Saturday, November 13, 2010

Masterpiece Theatre: Sherlock

If you have read this blog for awhile, then you know that I am a HUGE Sherlock Holmes fan. I've read all of the stories (most more than once) and include them in my "Top 10 Books" list. So when I heard that BBC (and Masterpiece Mystery) were going to be creating a new version of the classic detective stories, I became very excited. Then, I heard that they were going to "modernize" the series. Uh oh. This can't be good. To me, the Granada series is the epitome of Sherlock adaptations and there is no way a 21st century edition is going to work. Not to mention, we've got "Dr. Who" writers creating the script and the interesting (though slightly odd) Benedict Cumberbatch playing Holmes. I could just see Doyle and Jeremy Brett rolling in their graves. Needless to say, my initial enthusiasm was slightly dampened and I went into this with a somewhat less than open mind.

Oh my God. I was so wrong. I was completely sucked in by this series. Though it is set in modern London, the spirit of Doyle's original characters and stories are kept firmly intact. This first series is comprised of 3 episodes. In "A Study in Pink" (a nod to the original story "A Study in Scarlet"), Dr. John Watson has just come home after being wounded in Afghanistan (just like the original), and is introduced to the somewhat eccentric Sherlock Holmes, a consulting detective with whom he agrees to share a flat. Watson is then sucked into the brilliant, yet aloof mind of the famous detective.

There are enough nods and winks to the original stories to keep any Holmes enthusiast happy. Not only do we see references to "A Study in Scarlet", but also to "The Dancing Man", "The Greek Interpreter", and "The Final Problem". Plus, we also have many other original characters that show up, like Mrs. Hudson, Sarah (John's love interest), Mycroft Holmes, Lestrade, and Moriarty. Writers Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat also include names, places, and plot devices from the original.

None of this is to say that the stories are pulled word for word from the originals. They're not. Each one has a modern setting, a modern crime, and a modern way of solving things. Holmes communicates mostly be texting (versus the telegram), John keeps a blog of his adventures with Holmes (versus a diary/book), and there are lots of bombs and snipers. Not to mention the all too modern humor of two single men living together (lot's of jokes gotten out of that one). This keeps the stories fresh and unpredictable, and will likely draw in new fans who couldn't stomach too much Victorian England.

But though the cases themselves are fascinating, the true heart of this series (as with the books), is the friendship between Holmes and Watson. No two men could be more different, yet by the end they are are the best of friends. Holmes pulls Watson out of his depression and boredom, and Watson gives Holmes something to care about beyond facts and puzzles. Each episode peels back layers of the characters while leaving them an air of mystery.

If this is not enough to convince you that this series is worth watching, just wait. The humor in this thing is amazing. There are so many memorable lines and moments that will leave you rolling on the floor. Here are some of my favorites:

1) -Sherlock to Lestrade: "Shut up!"
-Lestrade: "I didn't say anything!"
-Sherlock: "You're thinking and it's annoying."

2) -Sherlock: "I'm in shock! Look-I've got a blanket!"

3) -Sherlock to Watson: "Because you're an idiot." pause "Oh, don't look at me like that, practically everyone is."

4) -Sherlock "I'm not a psychopath. I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research!"

Again, though I went into this with dampened spirits, I found it to be a wonderful and captivating series. Whether you are a devotee to Sherlock Holmes stories, or have never even picked up a Doyle novel, this is a must watch. It is, in my opinion, the best thing that Masterpiece has brought us this year. Can't wait for next season!


Anne Mateer said...

I was going to blog about this very thing! When we realized this was Sherlock set in modern day, we almost turned it off. So glad we didn't! The writing, the acting, the filming was all top notch--fascinating and fun. We are looking forward to more!

Lady Jane said...

I love this series so much! I can hardly wait for more!

Hannah said...

I adore this show so much! Like you I was very sceptical when I first heard that the BBC were doing a modern-day update but five minutes into A Study in Pink I was completely won over. Since you like Sherlock so much I would strongly recommend that you watch Doctor Who. Most Sherlockians are Whovians as well and the show has gone from strength to strength since Steven Moffat took over as the showrunner.

bookwormans said...

I have been spending some time over the last several months delving into the world of Doctor Who. I've finished the series with Christopher Eccleston and have moved into David Tennant's first series.

It's pretty addicting...and gives me something to watch while we wait of Series 3 of Sherlock! I am soooo jealous that you Brits will get to see Series 3 before we will. Just one more reason I'd love to live there!

Hannah said...

David Tennant was a wonderful Doctor but I feel I should warn you that his first series as the Doctor is the worst series of the revived show. 'School Reunion' and 'The Girl in the Fireplace' are wonderful but I never liked Rose's romance with the Doctor. 'Love & Monsters' and 'Fear Her' are dreadful episodes and 'New Earth', 'The Idiot's Lantern' and the Cybermen two-parter story aren't exactly great either. But I still enjoyed the Russell T. Davies era for all its faults and it was my introduction to the show. You'll also find that all of Steven Moffat's episodes in the RTD era are fantastic: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, The Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead and the Timecrash mini-episode. My absolute favourite DW story of the RTD era though is Paul Cornell's Human Nature/Family of the Blood from series three. It's amazing.

Aw! It's always nice when people compliment your country. I'm very proud of being English/British. My favourite places in Britain are London, Bath, York, Edinburgh and the Lake District. I'd love to visit your country though, especially New York and New Orleans.

I'm incredibly excited about Sherlock series 3. I wish I knew what stories they're adapting! BTW have you seen Elementary? I've heard very mixed things about it.

bookwormans said...

I have seen a few episodes of the Matt Smith era and was very impressed by them. I'm looking forward to getting to that part of the series.

I was in London a couple of years ago (LOVED it!) and will be in Edinburgh next Spring. I hope you get a chance to visit here as well. I haven't been to New Orleans, but New York is a very exciting place!

I watched the first episode of Elementary, but wasn't overly impressed by it. It isn't nearly as smart as "Sherlock". It does have a high viewership here in America though, so you may enjoy it (but here in America high ratings does not necessarily equal quality programming).