Sherlock Holmes on PBS – I Can’t Believe I Liked It

I am somewhat of a traditionalist.  Ok, that is putting it mildly; I am a full-blown traditionalist.  I don’t do too well with change (although I am getting better) and I like for old-school things to remain old-school.  Therefore, I do not typically like remakes of movies and I hate it when Hollywood messes around with established characters so much that they are barely recognizable.  So, it was with a great amount of skepticism that I settled down to watch the new Sherlock Holmes on PBS last Sunday night.  Boy, was I surprised.

First of all, I was cuddled up with my wife while watching the new Holmes, so that was pretty darn sweet all by itself.  But, being a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and being appreciative of who Holmes is in the short stories and appreciative of faithful adaptations in the past (I love you Granada Television), I don’t really want to see a “21st Century Sherlock Holmes.”  That is exactly what PBS was doing.  Therefore, I was expecting to turn off the television one-third of the way through the show.  The first episode was entitled “A Study in Pink”, a variation of the first Holmes story “A Study in Scarlet.”  Sherlock is portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch and John Watson is played by Martin Freeman.  Both did an outstanding job.  So why did I like it?

PBS nailed the one area of Sherlock Holmes that is absolutely essential for an accurate presentation of Conan Doyle’s character.  He came across as a brilliant, confident, at times cocky gentleman who always seemed to have things under control.  The initial scene of Holmes meeting Watson was absolutely ingenious and I found myself smiling while Holmes explained to Watson how he knew that Watson was a soldier home from Afghanistan, who was experiencing a psycho-somatic limp in his leg, and has a brother who is an alcoholic.  Watson, to his credit, was astonished by Holmes the entire episode, and yet was an important part of the show as well, saving Holmes at the end from doing something somewhat stupid (as Holmes has a tendency to do, i.e., The Devil’s Foot). 

Although the story is set in the 21st century, Holmes is addicted to text messaging, and has his own website on deduction, for some reason it doesn’t come across as annoying.  I don’t have a good answer as to why that is, but PBS did a great job of maintaining the essence of Holmes without ruining it with an over-emphasis of “hey, we are in the year 2010!.”  I also have to appreciate the ending, which no doubt was adapted in part from the classic “battle of the brains” scene from “The Princess Bride.”  Interestingly enough, the aspect of the show that might take the longest for me to get used to is the portrayal of Mrs. Hudson.  She kept reminding Holmes and Watson that she is “not their housekeeper but only their landlord.”  However, she still did everything they asked her to do.  Lestrade was also portrayed well by admitting his own need of Holmes and yet still having a bit of a tough side to himself, at one point forcing Holmes’ hand by raiding 221b Baker Street for drugs.  Holmes, of course, brushed it off and continued to pursue his own line of investigating, ignoring Lestrade’s attempts.

Anyway, if you are a Holmes fan, I suggest you give this a shot.  Take a look on Sunday nights and see what you think.   

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2 Replies to “Sherlock Holmes on PBS – I Can’t Believe I Liked It”

  1. I heard about this show from a friend at church and was naturally a bit skeptical (like yourself, I’m wary of remakes, or “new interpretations” of old classics). I very much appreciate your thoughts on the subject, and will definitely be checking this one out in the near future.

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