Show of the Day: Sherlock

11 Nov

I do look forward to writing about some shows that I haven’t seen yet, but until then I’ll feel free to write some occasional glowing reviews for shows that I think everyone should give a chance.

In this case, it’s the BBC’s Sherlock, a modern day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, taking Holmes and Watson to the 21st century without losing the feel of the original stories, which is no mean feat (though taking place a century before animated program Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century).  British TV is a whole treasure trove of television with which I’m not entirely familiar.  I’ve dipped my toe in occasionally (Extras, Peep Show) but there’s so much more (I’ve just watched the first episode of Dr. Who, and I hear great things about Luther and Spaced) that I haven’t even given a try yet because these British shows find their way out of mind since it’s hard to read about them unless you specifically look for them.

I’ve only seen a handful of the Jeremy Britt Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, technically) which was filmed from 1984 to 1994, but I’ve always liked them, and they were extremely straightforward attempts at capturing Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.  Sherlock is a little bit more loose but I think bigger Holmes fans than I (and I’ve read a number of the stories) would still appreciate the adaptation.

Holmes is portrayed by an actor with the most British of names, Benedict Cumberbatch (his middle names are Timothy Carlton, which could be an extremely British person by itself).  Watson is portrayed by Martin Freeman who played Tim in the original The Office and Arthur Dent in the film version of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and will star as Bildo Baggins in the 2012 Peter Jackson adapation of The Hobbit, giving him key roles in adaptations of three of Britain’s most treasured literary works of the last century or so).  Instead of typical dramatic hour long episodes, the BBC produced three 90 minute episodes each structured around one mystery.  These mysteries are not taken directl from Holmes stories, rather they’re combinations of stories modernized for the present time.  Watson, for example, is a veteran of the Afghanistan war.  Holmes constantly uses modern technology such as texting or GPS or other computer related help, keeping up with Holmes’ devotion to the latest technology, albeit a bit different than the latest technology in the early 20th century.

I watched all three episodes with bigger Sherlock Holmes fans than I and both of my friends noticed allusions and references everywhere to various events in various stories.  The mysteries in each were compelling and delightful, but importantly, for a show like this, they were enjoyable aside from just wanting to know what happened and who did it, adding replay value.  Both actors and the excellent writing foster a compelling relationship between Watson and Holmes.  Compared to the ongoing Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes franchise with a dashing action hero Holmes, Sherlock, though it takes place a hundred years in the future, is more faithful to the spirit of the original Holmes stories.  It does exactly what the best indirect adaptations do; modernize or put an interesting spin on beloved source material while keeping the elements of what people loved about it in the first place.

It’s a relatively small time commitment for a show of very high quality, a worthy investment of time all around.  It was so successful that it will be back for three more hour and a half episodes early next year.

One Response to “Show of the Day: Sherlock”

  1. waldinho November 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    They did a great job with them. Really looking forward to the next series. Freeman was good as Arthur Dent, though I think Mos Def was the best part of h2g2.

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