The timing is as uncanny as the sleuth is eternal. On the heels of CBS announcing a promising new modern-day Sherlock Holmes series Elementary for fall, PBS' Masterpiece Mystery! wraps the second season of brilliant contemporary Sherlock movies on Sunday (check local listings) with its most dizzying and dazzlingly literary adventure yet.
"The Reichenbach Fall" (inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem") pits the exasperating Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) against his greatest nemesis, the playfully malevolent arch-fiend Moriarty (Andrew Scott, a master of smarmy smugness). It opens with (mild spoiler alert for non-Holmes aficionados) Sherlock's long-suffering sidekick (droll Martin Freeman) tearfully lamenting to a therapist, "My best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead."
Indeed, the cat and mouse between sleuth and master criminal has never been more lethally entertaining, as Sherlock's own reputation comes under attack from the elusive Moriarty's diabolical schemes. "Every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain," taunts the evil and obsessed madman. "You need me — or you're nothing." The greatest fear for both men is to ever be considered ordinary. Thankfully, nothing about Sherlock comes close to being routine.
On the other end of the crime-solving spectrum is CBS' Jesse Stone, the Eeyore of disgraced police chiefs, a melancholy loner so detached from time he plays old movies on his VHS. And yet you always know, when he tackles crime in the sleepy seaside town of Paradise, Mass., that he's the smartest, coolest and possibly even sexiest guy in the room.
That's because he's being played with somber authority for the eighth time in Benefit of the Doubt (Sunday, 9/8c), by Tom Selleck, who inhabits this tailor-made role like it's well-worn denim — or, in this case, the police department ball cap he's allowed to sport again. An explosive murder forces the town leaders to invite Jesse back to the now-deserted office, which his trusted deputies (Kathy Baker, Kohl Sudduth) have left for various reasons.
When the investigation hints at possible corruption in the department during Jesse's time away, he's not the only one to note, "A cop deserves the benefit of the doubt." So does Jesse Stone, whose TV-movie franchise is the last of its kind on network TV. These movies are so languid they often feel designed for those who can't keep up with the electrifying pace of The Killing. But they can be as engrossing in their own quiet, unforced way as Sherlock's more flamboyant exploits.
As Irene Adler said of Sherlock earlier this season, "Brainy's the new sexy." More than that, it's timeless.
THE GUIDE: So what else is on? Think season finales, including some cult favorites. On The CW's Nikita (Friday, 8/7c), the super-spy goes after Percy in Division, with the President ready to blow the whole operation sky high. This is followed by Supernatural's season finale (9/8c), a swan song on Friday before it moves next season to a higher-profile Wednesday perch, with the Winchesters invading Sucrocorp to take down the dastardly Dick Roman. ... Meanwhile, NBC's Grimm ends its first season with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio guesting as a mysterious woman in black (is there any other kind?) complicating Nick and Hank's latest investigation. ... A longtime cult fave is celebrated when Logo presents a Top 10 marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Saturday, starts at 10 am/9c), with highlights including the musical classic "Once More With Feeling" and the nearly silent masterpiece "Hush," which earned Joss Whedon an Emmy nod for writing. ... NBC's Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c) closes shop for the summer with Mick Jagger acting as host for the first time, doubling as musical guest for his third time. This could be the final curtain for longtime regulars Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg, who helped celebrate the 100th Digital Short last week. ... Another institution, Fox's The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c) ends its season with Lady Gaga guest-voicing, giving the perennially unpopular Lisa some pointers on how to be yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks. ... Modern Family's Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell host ABC's broadcast of the 2012 Billboard Music Awards, with highlights including the debut of Katy Perry's new song "Wide Awake," and the latest tribute to Whitney Houston, this time from Jordin Sparks and John Legend, as daughter Bobbi Kristina is on hand to receive the Millennium Award in her mother's honor.
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