Sherlock…Good to Great TV

Every now and then (more now than then), I’m late to the party when it comes to TV shows. I used to be a pretty good early adopter, but with Sherlock, I just started watching, and it’s really good.  Now, that’s something you don’t need me to tell you, because you can just troll social media sites or the Internet and see no shortage of effusive praise for this show. I suppose for American audiences, it is a bit of a surprise because PBS airs the program, and unless you’re glued to Downton Abbey (like me and fam), it’s possible that you haven’t bothered watching Sherlock.  I certainly haven’t…until now.

Now with British TV programs, they don’t have a set number of weeks dedicated to a show.  In the U.S., most shows have 12 to 24 episodes and they generally get started in the fall and end in the spring — with a mid-season hiatus that many people like me hate!  But in the U.K., the shows are often 6 episodes (sometimes a few more, sometimes a few less).  One article I was reading said that TV producers in England generally want to know how long a story will take to tell, and are more interested in making tight story lines and — not filling up a season with bloated episodes that often don’t advance the larger plot in any meaningful way.

With Sherlock, each season (or “series” as they say in Britain) is only three episodes that clock in at 90 minutes each. So, what you’re getting with this show is essentially a movie-length TV program that resolves the mystery in the allotted time — and teases the viewer with a larger narrative involving Holmes’ arch nemesis, Jim Moriarty.

When I first saw the actors who play Holmes and Watson, I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s Khan Singh and Bilbo Baggins together.” Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman get to run around London (and a bit beyond) solving murder mysteries using Holmes’ almost freakish ability of observance and logical deduction — while Watson often painfully tags along to add bit of balance to Holmes’ frenetic energy and sociopathological tendencies. It’s great fun to watch these actors command the screen. It’s clear they are having fun with their characters (there’s a sly homoerotic subtext), but not so much as to cheapen the experience. The stories are well told, the pacing is vigorous, and the resolutions are often satisfying. I can see why people are so taken by the series. I’m not a fanatic about this show, but I am enjoying the ride.

So, if you’re looking for a good drama/comedy to contrast with Downton Abbey’s slower pace, I think you’ll like the smartly written and well acted, Sherlock.

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