Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular and enduring characters in all of English literature. In addition to the 60 original stories and novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, there are dozens and dozens of additional takes on the Sherlock mythos by successful authors–among them Laurie R. King, Michael Chabon, Nicholas Meyer, and Carole Nelson Douglas–with further adventures, alternative perspectives, and interesting new interpretations. More than 200 movies and TV shows (with 75 different actors portraying Holmes), radio episodes, and so on. To write that Holmes is beloved by many is a serious understatement.
The vast majority of the presentations, across all media, preserve the Victorian setting of the original stories, or at most advance the setting and the age of the detective. This Fall brought something new, a thoroughly modernized Sherlock Holmes who texts, blogs, and hacks into other people’s computers. And even up against modern CSI techniques, he still makes those around him look dim with his brilliant observations, deductions, and leaps of logic. (Some police call him “Freak.” To his face.)
The creators recognized that what mattered were the characters of Holmes and Watson, and that they are as compelling in 21st century London as they were a century earlier. The characters, setting, stories, and dialog are completely contemporary–while remaining faithful to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Indeed, Holmes fanatics will find many small references to original stories, in dialog, plot lines, and character names.
I think this is the best new series on TV this year. The writing and actual mysteries are solid, with light touches of humor, much of it involving people thinking that two men who live and spend most of their time together must be a couple. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The actors, principals and supporting, are all excellent. The production values are very high, with great photography of London, and a creative way of showing Holmes’s thinking process via on-screen HUD-style text. This is a terrific show, and after very positive reviews and viewer numbers, more episodes are planned (sadly, not until Fall 2011).
Sherlock initially aired on the BBC this Summer, in three 90 minute episodes. The past three weekends it came to Masterpiece Mystery! on PBS. Check your listings for repeat airings, or view them in full at Sherlock on Masterpiece PBS. If you have an iPad, you can even view them in the PBS iPad app. And as of this weekend you can get Sherlock on Netflix. Joe Bob says check it out.