The Absurdist writer N. F. Simpson penned this piece for the BBC's "Comedy Playhouse," and in many ways Sherlock Holmes is a perfect character to exploit in a theatre-of-the-absurd style piece. The world is a chaotic, unorganized place -- and Sherlock Holmes stories are perfect examples of attempts to represent it as neat, ordered, and resolvable within a few pages. Simpson's script lampoons this, with a mystery that obviously has no logic, a character overtly revealed to be a red herring designed to fill out the script, and Holmes making deductions so far-flung that they cannot be built on a reasonable series of mental steps. In short a lot of the humor comes from throwing the curtain off the machinery of the artificial neatness of a mystery story, and it works.
This Holmes admits that he's a figment of people's imaginations and solves the mystery by unfairly manipulating his medium (as a mystery writer might) and reversing the film. The tension between the bared constructedness of a murder mystery with the illogic of the world is what keeps this going.
Of course, in a very funny sequence, what better way to top the artifice of a mystery story than with the even more artificial mystery of a game show -- so the clue makes its way to the set of "Call My Bluff." Some of the jokes are the obvious ones in a Sherlock Holmes spoof, and some are not -- but they are all mainly funny. The image of Holmes and Watson pushing an office desk with a dead man slumped over it down the road and over a field is a hilarious and unforgettable one.
John Cleese as Sherlock Holmes is as funny as he ever was. He projects the same kind of natural authority and dignity while doing very silly things that made so many of his "Monty Python" sequences work so well. He and William Rushton deadpan excellently, and it wouldn't come off otherwise.
I can't really see this piece as any kind of recurring series, but as a thirty-minute absurdist comedy on the Sherlock Holmes stories, it's delightful.
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