Sherlock Holmes – Masterpiece Mystery

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I usually don’t watch TV on Sunday other than football, but after watching the Amazing Race I glanced at the schedule to see what else was on.  Seeing “Masterpiece Mystery,” I explored further hoping it would be a rerun of a Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episode.

Close, but no cigar, or opium to be more in keeping with the character.  Instead, I found a new interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, one addicted to nicotine patches in present day London.  This is the first of three episodes to be aired on PBS, and the 90 minute pilot can be viewed at PBS for a limited time.

All the familiar characters are quickly installed, including Inspector Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft Holmes.  They’re important, and excellent adaptations to the 21st century.  But the story is not about them.

Dr. Watson, much like last year’s portrayal in the recent Robert Downey, Jr. Holmes theatrical release, is spared the buffoonery of Nigel Bruce’s portrayal back in the Basil Rathbone days.  His character, portrayed by Martin Freeman, is established quickly as an ex-Afghanistan physician, with resulting physical disabilities and post traumatic stress syndrome.  These may seem to insert unwanted difficulties into the role of a capable sidekick, but they’re quickly worked into the development of the plot.  The result is a character with depth, enough so that he deserves the audience’s attention as much as the titular character, no small feat.

But this is about Sherlock Holmes, after all.  The introduction is quick, quirky, and convincing.  I had doubts based on the actor’s relative youth in a role habitually played by more seasoned actors, but it’s obvious that Benedict Cumberbatch, who  portrays Holmes, benefits from both research and great writing.  The genius is apparent, and the writers do an excellent job of adapting deductions of the observable to modern times.  Likewise, Holmes can be eccentric and uncivil, but it’s fairly easy to have a fondness for the humor of this version of the master detective. 

The pilot is “A Study in Pink,” adapted from “A Study in Scarlet.”  Much like Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings, it’s not so simple to guess a solution, as critical facts are not actually provided until the end.  But the story has a linear focus that maintains interest, concluding with a surprisingly engaging nemesis.

More!

5 of 5 STARS

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