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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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In Which It's More Than Attention That She Gets

Before He Opened His Mouth


Somehow you wind up on the topic of his wife’s vagina.

“It took Terry three months to even lubricate again after the baby was born,” he says, and you’re shocked.

But more than shocked, you’re buzzed from the two glasses of house Chablis he poured you. And so you notice that as Steve Alessi’s mouth forms the “lu” in “lubricate,” his lips round off into this cushiony, slightly lopsided ring. You want him to say that word again, or anything with an “oo” sound, so you can estimate just how much play there is in the spongy matter beneath that very soft-looking pink skin. You hope he says something “oo” soon, before the wine makes you forget to watch his lips.

“She also suffered post-partum blues,” he informs you. There you go – “blooooos.”

But he’s been talking about how he almost lost his wife during childbirth two years ago – gets this super sad look on his face every time he says “summer of ’90”  – so you feel guilty for ever having flirted with him, and you question what the hell you’re doing there. You begin to wonder if you’ve misinterpreted all the looks you’ve received from Steve Alessi across the office over the past six months. You review all the looks you’ve volleyed back, and want to shoot yourself.

Then you consider where you are – a dimly lit midtown bar on a Friday evening – that there’s only a carafe of cheap wine and a small wobbly table between the two of you, and that it was Steve’s invitation.

Of course, you prompted his offer to go for a drink. You were a basket case when you hung up with your ex-boyfriend at the end of the day. Before pulling yourself together in the bathroom, you took a detour to the water fountain near Steve’s cubicle and did a little extra pouting in his line of view.

A few weeks back you wouldn’t have done that. You had gotten to know Steve Alessi better, and you thought you’d lost whatever interest you’d ever had in him – even though you never imagined anything would have happened anyway, him being, like, a real grownup, and you being just out of college. You continued to flirt with him even after you lost interest, because it was the only fun part of your job, and because for some reason it felt important – really important – to keep him liking you. 

To your friends from college, Steve Alessi is known as your “flirt partner” at work. Your magazine works on a buddy system. You share your Tandy IBM clone desktop computer with a computer partner. You share the monthly task of filing photographs after they’ve run in the magazine with a photo partner. And you share looks and lines with Steve Alessi, your flirt partner. You have always believed it means absolutely nothing. All you think you’ve ever wanted from him is attention. It’s not like you actually wanted him to touch you.

Tonight at the bar you can’t help but wonder whether it’s more than attention he wants to give you, and more than attention that you want. You wonder if it’s entirely far-fetched to think he thinks something could happen tonight.

He is doing his best flirting. It’s much more effective than his usual office routine, because tonight he’s not clumsy and obvious, and because tonight there is wine numbing your brain, and because tonight you need a big boost – your ex-boyfriend blew off the date you made to talk about maybe working things out after all. You’ve been living out of an old gym bag all week, sleeping on friends’ couches, waiting for the chance to talk, and hopefully go back to your boyfriend's apartment - to go back “home.”

And so tonight you forget that at the office, Steve’s gotten to be nervous and awkward when he has the opportunity to talk to you, that he tries too hard to impress you. He knows you studied dramatic writing in college, and so he drops the names of obscure playwrights he thinks you think are cool. But you’ve never even heard of them. And he actually shakes when he comes close enough to offer you a Breath Saver. In fact once he dropped the roll as soon as your finger touched it. That was when you thought you’d lost interest for good.

“Oopsie daisy!” he said, as he bent over, reminding you of his age. Eesh.

But before he opened his mouth, Steve Alessi was perfect. You felt strangely electrified every time you caught him staring at you from the other side of the office. Sometimes when you were bored, you’d stare off on purpose, making the better side of your profile available to his gaze.

He at first seemed way too attractive and cool to be writing about the insecticide business for a trade magazine called Pest Control Monthly – which is the way you’d like to think of yourself, too. You used to like that he had a whimsical twist to his yuppie style – the too-wide vintage ties, the retro hair cut, short on the sides, long on the top, like Michael Steadman on thirtysomething. You liked that on Fridays he wore his old Levi’s that you imagined he still had from college in the 70s with a sport jacket, and you liked that he wore them with worn out hiking boots instead of Top-Siders or penny loafers like the other grown up men in the office who were too daddyish, especially when they tried to pull off that end-of-the-week relaxed, casual look. Steve Alessi seemed, when you first started writing for Pest Control Monthly, genuinely relaxed and casual. And – just – hot.

This evening he is somehow hot again. At the bar, there are no clumsy Breath Saver offerings, no absurdist or Situationist playwright name-droppings. Steve Alessi’s flirting is subtler than ever before.

In fact, you’re not even sure he’s flirting. After all, he’s talking about his wife, his marriage. He’s giving you advice on how to get your boyfriend back, how to convey to him that commitment is not such a difficult thing, even in your early twenties, take it from a guy. He blushes every time he says his wife’s name, Terry. And every time “Terry” passes through those plush lips, you hate yourself for thinking he might have ever been flirting with you. He becomes more appealing with every soft utterance.

Then, somehow you get on the topic of childbirth, and somehow that leads to the climate in Terry’s vagina, and there’s something about the way he’s telling you that makes you wonder whether this means he’s thinking at all about yours, and whether you’d even want him to be. You try hard not to think of that TV movie about a burn victim whose lips are repaired with grafts of her vaginal tissue. Trying to not think about it makes you laugh out loud.

“Are you feeling better?” he asks. “You seemed so sad earlier. Like a little girl with a broken heart.”

You tell him that this breakup is the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through, harder than your parents’ divorce when you were ten.

“Some days, getting out of bed, or even doing the smallest tasks, seems impossible,” you say, a throat-lump forming, your voice cracking, your eyes filling. “You know what I mean?” You’re afraid if you say more, you’ll cry.

Oh, fuck it.

“Like, the other morning? I found getting dressed a major challenge,” you add, one tear escaping from your left eye, “and I was just putting on this one-piece jumper thingy.”

He hands you a tissue, and tells you he knows that jumper thingy. And he likes it.

“Does my flirting help or hurt?” he asks.

You think he’s just admitted to his half of your flirting partnership. But you’re a bit drowsy from the third glass of wine he poured for you, which killed the carafe. He is studying you, smiling at you in this warm way.

“Um…I mean, it’s flattering, the flirting. You know? It’s fun.” You hear yourself giggling, but you don’t feel as if you have anything to do with that. It’s just happening; it’s something you’re hearing. The laughter stops when you see Steve Alessi’s hand reach across the table. It is aimed directly at your face, head on, and you can’t imagine where it’s going to land…until two of his knuckles gently clip your nose in that got-your-nose way your dad used to grab it.

“You’re a good kid,” he’s saying – not really what you want to hear right now, but it doesn’t matter, because he looks like he wants to be saying, “I love you.” You don’t want to like that. But you do. So you’re just sitting there, smiling this relentless smile and not moving.

You and Steve are staring at each other, dead on. If you weren’t drunk, you would be uncomfortable right now. The waiter seems uncomfortable. He drops the check and you and Steve reach for it simultaneously. His hand lands on yours and you both laugh and say, “No, I’ll get this,” at the same time, and then Steve picks up your hand and the next thing you know, he is kissing the back of it. Those lips are pressed against your skin and they’re as warm and as spongy as they seemed.

It’s not just one of those, like, courtesy kisses, either. Steve’s eyes are closed. He is not letting go. And you are not pulling your hand away. You wonder whether you should be. You know you should be. But this kiss is warm, and, well, warming. You wonder what this hand-kiss could possibly mean to Steve Alessi.

“Why don’t you let me make you dinner,” he says to you with your hand still in his. And before you can even think of dry-crotched Terry, Steve adds, “My wife stays in Sag Harbor for the summer,” which puts a look of shock on your face, even though you are trying very hard not to look that way. And so Steve places your hand gently but purposefully back on your side of the table and begins to nervously laugh and explain away. No, he didn’t mean it that way, and of course nothing would happen between the two of you, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah.

“I’ll tell you what – you can even stay over if you want,” he says. “I’ve got a two-bedroom, and so you’d have your own room. You know, then you won’t have to go all the way downtown later. It would just be better for you since you seemed so lost earlier. I don’t think you should be alone tonight…”

You want him to stop talking. You wish he weren’t trying so hard to cover up and seem so unmistakably platonic, because he’s making a fool of himself and confusing you all at once. Wasn’t he just kissing your hand with his eyes closed? Wasn’t he stunning just a minute ago? You can’t imagine how the same man can seem alternately so attractive and so repulsive from one minute to the next. You wish he would just pick one and stick with it.

the author

In the subway on the way to his apartment, you and Steve bitch about your jobs at Pest Control Monthly and generally concur on which geeky reporters remind you of certain insects. It would be funny if you hadn’t had this exact conversation with him three times already. Even with a heavy buzz, you don’t need to think in order to feed him your lines on cue, and so you use your time between responses to wonder…Is it at all possible that you will sleep with Steve Alessi tonight? Do you even want to sleep with Steve Alessi? Will you go to work Monday knowing what Steve Alessi, your flirt partner, looks like naked?

Steve steers you into an Upper West Side liquor store a block from the Alessi residence and grabs a bottle of some special Chardonnay he likes, on which he then delivers an entire dissertation. In the elevator, though, he’s back to the business of bugs, expounding on his fascination with the mating habits of the Kalotermitidae termites.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “The king will work and work to get the queen’s attention, but in the end, it’s all about his scent. After a while, based strictly on that, she’ll either kiss him or diss him.”

You think he’s just used the word “diss” to show he can relate to people your age, and you hate that. If you weren’t right at his door, and deeply intoxicated, you’d probably find a way to escape. But here you are.

His apartment is filled with a cozy mix of garage sale antiques, functional Formica and pseudo-country natural wood Door Store furniture. In a corner of the living room sits a Pack-N-Play, littered with colorful toys. You sink into an over-stuffed, pseudo-shabby, vintage-looking sofa while Steve opens the wine bottle in the kitchen. You try sitting all the way back, with your butt in the crevice between the couch’s back and seat, but your feet don’t reach the floor, so you lean forward. You search for some object to get involved in so that when Steve comes back into the living room, you won’t look like you’ve just been sitting there, wondering what he thinks you think your being there actually means. You choose the big coffee-table book about Florence.

“GREAT city,” says a smiling Steve Alessi as he returns to you with two very full wine glasses. He has removed his sport jacket and his oxford shirt, so he’s down to a Hanes on top, old Levi’s on bottom. “Ever been to Firenze?” he asks, rolling the R, in case you forgot he was Italian.

You take a huge swallow of wine and then tell him you were there two summers ago, with your boyfriend. You mean your ex-boyfriend.

The word “ex-boyfriend” has a hard time making it out of your mouth. You’ve said it, but it feels like it’s still in your throat, and then it goes down into your stomach, which starts to ache, and then it goes back and forth. It’s like one of those vomit burps. The word “ex-boyfriend” is like one of those awful vomit burps.

“It’s his loss,” Steve Alessi says as he puts his wine down and moves a little closer to you on the shabby-chic couch. “He doesn’t know what a great girl he’s giving up.”

Now he starts to rub your back with one hand. He begins in big, consoling circles around your frame, then wide stripes up and down your spine, and then he concentrates on your neck, opening and closing his palm around it. At first you resist but then you let your shoulders down and lean your head forward. You close your eyes and Steve brings in his other hand. He lifts your shirt a little and starts making tiny circles with his thumb in the small of your back. This makes you a little nervous, and reminds you of junior high over-the-shirt/under-the-shirt distinctions.

You realize you should put your wine down. You are holding your glass with both hands between your knees, and every time Steve Alessi kneads your body forward, something gets splashed – your tights, the pastel Dhurrie rug, the Florence book.

Steve takes one hand away and you look up to see what other task he’s found for it. He is dabbing splattered wine off a full-page photo of a Botticelli in the Florence book. He looks concerned. But that doesn’t stop his other hand from massaging your neck.

“Which gallery did you like better,” he asks, “the Uffizi, or the Pitti Palace?”

You take another swallow of wine and ask him to repeat the question. It’s not that you didn’t hear it – you just want to watch his mouth maneuver the “U” in Uffizi one more time.

“Did you do both, the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi?” Yes, you tell him, while noting that that the “oo” view is even better in profile. “They’re both overwhelming,” he continues, “but I prefer the Uffizi because it’s curated more categorically.” Here we go again – he’s trying to impress you, and you wish he would just kiss you instead, before his charm wears off once more.

More wine. You’re so mellow. Almost numb. (What was that about him making you dinner?) You are staring at those lips with eyes that are way out of focus. Steve’s hand has stopped moving. It’s just holding the back of your neck, warmly.

He moves in.

You move in.

The kiss begins.

It is so soft and warm.

And it is cut off by the fucking phone.

Steve jumps up abruptly to grab the extension by the window, which throws you off balance, and so you drop your wine glass. It hits the edge of the blonde wood Door Store coffee table and shatters all over the parquet floor and Dhurrie rug. The Botticelli is soaked and so are you.

“Hi, Baby!” Steve Alessi exclaims over-enthusiastically into the receiver, and then mouths, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll get it,” to you, about the spill.

Steve is dabbing your kiss off those spongy lips with a pink paper napkin, and he’s pacing and talking fast. “I wasn’t expecting to hear from you until tomorrow, but what does that matter? How’s my beauty?”

The word “beauty” sticks you in the gut. Then the throat. Then the gut. You run in search of a bathroom. You make it just in time to throw up neatly, without making a bigger mess than you already have in the Alessi household.

As you’re leaving, Steve actually begins to try and convince you that it would still be a good idea for you to stay, but he stops himself just when you need him to.

You ask him to put you in a cab. He offers you a Breath Saver. You could use one. But you decline.

Sari Botton is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Rosendale, NY. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"Whisper" - Morphine (mp3)

"I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" - Robert Palmer (mp3)

"Shabby Doll" - Elvis Costello (mp3


In Which Charles Dickens Wanted To Hurt Everybody

Cold Feet


Great Expectations
dir. Brian Kirk

What must first be said about the BBC’s latest miniseries adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is that it looks good — it’s this sort of visual pleasure, the care taken toward both beauty and ugliness, that drives reviewers to use words like “sumptuous” or “glorious” or even “delicious.” The marshlands of the series’ beginning are perfect in their lonely beauty, washed out by layers of fog. The director, Brian Kirk, seems to take a painter’s pleasure in the scenery, and we are often treated to shots of the entire misty landscape, including a huge sheet of sky.

It must further be said that gorgeousness here is not gratuitous. Dickens is English literature’s supreme evocateur, and setting dictates mood, or maybe vice versa. Spark Notes informs me that the environment of the marsh connotes ambiguity and alienation, and that seems about right. This is, after all, where our urchin-hero Pip meets and helps Magwitch, the escaped criminal who is to become his mysterious benefactor. But in terms of triggering feeling, the setting de resistance of Great Expectations is Miss Havisham’s Satis House, with its stopped clocks, its cobwebs, its rotting wedding cake. The house has attempted to resist time and is instead overtaken by it, which is, of course, just it.

The parlor of Satis House is filled with plunder from Miss Havisham’s late brother’s exotic adventures: a tiger rug, tiny replicas of whales, horns and shells, globes, stuffed birds in glass cylinders gathering dust. The room’s focal point is a display of butterflies in a huge glass case, slowly growing over with cobwebs—it’s shabby-chic, biology-chic, like a room from the Anthropologie catalog that’s been badly neglected. “He went to the furthest reaches of the earth in his search for the purest specimen of beauty,” Miss Havisham says of her brother’s butterflies. “When he found it he stuck a pin through its heart.” Do you understand? There is a figurative meaning. To the butterflies.

Satis House is an extension of Miss Havisham, and she is its most disturbing relic. Gillian Anderson’s portrayal is brilliantly freaky — she plays her like a frail but erratic animal, speaking in a baby’s sing-song. Her lips are gray and peeling, her hands are bloody from where she has scratched them raw, and she only grows more pale and withered throughout the series, until she is literally skeletal.

Miss Havisham is only one of the characters who appear more monster than human. When Magwitch emerges from the marshes, his huge bald head and mud-caked skin make him look like a swamp creature. The evil Orlick, Pip’s brother-in-law Joe’s assistant on the forge, has black cracked teeth and dead eyes and sores covering his face, and he grins and lumbers around like a zombie. Some of these characterizations are small: the way the filmmakers give the foul but well-bred Bentley Drummle a cleft-lip to indicate his inner badness was downright Dickensian. (N.B.: when my younger brother was entering college, I asked him how his freshman orientation had gone. “It was full of dickheads,” he said. “It was dickheads-ian.”)

Pip and his true love, Miss Havisham’s daughter Estella, are, by contrast, immaculate. The actors who play them, Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby, both have that fashion-model beauty that is soft and unusual and endlessly compelling. In one scene they are picnicking by a lake, and Estella, overcome with abandon, pulls off her slippers and stockings and wades in the water, scandalously holding her petticoats above her knees. Pip follows her in and they share a tentative kiss. For a moment I was transported out of the series and into a Ralph Lauren perfume ad.

If you don’t remember reading about the tender picnic in your ninth grade English class, that’s because it isn’t in the book. Neither is the scene where Drummle takes Pip to his “other club,” a fancy whorehouse appearing to boast prostitutes from every continent. Thankfully the filmmakers take some liberties. I did regret their choice to omit Biddy, Pip’s childhood confidante and later Joe’s wife, from the miniseries — first because it is all too predictable that they would eliminate the only kind and sensible female character, and second because I wanted Joe to end the story with a lady by his side.

Played by Shaun Dooley, Joe is a big ruddy pillar of pathos, designed to perfectly elicit love, admiration, and pity. When Joe is enlisted by magistrates to repair Magwitch’s shackles, Magwitch claims he has stolen a piece of Pip’s family’s Christmas pie. “Us don’t begrudge you a bit of pie,” Joe says angelically. Miss Havisham finances Pip’s apprenticeship to Joe to become a blacksmith, and Joe signs the contract just “Jo,” and God, he is so strong. It sprains your heart when Pip leaves for London and Joe calls, “Don’t forget about us Pip!” and when Joe shows up at Pip’s club in London and Pip snubs him, it breaks. Your. Heart. Joe is the kind of character that bestirs ovaries, like the Irish cop in Bridesmaids.

In Vanity Fair recently there was a feature on Courtney Love, who, after losing her daughter and all her money, is now obsessed with marrying into British nobility. I thought of Courtney as I watched Miss Havisham, particularly when she pawed at Estella, clutching the letters she had sent from London and crowing, “They’re not detaaailed enough!” Miss Havisham’s desperation has no nuance, and her dialog’s anvil-subtlety supplies countless delights. When little Pip asks if her feet are cold, she replies, “All of me is cold.” “It is the ghost of a wedding cake, and I am the ghost of a bride,” she explains for Pip and anyone else who is a little behind. She vows to make Drummle’s world “a cold and joyless stone” once he marries Estella. “You know nothing about men, Miss Havisham,” Pip says, in the understatement of the nineteenth century.

Thanks to cable television, we now have a word for what Miss Havisham is: a hoarder. The source of the dysfunction at Satis House is as obvious as on an episode of Hoarders — you know, “I started that pile of dirty diapers the day my son died,” etc. Indeed, Miss Havisham and Estella are remarkably contemporary in their ability to psychologize themselves. “How could you be so cold?” Miss Havisham asks Estella. “It is what you trained me to be,” Estella replies. Estella tells Pip, “Everyone’s meant to love me. But I don’t love back,” and then Pip cries pretty-girl tears. “I wanted to hurt you. I wanted to hurt everybody,” Miss Havisham says to Pip at the end of the series. Hurt breeds hurt; you don’t have to consult Oprah to know that. You could have heard it on The Tyra Show.

It’s understandable that Estella would have some issues with marriage. She is shown hyperventilating under her veil on the day of her wedding, a shot that is echoed moments later when Miss Havisham lowers her own veil, walks downstairs to the dining room, and sets herself on fire. Miss Havisham’s self-immolation was what I was most looking forward to here, and it is worth the price of admission, even if that price were more than zero dollars. She gazes in the mirror with saintly ecstasy as the blaze envelop her body; her form becomes a shadow in the mass of flames. It is Miss Havisham herself who insists that beauty is a destroyer, and her death is the fulfillment of the visual ethic of the series — its most terrible scene is also its most beautiful.

Alice Bolin is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Missoula. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about David Milch's Luck. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Amygdala" - Valets ft. Moral Reef (mp3)

"American Style" - Valets (mp3)

"Lines" - Valets (mp3)


In Which We Boomerang Across The Pond

Uncle Sleuth


creators Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss

The detective work of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC's version of the character is only impressive if you have never seen House or CSI, even once accidentally while waiting for something else to come on. "Noises can tell you everything," the sleuth opines, and somehow everyone around him resists vomiting in their tea. Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes treats women as if they were mentally disabled idiots incapable of understanding the logic (of noises). If Holmes treated people this way in America, he'd be qualified for the Republican presidential nomination. For christ's sake, the man smokes indoors.

Bringing this UK icon "into the 21st century" actually consists of bringing it into the late 1990s. This younger Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is barely aware of what a blog is, even though it is the major source of his notoriety. Holmes reads the newspaper every morning like a 60 year old retiree, wakes up in a bathrobe and has a servant, even though he lives in a shitty Baker Street apartment. When he is abducted to Buckingham Palace, Holmes refuses to put on clothes, but he is still super impressed: he becomes so giddy he steals an ashtray as a memento. This Sherlock is about as modern as the Queen's corgis.

There is a certain Luddite sensibility to Sherlock. Sure, Watson (Martin Freeman) uses a computer, but (1) he appears to be running Windows Vista and (2) he doesn't use much more than the thing's webcam and google search. In fact, Sherlock focuses on the insights that man can achieve without a computer, which is merely another tool in his psychic arsenal. While in a literary sense this assertion might be slightly plausible, in the real world detective work without forensics, computer science and DNA testing is about as likely as a grown man with an ex-military manservant.

To solve the crucial riddle of the show's second season premiere, Sherlock Holmes merely has to input a four character code into a mobile phone. Deciphering such a problem would merely be minutes in the life of any decent cryptographer or tattoed waif, but it takes Holmes the entire episode. Unless he is merely dragging it out to be dramatic, the display of his intuitive abilities is underwhelming at best, criminally negligent at worst.

The villain of this Sherlock is a black widow named Irene Adler. She is both a dominatrix and a lesbian, which I suppose incriminates her twice. Her lack of true interest in men is inevitably her fatal flaw. When Holmes and Watson first meet her, she shows up naked — the true villain is all woman. By the end, when he claims his final victory over her naked carapace, it is not simply enough that she begs for his indulgence, but she must also be reduced to tears like the simpering whore he believes her to be. As a final insult, he calls her, "The woman" and dresses her in a burqa.

As bad as the female gender is, Americans drive Sherlock absolutely bonkers. If a British person offends him, the ensuing Oscar Wilde-like dance constitutes an elaborate game he's going to win anyway. When Holmes encounters an American, he pepper sprays the poor guy and throws him out a window like some kind of reverse Captain America. I expect this kind of inferiority complex from Sarkozy, but threatening the people of the United States with a fractured skull just seems below the belt.

As it happens, the central plot of Sherlock's premiere (it's the show's fourth overall episode — a teleplay takes at least four times as long to write when the government is involved) concerns a grotesque caricature of 9/11. For shame. I had to watch this youtube over 40 times to get the bad taste out of my mouth and quietly sing "Neeeeen elevvvvvvven" to myself until I nodded off from patriotism overload.

Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill the original Sherlock Holmes, but he was unsuccessful in this attempt. Such a move would be too original and creative for such a predictable character. Moffat's Sherlock is just as obvious — he is more focused on what would be the most suitable quip than ever engaging with the people around him. The most surprising move he ever makes is to not have sex, another affectation that seems decidedly anti-modern. "Are you really so obvious?" his brother Mycroft asks him, which I suppose is his attempt to explain the program's inadequacies as part of its charm.

Three things manage to save Sherlock from being an outright bomb. The first is that the show looks astonishing; the Fringe-esque twists, cuts, and special effects of the show manage to make it visually stimulating even when you can see the next plot "twist" a mile away. The show's sets are also magnificent and, from all evidence, insanely expensive.

The second saving grace of Sherlock is Moffat's talent for dialogue — it's what made his version of Doctor Who and his sex comedy Coupling more than a rehash of Quantum Leap and Friends. Bouncing back and forth, Freeman and Cumberbatch are both very entertaining in their roles, each containing more charisma in their fingertips than Jude Law has in his entire body. Essentially Sherlock is a delicious but not-so filling pastry. Perhaps the real problem is that Sherlock Holmes wasn't a very good character to begin with.

The idea of the know-it-all detective actually represented a regressive move in the mystery genre. Far more interesting than the detective who knows everything is the detective who drinks too much, or the detective who is employed in a more intriguing job like that of a businessman or priest. The ideal detective doesn't even know he is one, or better yet, isn't a he at all.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about a new novel from Vernor Vinge.

"Either Nelson" - Guided by Voices (mp3)

"The Things That Never Need" - Guided by Voices (mp3)

"Cyclone Utilities" - Guided by Voices (mp3)