Wow, that got bad quick

(So, yeah, HOUSE has eaten all my time, plus I've been really sick. But at this point, the hazard-abatement stuff is pretty much done, plus I found a general contractor to deal with the flooring/painting/renovating stuff, so there's less of a burden on me to schlep out there every day at the crack of dawn to meet various workers. And I'm starting to feel better, although still tired. So I may get writing again fairly soon. ETA: Yeah, that's not going to happen--as more stuff gets done on the house, more decisions and preparations have to be made for the next steps. Sorry.)

I've mentioned that I like the show Sherlock. My sister really likes it, so she recorded the third season when it aired, and I've been watching it at her house.

And man, was it bad! Like, yelling-at-the-television bad.

It's always painful to watch a show go downhill, but the speed and efficiency with which Sherlock has taken the plunge has only been matched by a few shows (the first season of Enterprise springs, ever-unbidden, to mind).

The main problem as I see it is that Sherlock used to be a mystery show with engaging characters and the occasional vague conspiracy. Now it's a soap opera featuring vague conspiracies and a bunch of whiny dysfunctional characters who yammer on about their feelings and, every now and again, make reference to those mysteries they used to solve back when they did that sort of thing.

Mystery is a very logical genre. And unfortunately it felt like, in deciding to abandon the rigor of mystery, the Sherlock writers decided to abandon all other forms of rigor as well. Sometimes this lost rigor was logical (Why would North Korea want to blow up Parliament? Why would an evil genius reveal to his opponents the only way to stop his evil plans?), but one of the things that really stuck out to me was a bit of lost production rigor: The show stopped showing Sherlock's thought process.

That was one of the more-original and better-done things in the first two seasons of Sherlock. Sherlock would come across a crime scene and examine it. As he was doing so, little words (or sometimes images) would appear ("damp" maybe, or "clean clean clean dirty"). It usually wasn't enough for you to easily put the pieces together, but when Sherlock later did, you could see how he got where he was.

It was a neat trick, and it tied the television series to the original stories quite well, since Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was always noticing these tiny details and making deductions from them. It also was something that clearly took a lot of work on the part of the writers, the production crew, and the actors--so of course it had to go!

In the third season, the visual element is divorced from Sherlock's thought process: He looks at stuff and words and images appear, but it's like a music video--looks cool, doesn't mean much. Then Sherlock just kind of magically knows things--unless it's more convenient for him to remain completely clueless, even in situations where he is paying close attention. The degeneration of the Sherlock character from puzzle-solver to convenience-clairvoyant reminds me quite a bit of what P.G. Wodehouse did to Jeeves.

In addition, what the third season made me realize was that I found the character of Sherlock engaging specifically because his thought process was entertaining. He was doing good and delighting me to boot, so I cared about the fact that he was a recovering addict and that he couldn't have sex and that he was deeply attached to Watson, even though he tended to treat Watson like crap. Take away the interesting bit of his character, and I'm left with the dysfunctional, soap-opera stuff--I MIGHT TAKE DRUGS! I DON'T HAVE SEX! DON'T GO WATSON, I NEED SOMEONE TO CRAP ON!--and no particular reason for me to care about it.