TV Review: Masterpiece Mystery, “Sherlock”

SherlockThe Sunday night tv scheduled just got a little more complicated than it already is, at least for the next three weeks. In addition to HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Bored To Death, and Eastbound and Down, and Showtime’s Dexter, PBS has entered the fray with the new Masterpiece Mystery series Sherlock. Thank goodness for DVRs and On-Demand viewing, because Sherlock is a series that you do not want to miss.

Beginning this Sunday night, and continuing for the next three weeks, PBS will present a Sherlock that is radically re-imagined while somehow still remaining true to the source material. I suppose the biggest change is that the series is set in 2010 London. I can see you rolling your eyes, but I can assure you that this is a Sherlock that even the most die-hard Baker Street Irregular can love. Many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters are on hand including Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), who is, as always, a retired army doctor, only this Watson was wounded in Afghanistan, and when we first meet him he is walking with a cane, and possibly suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. One more thing; Watson is a blogger, and that’s how this particular set of Holmes stories come to be told.

Also on hand from the original stories are the landlady Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) from Scotland Yard, Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), and of course the arch villain Moriarity (Andrew Scott). The performances are uniformly excellent, but I’ve saved the best for last, Sherlock Holmes himself. The famous detective is brilliantly played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who you may remember from the film Atonement. His performance immediately takes its place with the great Sherlocks of film and tv. He’s right up there with Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, my two favorites. This is Sherlock as the ultimate sociopath, brilliant at what he does, but clueless in other matters. He has his own website (“The Science of Deduction”), and is using nicotine patches to cure his smoking addiction. The pipe, and for that matter the deerstalker’s cap are nowhere in sight. The point of all this is that despite the advances in forensics, the websites and blogs, and the use of cell phones and text messages, in the end Holmes solves these mysteries with his brain, just as he always did.

The series was created for BBC Wales by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, who brought us Dr. Who. The cleverly crafted stories are new, but the writers Moffat, Gatiss, and Steve Thompson, do not hesitate to draw on the original material to inform their stories. For example, in episode one, A Study In Pink, the clue “Rache’ comes into play. That same clue was pivotal in Doyle’s 1887 story A Study In Scarlet. Paul McGuigan’s deft direction of that first episode is particularly spectacular. There is a great deal of potential for the intrusion of the modern world on a traditional character to be jarring. McGuigan insures that it never happens.

Never mind what the major networks may tell you. This new Sherlock is truly must see tv. I was hooked from the start, and you will be too. My only complaint is that I couldn’t stop watching. I digested the first three episodes quickly, and now I’m hungry for more. Benedict Cumberbatch is a Holmes for the ages.

  • BobCashill

    Got the DVR ready…my wife and I love DOCTOR WHO, and this is like an oasis before its Christmas episode and next season.

  • RoyBatty

    Just caught this last night. The wife and I are hooked too. I love the comeback line: “Highly functioning sociopath. Do your homework.”

  • Anonymous

    Watched it based on your recommendation and it was excellent. Can’t wait for next week.

  • kshane

    Next week isn’t quite as good as week one, but then the third episode comes back very strong.

  • DwDunphy

    I was surprised by how much I liked Sherlock. More often than not with the Mystery! and Masterpiece Contemporary series features, even if the settings are in modern times, the pacing is too dry and slow. It’s as if the makers took a costume drama and costumed everyone in suits, jeans and t-shirts.

    But Sherlock was well-paced, has a likable cast and Martin Freeman has always been a sturdy actor, even in the misguided Hitchhiker’s Guide film. Of all the attempts to pull Holmes into the present-day, this is the one that, so far, works best.

  • SeanP

    The Best Yet! Needs to become a whole season of episodes and get some major funding! Maybe a partnership of PBS’s Sherlock & FX…. It would be huge.

  • Diana

    Will there be more, I am a Holmes fan for many years.

  • Sam

    I need more! When and where will there be more of this awesome series???

  • Sam

    I need more! When and where will there be more of this awesome series???

  • Sam

    I need more! When and where will there be more of this awesome series???

  • Doctoroe

    Last night’s Sherlock ended abruptly right at a cliff-hanging moment. But there was no ‘to be continued’ mention. Anyone know if it will be continued next week or did PBS slip a cog and cut it off too soon?

  • Rpwmusic

    Definitely agree with the review. I was a staunch Jeremy Brett “Holmes”…the flavor is pure Holmes the rendition by Cumberbatch is wonderful. The entire cast and stories are EXCELLENT all the way around!

  • Jacquelynholder1

    when is the season two airing?!?!?!?! I watched season one on netflix. 

  • Ingrid Drew

    Does anyone know when the next episodes are? Or are there not going to be any? I watched the first  and only three episodes and was hooked. I was highly dissapointed when I saw there were only three. I hope the make more.

  • Ingrid Drew

    I just commented a few minutes ago and found the answer to my question and thought I should share it. BBC has confirmed a second series. It will have three more 90 minute episodes and will air in Fall 2011. Yet no metion if there will be an Irene Adler, which I am hoping for, even though that girl at the hospital seems to like Sherlock.
    Anyway, the titles of the first of the three episodes are “A Scandel in Belgravia” based on the story “A Scandel in Bohemia”. The second “The Hounds of Baskerville”, obviously based on the story “The Hounds of Baskerville”.  And the third episode is “The Reichenbach Fall” based on the story “The Final Problem”.
    Thank you Wikipedia.
    But what alarms me is that “The Final Problem” is the episode in which Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty struggle at the top of Reichenbach Falls. Watso assumes that they have died. That was Doyle’s goal, to kill of Sherlock and be done writing Sherlock Holmes stories. Yet after Doyle eventually brought back Sherlock because of fan pressure.
    Doyle had Sherlock win the struggleand kill Moriaty, and narrowly escape from some of Moriaty’s henchmen. And only Mycroft and a few of Moriarty knew he was alive. But this brings the question will the show end here, making Sherlock die or will they use the alternate story of how he surrived and lived on to solve crimes another day?
    I hope the latter.