Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The game is afoot -- again!


OK, I'll be honest.

When I heard that the BBC was bringing Sherlock Holmes, the detective for the ages, into the 21st century for a revival TV show, I almost choked on my Calabash pipe.

Coming on the heels of the Robert Downey Jr. debacle last year, I thought enough was enough. Holmes belongs in black and white, wandering the gas-lit streets of Victorian England, trailing a hansom, the clop-clop of horses mixing with the ubiquitous fog. No thanks to all this. Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett have done it better. Don't bother.

I could not have been more wrong.

The first of what will sadly only be three episodes (this season) of "Sherlock" aired on PBS Sunday night. And wow. Amazing. Awesome.

The wonderfully named Benedict Cumberbatch is picture perfect as the master sleuth, faithful in so many ways to Conan Doyle's original Holmes. He's smart. He's smarmy.

Martin Freeman (of the UK "The Office" fame) plays a great Dr. Watson, who is again recovering from a bullet wound in an Afghan war and looking for a flat mate. His Watson isn't the lovable bumbler a la Nigel Bruce. Nor is he the more staid Watson in the Grenada tradition. Nope, Freeman's Watson is steady, big-hearted, but ready for action.

The chemistry between the two leads sparkles and shines. The script from episode one was quick, witty, charming.

It's a little jolting at first to see Holmes plugging away on a PDA, but for some magical reason all this works remarkably well. The duo responsible for this return to 221B Baker Street are writers for the popular new incarnation of "Dr. Who." They have done well with two venerable franchises.

If I have one complaint, it's that everybody keeps calling our hero by his first name. Anybody remotely familiar with this universe knows that there's nothing like hearing somebody yell an exasperated "Holmes!" at the top of their lungs.

Major points are due for being faithful to the original source. Brother Mycroft is here in rather amusing fashion. And, yep, signs of Professor Moriarty have already popped up on the horizon.

The two other episodes of the season will air at 9 p.m. (Eastern) the next two Sundays on PBS's "Masterpiece Mystery." Do yourself a favor and don't miss them. This is, by far, the best program I've seen this season.

Although "Friday Night Lights" is back for a final year if you get DirecTV. But that's another blog for another day...

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