by James Hearne
I think one of the writers of Slate.com had an excellent summation of my feelings of “Sherlock”: “Now I know how my dog feels when I scratch his belly.”
“Sherlock,” the BBC’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the supernaturally observant “consulting detective,” Sherlock Holmes, has just concluded its second season. Created and written by Mark Gatiss (who also deftly plays Holmes’ older brother Mycroft) and Stephen Moffat (who is also responsible for “Dr. Who”), its creative pedigree cannot be denied. I cannot remember when I have been more satisfied with a television program.
The show, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, and Martin Freeman as his assistant, Dr. John Watson, transplants the duo from Victorian-era to modern day London. Each 90-minute episode is a loose adaptation of a classic Holmes short story or novel.
The second season picks up right at the standoff with Jim Moriarty, where the first one ended. Moriarty (Andrew Scott), with one last taunt, leaves as soon as he gets a cell phone call (complete with “Staying Alive” as his ringtone) from an unknown caller. The game begins again.
What is most delightful about both season two and the show in general is the fact that the show’s writers are not afraid to modernize what needs modernizing, and at the same time, retain what is essential about Holmes and Watson. For instance, Holmes no longer smokes a pipe, but uses nicotine patches, because, as he puts it, “it’s impossible to maintain a smoking habit in London these days.” Yet, he still plays the violin, which helps him think. But the most obvious modern allowance is the heavy use of smart phones, and text messaging in particular. The show even has an ingenious visual device for showing what’s on screen, showing the texts as floating, ghost-like words above or near the characters.
Not only is it a clever way of conveying the information without an awkward cut to the phone’s screen, but it also helps convey the ethereal nature of Holmes himself.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Holmes is inspired, almost to the point of being messianic. His almost manic eye movements, the rapid but steady clip at which he says the dialogue, all help convey the sense of a man who cannot stand to not think.
In a TV environment that is often hostile to programming that does not, at least in some way, pander to the lowest common denominator, “Sherlock” is one of the most engaging programs aired in a long while. Don’t miss this show!