaggy and loose and handwave away that need for internal structure and tension within a chapter by simply using allusions to what has gone before as a substitute, that's shitty writing. That's using the audience's familiarity with the material as a crutch that allows you to hobble along with troubling with a goddamn plot.
posted by Diablevert at 9:53 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Most of you complaining about Moffat seem to have missed that S03E01 was written by Mark Gatiss.
posted by Skyanth at 3:56 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Most of you complaining about Moffat seem to have missed that S03E01 was written by Mark Gatiss

Gatiss is part of the Moffat stable and he gets praise or blame for picking the writers. For me, having read some of Gatiss' solo writing, it actually seems like they're leaning a bit more on him stylistically this series and it's not really working for me. Sherlock should have humor, but it's not an outright comedy.

S03E02 apparently was written by all three of the writers and it shows. It all comes together in the end, but wow that was really too fanservice-y and the trope they used to get all the flashbacks in was not good. I'm not done with Sherlock when the remaining investment is 90 minutes, but my expectations, which were not that high, are significantly lowered.
posted by immlass at 7:00 AM on January 6


Perhaps I should post an AskMe but since we're all here discussing Sherlock I have to say that the one thing about The Empty Hearse which continues to rub me the wrong way is the fact that Sherlock fakes his death and stages it specifically for Watson. The cliffhanger presents it as it is vital that the assassins watching Watson, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade be convinced that Sherlock has killed himself but in The Empty Hearse we are told that the assassin watching Watson is intercepted by Mycroft's people. If that's the case, why go through the rigamarole since the street was blocked off and the only person watching was Watson, effectively? If the only consumers of the "news" that Sherlock killed himself were going to be remote and the only way the ruse would work would be if the observer were positioned exactly where Watson was, then why not just issue a press release saying that Sherlock offed himself?
posted by ooga_booga at 1:09 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


why not just issue a press release saying that Sherlock offed himself?

Because that would be less dramatic. I don't know that the last explanation was supposed to be the "real" one or if it was Anderson hallucinating and arriving at something close to the truth. The placement of the scene was odd and it didn't make sense for him to know Anderson's first name when he's been stealing Graham's Gavin's Geoff's Lestrade's warrant cards for years without knowing his name.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:38 PM on January 6


It would have been less dramatic, but it would at least have been consistent with the internal logic of the story - I really only posed the press release hypothetical because staging an elaborate death scene for the benefit of Watson and Watson alone doesn't make any sense. Am I wrong?
posted by ooga_booga at 1:48 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The whole performance did seem like it was only for John, but it's possible it was also intended to mislead Moriarty's agent at the Met, who would then pass along the info that Sherlock had really killed himself to the rest of the network.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:09 PM on January 6


It would be super easy to justify staging it for Watson if Sherlock was just all "Until I took down Moriarty's network, they were watching you, Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson very closely, John. I couldn't risk them finding out I was alive and holding you hostage again, and I didn't trust that my brother could handle your protection until I crippled the international network leaving the London cell without resources." but that would have made Sherlock's choice of keeping them in the dark reasonable instead of callous.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:20 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


If Watson believed him dead, then Moriarty's network is more likely to believe Sherlock dead. That was the point. Also, drama. But Watson, being the doctor, thinking Sherlock is dead and mourning him ever since is a pretty good way to convince the world he's really gone.

I know the solutions were very much focused on how they tricked Watson, because Watson was the one who cared.
posted by crossoverman at 2:20 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


A question that came up on a different site was why does Moriarty's network even care about Sherlock now that Moriarty is dead? There's no second in command Col. Moran to take over as in Doyle's story, and Moriarty clearly had no compunctions about killing off his own (see: Black Lotus leader in S1). This incarnation of Sherlock isn't altruistic enough to spend two years away from London ridding the world of crime and evil, so why would the bad guys need to target him (and John/Lestrade/Mrs Hudson) en masse?
posted by book 'em dano at 12:10 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Guardian:
Moffat brushed aside the views of some critics and viewers who found the opening episode, The Empty Hearse, too self-referential as it ran through the ways in which Sherlock might have escaped what seemed like certain death in his fall from the roof at the end of the previous series.

Moffat said: "It has had a brilliant response. I read the press, it is not true".

"It is not a detective show. It is a show about a detective … It is a show that celebrates a clever man. So we make the show look complex."
posted by pracowity at 11:59 PM on January 8


"So we make the show look complex."
And right there's the problem. He makes the show look complex, but if you dare to dedicate even a single brain cell to thinking about it you realise it's not - it's just a mess of in-jokes and fanwank and teasing and overcooked self-referential cleverness.

And the sad part is, if you apply a second brain cell to the problem you immediately start to see dozens of simple changes - a different choice of words here, a change in emphasis there, a nod or knowing look somewhere else - that would help the fragment of story you desperately hope is still in there somewhere rise Venus-like out of the mess…
posted by Pinback at 12:33 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


And right there's the problem.

Well, maybe the real problem is that "It is not a detective show. It is a show about a detective" played by someone who is "becoming a bit of a sex symbol", and that's all they need for the show to remain popular: show him being him.
posted by pracowity at 12:08 AM on January 10


MISS ME?
posted by Pendragon at 2:39 PM on January 12


NOT REALLY
posted by betweenthebars at 8:13 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


that's all they need for the show to remain popular: show him being him.

My problem with that theory is that it relies on Sherlock continuing being Sherlock (a badass) and he failed some at that S2 (hence the need for the fall) but a lot in S3 both personally and professionally.
posted by immlass at 9:20 PM on January 12


Also, on the subject of S3, Laurie Penny on Sherlock and fandom/as fanfiction.
posted by immlass at 9:23 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I'm still marvelling at how a show can be so interesting yet so rubbish at the same time.
posted by cendawanita at 12:05 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Inside The Empty House: Sherlock Holmes For King And Country
As a new series of BBC’s Sherlock revives the great detective after his apparent death, Andrew Glazzard investigates the domestic and imperial subterfuge beneath the surface of Sherlock Holmes’s 1903 return to Baker Street in Conan Doyle’s ‘The Empty House’.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:15 PM on January 13


"… and starring Mark Gatiss as the Sonic Screwdriver."

posted by Pinback at 1:09 AM on January 14


"It is not a detective show. It is a show about a detective … It is a show that celebrates a clever man. So we make the show look complex."

Or, the full quote, as reported in this transcript of the Q&A:

Audience member 9: In terms of this episode, it’s probably the most non-linear of the three so far this season. When you’re constructing a story like this, do you basically plot it from point A to point Z and then fold bits back on themselves as you go along?

SM: "To be honest, I think I would say that The Sign Of Three was the most non-linear. We don’t even know if we saw the events in the right order even in the flashback. In terms of how you do that, you just work it out. I remember the writers on The Sign Of Three sat and worked out that we wanted the spine to be the speech, that we’ll cue up that story there and leave it hanging, and go back to the speech, cue up the next story, then we go back to the resolution of that story. It’s designed – perhaps successfully or unsuccessfully is up to you – to look clever.

"Things that are designed to look clever secretly aren’t that clever, because we know the story and putting it in the wrong order isn’t that much of an effort. There’s only one sequence where we move out of straight narrative logic in His Last Vow, I wrote it that way and we all wondered if we’d just cut the Christmas scenes into the right sequence, but it didn’t feel right, you sort of wanted to go forward into the future and then find out how they’d got there. If you put the work in, it’s not as hard as it looks. It’s designed, as I said, to look clever. In the case of a show that celebrates the cleverness of its hero, the show being itself clever is correct. If it wasn’t a show about a clever man, you wouldn’t want it to be like that. It’s a show about a clever man, so make the world look complex, yet clear – he hoped! You may be thinking ‘It wasn’t clear at all!’ [laughter] but that’s the ambition. I don’t know if that ramble was of any use at all, I’m sorry."

END QUOTE.

So, the "It is not a detective show" is actually the answer to a different question than "So we make the show look complex." In the first he's talking about the character and in the second he's talking about the structure of the episodes. And this kind of episode structure does suit the show and the character pretty well. Sherlock doesn't necessarily think in a linear fashion - so the show isn't always linear.

Overall, I quite liked series three - though it is a huge departure from the first two series and I can understand why people have been annoyed by the show becoming more character-focused and less interested in the detection part. But I like this version of the characters quite a lot, so I was happy to see them explored.

The reveal at the end of His Last Vow was a bit cheesy, though expected.
posted by crossoverman at 3:48 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Fan Friction: “Sherlock” and its audiences.
posted by homunculus at 10:25 AM on January 26


Is Sherlock Holmes a Good Detective?
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Finally got a chance to watch the last episode of the season and honestly? I kinda like the show in this James Bond Lite mode better than I like it when it's trying to be a Sherlock Holmes show. It makes it more enjoyable to watch thinking of it that way rather than thinking of it as what it could be if it was really a strong Holmes show because Moffat's failings in Holmes mode weirdly line up with the tropes of a show in Bond mode.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:52 AM on February 2


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