Sherlock Gets a Contemporary Makeover (and Eight Others We Think Could Use One)

Sherlock Holmes Goes Contemporary

By Erin McInnis and Joe Pagetta

Picture the scene. We’re in London where there has been a rash of seemingly identical suicides. Or has there?  Wanting to reassure the community, Inspector Lestrade holds a press conference to release a statement and answer questions from the media. In true Holmes fashion, Sherlock e-blasts his opinion via text message to every reporter in the room. In a separate text to Lestrade, he announces his availability as a detective for hire. On the other side of town, Afghanistan war veteran Dr. John Watson is looking for a place to live while he recovers from his war wounds. Seeking a flatmate himself, Holmes zeroes in on Watson, gleaning an enormous amount of personal information about the doctor from a glance and feel of the doctor’s cell phone. And when Watson wants to learn a little about Holmes, well, he does what anyone else would do: he consults the internet.

Wait …Text messages?  Cell Phones?  The Internet?  Welcome to a truly contemporary Sherlock Holmes. Fans of House, The Mentalist and Monk — all shows indebted to Sherlock Holmes — will eat up Sherlock, the new Masterpiece Contemporary adaption of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved detective stories.  It’s fast-paced in dialogue and plot twists, and utterly thrilling. The 3-part series premieres on Sunday, October 24 at 8 p.m. Central on NPT and PBS stations nationwide, but the previews have us thinking about what other literary characters and stories are ripe for a contemporary makeover. We put our heads together and came up with eight we felt are easily translatable to modern times, avoiding those stories that have been remade in recent years (Scarlet Letter/Easy A, Pride & Prejudice/Bridget Jones’ Diary, Emma/Clueless, etc.).

What do you think? Any stories you’d like to see get a makeover?

Are you friends with "Cy" on Facebook?

Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand)

Admittedly, Steve Martin modernized Edmond Rostand’s play quite successfully with the charming Roxane, but technological advances since make this tale of the big-nosed Romeo a must for modernization must.  Facebook, Match, eHarmony, MySpace, Linkedin, E-mail, text messaging … all of these, and more, make it possible to be someone else.  Because of his overly-large nose, Cy believes he is doomed to live life without the woman he loves, so he creates the perfect man for her, one with all of his own charm and wit and someone else’s profile picture.

Don Juan (first written version by Gabriel Tellez, aka Tirso de Molina, in the play El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra)

John Donovan is on the Wall Street fast track, but he’s as obsessed with seducing the women of Wall Street as he is with making money. He’s got all the contemporary tools of wealthy seduction. Armani suit? Check. He’s got an iPad and an iPhone to show the pretty ladies his portfolio, and a Blackberry to send seductive text messages from across the office. He checks the time on his Rolex.  When he’s not on the subway seducing the Bridge and Tunnelers, he rolls in a BMW 5 series. But this isn’t only about seduction, it’s also about money and power. When the president of a major bank dies suddenly from a heart attack, the news rocks Wall Street. The president’s young, single daughter, and her inheritance, becomes Donovan’s prime target.

Quixote a delusional member of The Royal Family?

Don Quixote (Cervantes)

Lonely and middle aged, Alonso spends his days in the Kensington area of London reading about the Royal family and longing for the life he doesn’t have. He’s obsessed.  So much so, that he believes he IS royalty. But just being a member of the family isn’t enough. He must live up to the new example established by  his beloved Princess Diana and her fight for social justice.  Diana’s tragic death puts him over the edge and sends him into action. Delusional, he leaves his home, claiming to be a member of the Royal Family and looking to right wrongs, real and imagined, wherever he can. In his first quest, he comes across a woman, caged and naked outside a sporting arena. He sets to work freeing her in the name of women’s equality, only to be arrested for the destruction of property and disturbing a peaceful PETA protest of the circus.  It’s only the beginning of a series of misguided quests. Shortly before embarking on his next quest,  he discovers his neighbor Aldonza Lorenzo, who in his delusional and infatuated state, looks to Alonso exactly like Princess Diana. In fact, he thinks it might even be her come back to life!  In a twist, he must now right wrongs and injustices in Diana’s name, but also do it to win her love!

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

In search of adventure and a better life, Jane Eyre leaves her home country and finds employment as a nanny for wealthy single parent Ed Rochester. Though undocumented, she seems to have escaped the fate of many others in her position, and is not a victim of unpaid wages, uncompensated workplace injuries, or hazardous working conditions.. She lives comfortably, cares for two delightful children and has the love of her charming employer. She seems to have the world at her fingertips and has found her one true love. But there’s a madwoman in the attic.

Nick and Nora Charles (created by Dashiell Hammett in The Thin Man)

Like Sherlock and Watson, Nick and Nora Charles (and their dog Asta) are easily malleable.  They are timeless characters, able to be placed in a variety of different times and situations (which explains their prolific life in film and television from the 1930’s-1950’s).  Nick, a former NYPD police detective, is now a private detective for the wealthy and married to socialite Nora. They frequently find themselves intertwined in the dark side of their glamorous lives, racing against the clock to solve just one more case.

Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens)

Oliver is born to a single mother in a gritty, gang-laden area of Mexico. His mother is killed shortly after the birth, in the crossfire of senseless drug war violence. Oliver winds up in an orphanage and care of the state. By the time he’s ten, he’s bouncing around foster care, and in one foster family, forced to work in a sweat shop making T-shirts to be shipped to the United States. The other children are brutal, but Oliver eventually escapes over the border and finds his way to Los Angeles, where he meets a few other runaways who introduce him to Fagin, a low-level drug dealer and pimp who enlists the services of young runaway boys and girls. Pretty soon, without much of an option, Oliver emerges on the streets of L.A. with a new moniker, TWIST.

"Dora" Gray a hot Hollywood mess?

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)

In modern day Los Angeles, beauty and modeling is big business, but for photographer Basil Hallward, it’s still about Art. He admires David LaChapelle and Helmut Newton, and in Dora Gray, he’s found his subject and muse. The stunningly beautiful, but young and naive Gray sits for Hallward for hours at a time, and the results are the toast of the photography world and favorites of Gray herself. Hallward’s friend Henry Wooten traverses the art world, and occasionally even patronizes Hallward, but his interest in art is more about the parties and the glamour than the art itself. He corrupts the young Gray, introducing her to a decadent life of parties and cocaine while telling her that her beauty will fade. He encourages her to live in the now. Pretty soon, she’s famous for being famous, known less for her beauty in fashion spreads and more for her being sprawled out on sidewalks outside nightclubs. Gray becomes more and more obsessed each day by the paparazzi images of herself in the celebrity magazines. When she looks at the pictures, she sees the young, beautiful Gray she thinks she still is, but in the beloved original portraits by Hallward, her beauty is fading.

Nemo an environmental extremist?

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)

The enigmatic misanthrope Captain Nemo is an extreme environmentalist waging his own private crusade against anyone destroying the deep oceans he calls home. Professor Peter Aronnax is hired by the government to document the investigation into a series of attacks on international shipping and oil rigs. Circumstances provide the means for Captain Nemo to bring the Professor, and two of his colleagues, on board his submarine, the Nautilus, as his prisoners. Influenced by his own desires, Nemo allows the Professor to continue his documentation.  A man so far ahead of his time that the majority of the world can only see him as a monster, the true purpose behind Captain Nemo’s crusade, and his rise as a tragic hero, is filed away with the Professor’s report after a yearlong world-wide undersea adventure. A perfect candidate for the pseudo-documentary style used in films such as Cloverfield and District 9.

Share this post:


great ideas. i love this stuff. shakespeare has been updated w/anthony hopkins as “titus”, ian mckellan as “richard the iii”, john cassavettes as “morbius”, not to forget the “league of extraordinary gentlemen”, or my segue on my wall about “detective h.p. lovecraft” in two hbo specials…and “fatherland” in which hitler won wwii…i wrote a short story years ago, w/holmes & watson as ny police detectives. i reversed the senority & had some fun w/the coincidence of their names…lol!

Sure we’ve all thought about what Holmes would be like in modern times, but the lack of all this gadgetry is what made Holmes such a wonderful character! He deduced things with cold precision but always had a human touch. This would be lost in modern times. Why would they do this? As Charlie Brown would say: “UGH!”

Finally, you are trying to get back some of those wonderful Brit shows I know and love, and also updating old ones. My daughter, now 20, had never read Sherlock Holmes books or some of the British authors I love, as well as American literary genuises, so when we took her to see Sherlock Holmes, The Movie, she was enthralled and is now
a huge fan. My deceased step father left me one of his hardback copies of Sherlock Holmes that he acquired in England while in the military, it has seen better days and probably needs a new cover, but what a joy to re-leaf through the pages and enjoy a well written story. I do also love Dickens, Jan Austen, and Emily Bronte, to name a few, as well as my current living authoress and poet, Maya Angelou, what a sweet woman.
The Bourne Identity series are also great reading. Read the book on my way over to America from my homeland years back. My then fiancee read it after me and said that this would make a great movie one day, he was right.

Thank you for all the wonderful shows you have during your annual fundraisers, but can’t we see these other times too? The Celtic Women are also my favourites, especially since they filmed at what used to be part of my dear mother’s ancestor’s estates, Powers Court, now in the Slezenger family but used as a tourist attraction to help with the upkeep of the estate. Dia duitt, go neery an botha leat.

I am enjoying the new Sherlock Holmes and was sorry to see it was not on at it’s regular time., Instead the Tina Faye award comdey show was on. It was so vile and disgusting that I had to turn it off. I was totally without class. Do NPT a favor and go baxck go Sherlock Holmes, ASAP.

They have only made 3 of the new Sherlock Holmes so far, so WNPT couldn’t show any more of them. We are lucky they could show us these 3 this soon.

Leave a Reply