Right up there with all dramas being touted as ‘the next Downton Abbey‘ these days, seems to be the endless interest in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his alter-ego creation, Sherlock Holmes. Ever since co-creators/writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss so brilliantly brought Sherlock Holmes to life in the 21st Century in Sherlock it seems everyone is searching for the ‘next Sherlock‘ or some variation of a theme.
First it was CBS’ Elementary series with their own take on a present-day consulting detective with a female Dr. Watson (Lucy Liu). More recently, ITV premiered Arthur & George, starring everyone’s favorite cranky GP, Martin Clunes, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A&G delightfully tells the story of Conan Doyle’s real-life attempts to clear George Edalji, a half-Indian solicitor who was imprisoned for a series of attacks on livestock in the Staffordshire community of Great Wyrley. BTW, Arthur & George will premiere as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series beginning Sunday, September 6 at 8:00p ET / 7:00p CT.
Next up in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes sweepstakes comes Houdini & Doyle starring Stephen Mangan (Green Wing, Dirk Gently, Episodes) as Conan Doyle and Michael Weston (House, Six Feet Under) as master escape artist, Harry Houdini. Filming is set to being this Summer in Manchester and Toronto on the 10-part series which will delve into the writer’s strained friendship with Houdini much of which centered around each others belief and non-belief in the paranormal. Given Houdini’s chosen profession, everything unexplained is a trick, a gimmick, or a fraud, therefore there is not such thing as the supernatural. From Conan Doyle’s perspective, having lost someone very close to him, he desperately wants to find a way of communicating with them so the idea of the possibility of the existence of the supernatural/paranormal keeps that door open.
Produced by Big Talk Productions for ITV and ITV Encore, Houdini & Doyle will show, according to a statement from ITV, “The fundamental difference between the two men leads to conflict… and humor… and competition. High-minded competition in the pursuit of the truth and ridiculous petty competition because they’re… guys. But despite all this, they need each other. Doyle needs Houdini because he is gullible. Houdini needs Doyle because he is wrong.”
According to the producers, the drama will also draw on what the production team claim to be historically documented instances of the Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard turning to Houdini and Doyle to help tackle “unsolved and inexplicable crimes”. This actually sounds like a pretty fascinating take on two pretty iconic early 20th Century individuals that isn’t widely known so I applaud the effort of not just trying to capitalize on an existing franchise.
Look for Houdini & Doyle on ITV Encore and, hopefully, PBS in 2016.