Episode 2 (“The Blind Banker”) of the new PBS Masterpiece Mystery series Sherlock airs this Sunday night.
When I suddenly discovered (during the opening credits of Ep. 1) that this incarnation of the Great Detective was set in 21st century London, I was taken aback –- and I then slipped into a funk. Malodorous visions roiled of past wholly inappropriate re-settings, such as Mozart operas moved to the Roaring Twenties, or Shakespeare in the Third Reich. (shudder)
But then something wonderful happened.
I realized the creators of Sherlock were doing two things right. First, they were clearly having fun with the genre. And let’s face it, part of the appealing ethos of Holmes is having twinkle-in-the-eye fun with him! It’s part of what made Jeremy Brett so perfect.
And second, they clearly set out to do a respectful (if slightly tongue in cheek) homage. “A Study in Scarlet” becomes “A Study in Pink.” Dr. Watson still returns home from the “Afghan campaign” (plus ça change…), but instead of his memoirs, he writes a blog. Holmes texts taunts to Lestrade, and informs Watson it’s “a three-patch problem.” O, bravi, Messrs. Gatiss and Moffat! “The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!”
I soon realized the writing was intelligent and articulate, with witty bantering and quick come-backs (“I’m not a psychopath, Anderson. I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.”).
And finally, I became engaged with the “modern” characters, appropriately drawn for their setting — and particularly with the interplay between the two main actors, Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch (I swear that’s his real name; he played William Pitt in Amazing Grace and was the voice of Stephen Hawking in the Discovery Channel’s Into the Universe) and Martin Freeman (don’t know his full name, but what a resume: Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, the comedic gems Love Actually and UK’s The Office, and he’ll be Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit due out in 2012!).
So… against all odds… I really like it (at least after one episode)!
There’s much valuable exposition and background in the first episode, so if I were you, I’d watch them in order. DVR Alert (for those in NC): WUNC-TV is replaying Episode 1 at 2:00 am (!!) tomorrow (Saturday) morning. Also, through 7 December 2010, you can watch the three episodes of Series I here.