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Must Watch TV: Sherlock

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Yes, it’s Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ collaborative modernised adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous works. In the mere six episodes it’s had thus far, Sherlock has stormed to immense levels of popularity with its British and overseas audiences, and become a staple of the BBC’s programming line-up. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the calloused, punctilious sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and Martin Freeman as Holmes’ taciturn, investigative partner and blogging annalist, Dr John Watson.

I’m sure most fans of Holmes initially balked at the notion of a contemporary take on the franchise, but the neoteric update has proved an undeniably apposite revamp for both the character and his stories. Of the six that have already been adapted to Moffat and Gatiss’ modernistic version, the core essence of all of them has been crucially maintained. And what’s more, this spin on Sherlock has, against the odds, managed to improve upon certain areas of the original source material (e.g. the brilliant face-off between Sherlock and Jefferson Hope in “A Study in Pink” that didn’t occur in the corresponding, A Study in Scarlet). The coeval setting also allows for more avenues of Sherlock’s intellect to be showcased to the viewers than would be possible in the traditional 19th Century environment (i.e. his use of modern technology).

Of course, Sherlock has also made some arguably misjudged storytelling divergences here and there. Moffat’s controvertible change to Irene Adler’s original defeat of Holmes, for one, came in for a lot of criticism from some fans.

In A Scandal in Bohemia, Irene’s presence was far more fleeting than in the Moffat-penned adaptation. She comprehensively outsmarted Sherlock before fleeing, never to be seen again. While she left an undoubted impact on him — as the ‘woman who beat him’ — the inference is that he left very little on her, such was the ease with which she bested him. It was also a key reminder that Sherlock, for all his intelligences, is not infallible.

It’s entirely possible that Moffat elected to avoid this due to “The Reichenbach Fall” and its similarly themed depiction of Sherlock’s fallibility as the series finale, but that it came at the expense of a truer portrayal of Irene Adler’s brilliance is still a shame. With that said, the compromise, which was the scenic spectacle of Sherlock’s ‘I am SHERlocked’ ratiocination, was, and remains, fantastic in its own right.

All in all, though, Sherlock is a master class of modern television. Cumberbatch is supreme as the steely enigma that is Sherlock Holmes (his star power is so potent that it’s spawned a cult of fanatics, dubbed ‘Cumberbitches’), and Freeman is every bit his peer as John Watson, as are the recurring characters of DI Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson (played by Rupert Graves and Una Stubbs, respectively).

Sherlock is one of those rarities of TV that’s consistently firing on all cylinders: acting; writing; direction; production; score. If there’s one thing that lets it down, it’s the lack of presence on the BBC’s schedule for all but three weeks of the year. Other shows out there are as good as, or nearly, and output far more on a consistent yearly basis.

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One comment on “Must Watch TV: Sherlock

  1. This show has spoiled me to all other adaptions of Sherlock Holmes other than the original stories.

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