Sunday, 4 March 2012
Lucy Liu cast as Elementary Watson: British Sherlock threatens turf war with US show
Brilliant news that the enlightened producers of Elementary, the new American Sherlock Holmes television series on CBS, have had the imagination to cast Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson. Some wags have commented that this is wrong because she should have been playing Holmes him/herself, but you can't have everything.
Amusingly, the team behind the BBC "reboot", starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, have made ill-tempered threats to sue the US series.
Producer Sue Vertue said: "We have been in touch with CBS and informed them that we will be looking at their finished pilot very closely for any infringement of our rights."
Love that "infringement of our rights".
Personally, I think they were lucky we no longer have proper diversity awareness in the British media or else they might have been the ones having a much-deserved slap on the wrist for an unpleasant outbreak of "infringements of rights" in the antedeluvian anti-Chinese racism at the centre of their Blind Banker episode.
Of course, not only did they receive no criticism from the so-called liberal media but they went on to receive the BAFTA award for drama despite reviving colonialist tropes which dehumanise an entire race. Leni Riefenstahl, eat your heart out.
The BBC calls their effort, "A thrilling, funny, fast-paced contemporary reimagining of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic." Well, "contemporary" if you are an early 20th Century Colonel Blimp with technology, and "reimagining" if you think setting your stories in the era of crack but with attitudes straight out of the Opium Wars is hiply nouveau.
Liu's casting, transgressing not only gender but race boundaries, and the subsequent squealing from certain interests, has been illuminating in revealing exactly how far we've travelled: not very far at all.
Go Robert Doherty! Go Lucy! Go Joan Watson!
UPDATE: Thanks to Ross Fitzsimons for letting us know that there is a precedent for Sherlock cross-gender casting in "There Might Be Giants" in which Holmes is played by George C Scott and Dr Mildred Watson is played by Joanne Woodward. One does suspect that this is less about Watson's sex as his/her race.