Posted by: captainfalcon | July 5, 2011


Recommend netflix-ing the first season of Sherlock. Miniseries based (“obviously”) on Sherlock Holmes. Set in the 21st Century.

All three (movie-length) episodes are good. Second episode is the best. First is, still amusing, but the worst. Particularly the ending, which is almost catastrophically bad (though they salvage it).

Holmes, Watson and Lestrade are pitch perfect. Mycroft not as much (I like the idea of giving him more bite, but not the execution). Moriarty is particularly … off (overact much? but, given how hard he is to do right, it is a decent effort). Also, one of the woman detectives is, a minor character, but seriously annoying in a bad way.

Generally, the update works well, though some of the conceits get too campy. They seriously overdo texting in episode I. It made me cringe when Sherlock calls Watson his “blogger” in episode III. But for some reason I enjoy the “Science of Deduction” website – it embodies the aesthetic of the cranky Internet, which is a nicely arch little touch.

Even with the update, they are scrupulous about, and do an excellent job, preserving the spirit of Holmes. 221b Baker Street is as fusty and mouldering as it ought to be. Mrs. Hudson has the right bit of frump to her. London wears a Holmesian shroud, and we’re taken to all the right places (smokey dives in Chinatown, the banks of Thames (with dead body), the sewer, museums at night). Sherlock’s deductions take the right kind of stuffing out of people. And he even has his network of street urchins!

But the twenty-first century overlays it all. This is mostly a good thing, imo. Holmes works best when he’s not an antiquarian relic. And his amusing unconventionalities are rendered nice and stark when they don’t have to compete with the backdrop of an unfamiliar age.

That said, the show sometimes rests on its slickness – both its chic and svelte contemporary patina, and its lilting, banter-y dialogue (episode I, particularly, lapses too often into idiocy in its pursuit of the substance-less form of a zing). And if you want you can make it your business to detect the sleights-of-hand in which all watchable shows featuring super-human intellects necessarily indulge. This makes it possible to roll your eyes at it a little bit.

But it is equally possible, and vastly more enjoyable, to dig it totally.

Update: I should add that another thing I really like about the show is that, as long as you’re indulging in it, it makes a contemporary Holmes seem possible, and thus makes where you escape to more palpable. (That’s what I like about Sherlock Holmes. For me it is, without rival, the best of the escapist genre.)



  1. […] are currently giving qualified recommendations to niche British shows, I came across this one (Party Animals) on Hulu recently and can attest […]

  2. As a Doyle-neophyte, I want to throw out there that one need not have exposure to the originals to thoroughly enjoy this series. I blasted through it in a couple days and found it very enjoyable. I would actually recommend it with fewer reservations than CF seems to. For instance, I found the first episode quite good (versus merely inoffensive). British-Office Jim (and future Bilbo Baggins) is very well cast as Watson and the rest are certainly above average (other, I agree, than Moriarty, who goes way overboard as the final scene progresses).

    All in all, it is highly recommended and probably better than similar shows like Monk or Psyche (who also take their cures from Doyle’s stories).

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