Roush Review: A Contemporary Sherlock
The old news: Masterpiece Mystery! does Sherlock Holmes. The new and exciting news: You've never seen the fabled sleuth quite like this.
Want more Matt Roush? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
Sherlock, which premieres the first of three delightful 90-minute movies on PBS this Sunday (check local schedules), is the brainchild of Steven Moffat (perpetrator of the latest series of Doctor Who as well as an acclaimed updating of Jekyll several years ago) — and it's wonderful brain candy. The twist: This Sherlock is operating in the 21st century, and while he's still at 221B Baker Street, times have changed — although Holmes himself remains as prickly, mercurial and maddening as ever.
Benedict Cumberbatch (a name out of Dickens, no?) is the new Sherlock, and he cuts a dashing and boyishly impulsive figure, as he tackles baroque and exotic cases with the assistance of a droll ex-Army Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman of the original The Office), who's got a bit of PTSD going on as he chronicles their exploits in a blog. (Holmes maintains a "Science of Deduction" website and would rather text than socially interact with others.)
Like another masterful British detective on display this month, BBC America's tormented Luther, Holmes' quirks create a ripple of unease and suspicion among his colleagues. When a resentful local detective describes Holmes as a psychopath, the canny consultant begs to differ. "I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research!" The assumption is understandable, given that we see him at one memorable point shooting holes in his drawing-room wall, out of sheer boredom.
"Dear God, what is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring," laments the modern Sherlock as he plies his deductive trade, texting and googling addictively. Sherlock fabulously takes us inside Holmes' legendary mind, as clues and symbols materialize in the air, Beautiful Mind-style.
His mental acuity and arrogance are a source of frequent astonishment and occasional embarrassment to Watson. Their adventures are never boring. Clever and harrowing, but also often hilarious, the stories move us ever closer to a fateful encounter with Holmes' arch-nemesis Moriarty. Some things never change.
Sherlock is the rare reinvention that's likely to enchant purists as well as those yearning for a new look at an old favorite. Should you bookmark it now on your DVR? The answer, my dear reader and viewer, is elementary.
Sherlock premieres Sunday, 9/8c (check local schedules), on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery!
Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!