If you are a fan of Doctor Who or Batman or Star Trek or The Lord of the Rings, there is really only one series that should top your TV viewing list right now. And that series is Sherlock, airing Sundays on Public Television. This week’s episode charged past even the original three episodes produced by the BBC that first aired more than two years ago. We’ve waited a long time for the series’ return and we couldn’t have been happier with the result. A stunningly good plot based on a classic Holmes story, introducing an enchanting new character, and as much Holmes and Watson verbal sparring as you could pack in one week’s time slot.
Why watch Sherlock? Let’s count down some reasons.
1. Sharp writing. The show is smartly written by the best current TV writer anywhere—Steven Moffat. Moffat has been dazzling us with the best stories on TV including 20 episodes of Doctor Who, and his stories are always interesting, even exciting, and always full of twists and turns. Moffat has written episodes of Sherlock, including this Sunday’s episode “A Scandal in Belgravia” and next week’s episode “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” With all the drama are equal doses of laugh-out-loud humor. You will laugh at Sherlock’s oddities and Watson’s dumbfounded expressions. I can’t think of a better written series since the original Life on Mars, and this week’s episode is one of the best stand alone TV episodes you’ll ever see. If you think I am exaggerating, I just dare you to watch this week’s show and tell me I am wrong.
2. A modernized classic. Sherlock? The British show on Masterpiece Theater? Make no mistake: This isn’t Masterpiece Theater of the past. This is no stodgy series re-hashing old plots. Yes, the stories are rooted in the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but the updating to today is brilliant and artfully done. This Sherlock and Watson get to excite a new generation of fans to the sleuthing and detective mind of Holmes, only using the modern technologies and investigative methods—some methods even ahead of their time as only a guy named Sherlock Holmes could do.
3. The acting. What other TV series has the soon-to-be biggest performers in the blockbusters of tomorrow? Usually once an actor makes it big he leaves TV and doesn’t turn back. But for right now Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Watson’s Martin Freeman are still doing TV and it will be among their best works no matter what they do from here on. Freeman and Cumberbatch also make for great old fashioned buddy cops. Like the masterful ensemble cast of the A&E series Nero Wolfe and the TNT series The Closer, the supporting cast of Sherlock is fun to come back to visit each week in their own right.
4. You like Batman. Who doesn’t? How many writers of some of the all-time best Batman stories were inspired by Doyle’s classic detective? If you’ve read Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush, the 19th century Holmes permeates every inquisitive angle of the Dark Knight Detective’s sleuthing. And it’s not just Batman. The New 52’s Batgirl series includes an updated Barbara Gordon who is in many ways yet another Holmes in training. If you like the Mystery in Masterpiece Mystery, you will find yourself sucked into the plot and trying to beat the master detective as he follows the clues of each week’s quandary.
5. You like comic book style. The “special effect” of printing words on the screen as Sherlock moves from location to location, indicating the speed and scope of Sherlock’s genius mind should be familiar to comic book readers’ world of thought balloons and sprawling visual effects using words.
6. You like The Lord of the Rings. If you like The Lord of the Rings like me, you’ve probably continued to follow the cast members who played the characters in the trilogy in their projects after the movie. Why not start early with the new star of The Hobbit, Martin Freeman, Sherlock’s Dr. John Watson? And Benedict Cumberbatch, who will be the voice of Smaug in part 2 of The Hobbit?
7. You like Star Trek. Khhaaaannnn! One day it’s “official” the next day it isn’t and the studio’s PR machine isn’t helping quell rumors, but whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch will reprise Ricardo Montalban’s Khan, he is some type of villain in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, next year’s 12th film in the Star Trek franchise. No matter how loyal you are to the late great Montalban, no matter how much of a traditional Trekker or Trekkie you consider yourself, you, too, will be convinced by Cumberbatch’s ability to take on any role by watching his performance as Holmes.
8. You like Doctor Who. I’ve already mentioned Steven Moffat writing the series above, but if you want to get a glimpse at the only actress rumored to be among the first considered to replace Matt Smith as the first female Doctor, you need look no further than the stunning performance by Lara Pulver as Irene Adler in Sunday’s first episode of the second season. And heck, True Blood and Robin Hood fans will like seeing Pulver here, too!
9. You’re an anglophile. Doesn’t the mere sight of the London Eye ferris wheel at the beginning of each Sherlock episode want you to go buy plane tickets? And this week’s story took place in part in Buckingham Palace. What more could you want? And if you like James Bond, who ever was a better ringer for Ms. Moneypenny, fawning over the great 007 spy, than Sherlock’s poor coroner Molly Hooper, and her unrequited love for Holmes?
10. You believe that “brainy is the new sexy.” Hey, it’s not my quote. Just watch this week’s episode.
It’s one of the lamest marketing messages I’ve ever read, and many shows have used it before, but basically I’ll use it here because it applies: “there is simply no reason not to watch” Sherlock. And every reason to watch it.