Sunday, January 5, 2014


At the recommendation of my brother, a close friend, and a great deal of the internet, my fiancée and I began watching the BBC's SHERLOCK recently. Having only two seasons/series comprised of only six 90-minute episodes each, catching up was not difficult. We're now ready for PBS to begin airing season 3 on January 19th here in the U.S.

I had heard good things about this series for some time, but could never convince myself to give it a chance. I have a very specific opinion of what Sherlock Holmes should be (I like the Robert Downey Jr. movies somewhat, but only when I tell myself it's not the "real" Holmes).

The first and biggest hurdle for me is that I was not keen on the idea of Holmes living in the modern day. The Victorian London setting is a huge part of the character's appeal for me. You can imagine how hard I've avoided CBS's ELEMENTARY, considering that it moves Holmes geographically to the U.S., sets him in the modern day, and performs a gimmicky gender-swap on Watson on top of its other crimes against the property!

But like I said, the critical acclaim -- and the recommendations of two people I trust to know my tastes very well -- finally convinced me to give SHERLOCK a tentative try. And, guess what -- I liked it. I didn't love it right away, but I liked it. The over-reliance on technology, as if simply to remind viewers that this isn't your great-great-grandfather's Sherlock Holmes, gets a bit annoying. But Holmes is still Holmes. Watson isn't quite as stuffy as I'm used to, but at least he's competent, unlike in certain other approaches to the character. The other trappings are accounted for as well, including Baker Street, Mrs. Hudson, the violin, Inspector Lestrade, and more.

Martin Freeman as Watson with
Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes
It doesn't hurt either that Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role to a tee. In reading the Holmes stories over the years, I sometimes imagined Alan Rickman in the part. And since Cumberbatch is basically a young Rickman, the casting is perfect. He has the mannerisms and speech patterns I've often visualized for the character, though he's perhaps a bit more eccentric than I expected. But his portrayal of Holmes's personality is dead-on, and his cold excitement and showmanship as he unfolds a mystery before his astounded friends and foes alike is just perfect.

The nods to classic Holmes stories, without totally rehashing them, are fun as well. Seeing the Bruce-Partington plans used as a McGuffin in the same epsiode that features a nod to the Five Orange Pips was fun. And season two brings in even more such references, with the appearances of Irene Adler and the Hound of the Baskervilles. I particularly enjoyed the joke in the second season's premiere, wherein Watson titled one of Holmes's cases "The Speckled Blonde".

So I said that I liked the series at first. I think I can now safely say, having completed season 2, that I love it. The first episode, with Irene, was all right; though it seemed a bit too long. But the second episode, "The Hounds of Baskerville", got my attention in a big way. This was the Sherlock Holmes I had been waiting for. I had seen bits and pieces of him in the first four episodes, but here things truly gelled. In "Hounds", we see Holmes and Watson on the move, away from Baker Street and London, exploring the moors as they work on a truly compelling case. Things only got better from there, with an amazing season finale, featuring a showdown with Jim Moriarty, in "The Reichenbach Fall".

But even though I am now an avowed fan of the series, I have a few relatively minor issues with it. Nothing that really detracts much from my enjoyment, though, except for one bit that irritates me every time I hear it: Holmes and Watson always call each other by their first names. Sure, maybe that's how it's done in the 21st century. I don't usually refer to my friends by their family names, after all. But it just sounds so wrong to hear Watson call Holmes "Sherlock". If that's my biggest concern, however, I can live with it, even if I do chafe a tiny bit every time it happens.

That said, I do have to admit that as much as I've enjoyed this series, I feel that I'd enjoy it more if it were set in the 19th century. I can easily imagine Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman traipsing around foggy London in period clothing, and I whenever I visualize that, feel like I've been cheated out of something wonderful.

There are plenty of Holmes adaptations set in that period already, though, so I can't get too upset. In fact, someday I really, really want to watch the Granada TV series from the eighties. It's been on my radar for many years now, but I've never gotten around to it. Each of the Downey movies made me want to check it out, and now so does SHERLOCK. It was available on NetFlix streaming recently, but they inexplicably dropped it after only about seven months. Hopefully someday soon it will return.

But in the meantime, bring on January 19th and three new episodes of SHERLOCK!

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