Pictured above: Actual flawless human being John Watson.
(I found that .gif on Life in Publishing, where you should spend your Friday afternoon today if you like laughter.)
I am deeply in love with all things Sherlock Holmes. My bookshelf prominently displays that giant compendium of all the stories, which could probably kill a man if I threw it fast enough. I also not only have Holmes-inspired blends of tea (mmm, earl grey with hazlenut and caramel), I also have Holmes-inspired perfume oils. I wouldn't call myself an all-knowing superfan by any means, but we are approaching serious geekery levels over here. Arthur Conan Doyle is my hero, even though he totally forever bitter that his Serious Fiction didn't get as much attention.
But anyway. Like most fans, I have been slowly working my way through all those adaptations, pastiches, homages, and Doyle estate-approved fanfics that are out in the world today. And I'm not actually very picky! As long as its own merits are strong, I don't care if it's particularly faithful to the original stories. The basic idea if the brilliantly observant social maladjust genius is so prevalent, especially on TV today, that you can go at it many ways.
The way Holmes and his multitudes of TV clones are written and played is a dealbreaker, especially since it's easy for writers to veer overenthusiastically in one direction or another. But lately, I find that even if the central character is brilliantly done, I can't get behind an adaptation without a great Watson.
John Watson might be one of my favorite characters ever: a good, honest, ordinary person who somehow catches the attention of this larger than life personality, and as the stories go on, the narrative shows us exactly why he is worthy of Holmes' (and our) notice. Not to mention he's a total badass, as well as the POV character of the entire series. There's so much you can do with that character type.
And plenty of adaptations have completely effed that part up. Adaptations and Holmes-inspired fiction lately has generally been a lot better about that, but others write the sidekick character as a complete non-entity, there to emphasize the brilliance of the protagonist.
No matter what the genre is, the development of the best friends and sidekicks is vital to how much I enjoy a piece of fiction. If he or she exists purely for the protagonist to bounce off of and then ignore when the love interest comes along, it kind of makes the protagonist seem like a bit of a sociopath. Who you choose to associate with says a great deal about you as a person, so what does it say about the protagonist if he or she spends so much time with a blank slate? When you leave a best friend underdeveloped, you leave the protagonist underdeveloped, and you miss out on having a potentially great character and a really interesting relationship.
So in conclusion, remember to love your sidekicks. They will love you back!
(This post is brought to you by my WIP, in which I took a Watson character type and made her the protagonist of the whole damn story. I'm telling you: serious levels of geekery going on here.)