My thoughts on these series and many more in 2014 follow … (Click on ‘read the rest of this entry’ and each page number below)
The popularity of Sherlock Holmes waxes and wanes over time. The character was at a peak of popularity in the 50s with Basil Rathbone, and again in the 80s with Jeremy Brett. In between there have been countless reimaginings with some good and some not so good.
In the 2000s and 2010s Holmes is at arguably the highest peak of popularity yet. Robert Downey Jnr presents us with an action hero Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s films. It is however, Steven Moffat’s and Mark Gatiss’s modern, smart, sexy adaptation on the BBC that has caught the imagination with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman defining Holmes and Watson for the 21st century.
Moffat himself referred to this Sherlock as a rock star. Yep, there’s Cumberbatch and Freeman headlining on the main stage, with adoring fans and T shirts being sold aplenty. They do a quick 3 rock anthem set and they’re gone, back who knows when. Meanwhile on a small stage in the afternoon there’s that little band called Elementary of Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, unseen on the Sky Living stage and dismissed as not the real thing. They do a full set of 24 little indie pop songs with some good riffs and will be back next year to do more of the same.
So you probably get the idea now that I might just like Elementary. I do, a lot.
When it was first announced that CBS were doing a modern Sherlock Holmes with, OMG, a woman as Watson, I rolled my eyes. When I tuned in to the first few episodes of season one, I thought I’d be laughing them off that stage. What I found was a well acted, well written show that had found a new way of telling the story. This Sherlock is very much a recovering drug addict, and he needs the presence of Watson to keep him on the straight and narrow. Jonny Lee Miller really convinces as the on the edge Holmes, and is twitchy in manner and jerky in his speech. He really needs Watson to help him focus on his cases and a key plot point at the end of this run is threatening to upset this. Watson may be a woman in this adaptation but I find it refreshing that Holmes and Watson don’t adopt the flirty banter that might have been expected from a man and woman pairing. Watson starts as a sponsor for Holmes for his addict meetings, and as time goes by, Holmes starts to realise that Watson is crucial to his recovery and, more importantly, key to his ability to change into a more socially enabled person, which he never thought was possible before he met her. Lucy Liu is convincing as Joan Watson, the ex surgeon, cum counsellor who finds a new purpose in life with the gruff, annoyingly direct, but magnetic Holmes.
This series is set mainly in New York, due to Holmes getting away from London for personal reasons, but it is inevitable that Holmes will eventually cross paths with the local law enforcement.
The NYPD, who Holmes and Watson help on certain cases, are good at their jobs and are not portrayed as idiots or treated as such by Holmes. Aidan Quinn and Jon Michael Hill are great as Captain Gregson and Detective Bell and have been given their own story strands in the show.
The other important characters from the Holmes universe have also been introduced into the show very well. Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer has played a very beguiling and manipulative Irene Adler and Rhys Ifans has been brilliant as the multi-layered, more socially adept, Mycroft Holmes, particularly this second season. Sean Pertwee’s Inspector Lestrade has been in a number of episodes to great effect but Mrs Hudson takes a far greater back seat in this version. Again she’s not the expected version of the character!
Moriarty has also been involved, in a new way, but I’m not giving anything away!
The series has been renewed by CBS for a third season which is great news.
So, this version of Sherlock Holmes isn’t as showy as it’s BBC counterpart but is far more radical with its characters and treatment of the Holmes universe, and is still satisfying. It is by no means “the support act”. Getting past “OMG Watson is a woman” is definitely worth the effort!