Monday, May 7, 2012


DEBORAH CROMBIE: Having confessed, if a bit belatedly, that I've never seen an episode of Mad Men, can you guess why I put a red circle around Sunday, May 6th, on my calendar? 

Yes, it's the return of SHERLOCK, on PBS Mystery, the first episode of the second three-part adaption of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Only in this newest version, created by Dr. Who collaborators Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat, Sherlock and Watson, and the villains who challenge them, exist in modern times. (Gloriously modern London, to be exact.) John Watson, MD, has returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan as an army doctor, and Sherlock--well, if you haven't seen the first series, I'd highly recommend you get your hands on the DVDs and watch immediately before diving into Season 2.

Sherlock is played by an actor with the unlikely name of Benedict
Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch???? Really??? In the old movie days, surely his name would have been changed to something sexier and more audience friendly... But then, once you've seen him, you can't imagine him being called anything else.  It would be like Humphrey Bogart not being Humphrey Bogart.

Not that I'm comparing the two. Bogart was brilliant.  But Cumberbatch is...Cumberbatch. I can't think of a comparison.  He's arresting, brilliant, geeky, and incredibly sexy in a weird way.

(I've just seen him play 1970s MI6 spy Peter Guillam in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and he steals the movie, even from Gary Oldman.)

In the new SHERLOCK, Martin Freeman is wonderful as Watson. My only regret is that both actors were so busy (Cumberbatch making Tinker Tailor and War Horse, as well as voicing Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit, and Freeman playing Bilbo Baggins in same) that there was a long gap between Season 1 and Season 2 of SHERLOCK.

So, REDS, do you Cumberbatch? And do you have a favorite Sherlock, from Basil Rathbone to Jeremy Brett to Robert Downey, Jr. in the new film versions?

RHYS BOWEN: I didn't think I was going to like this new interpretation of Sherlock when I saw it on TV last year, but I found it fascinating. Of course watching Cumberbatch and Freeman was a plus but also Holmes using modern technology--which of course he would have embraced had he lived today.
And if my name was Benedict Cumberbatch I would definitely have changed it--think of signing autographs. His hand would fall off!

I always hated Rathbone and wasn't too keen on Robert Downey Jr. Jeremy Brett got the character right in many ways, but he was way too old. So was Watson. They are essentially young men in the stories. We tend to forget that because of the way Holmes has been portrayed on screen.

DEBS: Rhys, I so agree.  Holmes was always a man ahead of his time, so it's such fun to see Holmes AND Watson using modern technology.  I love it when we see what Holmes is thinking as a text:-) And yes, they are the perfect age.  I recently reread some of the first Holmes stories and they are young men.  In the new series, Moriarty is young, too, which makes it all the more interesting.

HALLIE EPHRON: I love the new Sherlock, too - it's clever in the way that Holmes is meant to be clever. And cheeky. Can't wait to start watching the new episodes.

I did like Jeremy Brett as Sherlock, but he got a bit too twitchy and mannered and skeletal toward the end. The BBC so often nails it with mystery sleuths. Can't beat David Suchet as Hercule Poirot or Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.

LUCY BURDETTE: Sorry to say I'm utterly out of the loop on this one! My husband and I just last night finished the final episode of Season 2 of DOWNTON ABBEY so you can see I'm not on the cutting edge. Sigh. On your recommendations, will have to put this in the queue...

JAN BROGAN - I used to watch the PBS version long ago when Sherlock was uncomfortably nervous and shaky and there were repeated references to his use of... what was it cocaine? Or opium? Watson was really the one I rooted for. Was that Rathbone's Sherlock? Whoever it was, he sort of turned me off on Sherlock Holmes and I'm afraid I really haven't given him a chance since.

But I've seen War Horse and now I'm trying to figure who Cumberbatch played. Off to google....

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I am so delighted with the new Sherlock! It's completely fascinating and revealing about the quality of the stories that the current  writers could make Watson a veteran of the CURRENT war in Afghanistan. I love that Holmes is a character we know so well that we can believe he'd text. I mean--they might have decided to do a new Sherlock who hated technology, and insisted on relying on the old ways, right? But they  went the riskier way, and I say hurray.

And I will confess to adoring Basil Rathbone. And adoring Robert Downey, Jr. (I'm sorry, I know, it's--not hip of me.) Jeremy Brett--somehow that didn't work for me. I watched them anyway, of course. Shall we talk about Jennifer Garner as Miss Marple? Okay, later... 

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Cut my teeth on the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies and they will forever be the gold standard (in my mind anyway.) There was one movie..Terror By Night?..that was set during WWII and I didn't like that so not sure I'd like the new series. Haven't seen. And remembering Jeremy Brett as Freddie Aynsford Hill in My Fair Lady ("it's the new small do it so awfully well!") I could never see him as Holmes without expecting him to belt out On the Street Where You Live

DEBS: Hank, is it not cool to like the Robert Downey version? I didn't know that... Because I do, although I liked the first movie better than the second. And I love Jude Law as Watson.

I did like Jeremy Brett, although I agree he got a bit twitchy and weird towards the end of the series.

But no one, as far as I'm concerned, has topped Cumberbatch and Freeman for perfect casting and cleverness.  And no one has come near Gatiss and Moffat on the writing.

For those of you who aren't yet Cumberbatch converts, you have a treat in store.

How about you, readers? Do you like--or love--the new Holmes?


  1. Huge fan of Cumberpatch and Freeman's characters, and the writing is just amazing. I'm lucky to have caught all three of the new episodes already.

  2. I think they're a delightful team. Cumberbatch is terrific at being pompous. See him in Atonement, and War Horse, for proof.

    How would we survive without Masterpiece?

  3. I bellowed when I first heard about this: Sherlock and Watson *today*? Modern times? The 21st century? Are you KIDDING?

    Then I watched the first season. Knocked me out. So many little touches that show the producers a) did indeed read the entire Doyle Canon, and b) determined to get it RIGHT. Little things here and there to modernize it, but it's terrific.

    Like most my age, I grew up with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce on TV. Bought the restored DVD's the same time I bought the DVD's of THE THIN MAN series. (I'm sure Holmes would have something to say about that!) Was stunned to see the existing episodes from the Peter Cushing SH series from the 1960's is available; grabbed those, also.

    Needed to find a cane back in January. Refused a 'hospital' cane, ran into a specialty shop, and there was a black ebony walking stick, the top of which was The Hound of the Baskervilles.

    Here we are in 2012, the 21st Century... and, amazingly, my Sherlock Holmes collection, started by my grandfather when I was 8, is still growing...:)

  4. I love both new Holmes. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law make him almost campy, to me. Just plain fun. Cumberpatch and Freeman make him current. And wow! The actress who played Irene Adler. Extraordinary.

  5. Cumberbatch, definitely. And, I was lucky enough to see all three of this seasons episodes as soon as they were released on dvd from England. Last night's episode is my favorite of the whole season. That scene in Buckingham Palace, and the interaction between Holmes & Watson is priceless, as is the scene when Holmes has Watson hit him. Loved The Scandal in Belgravia episode.

  6. For someone who doesn't watch TV, it's sad to say, but I do love this new Sherlock Holmes series. You Reds turned me on to it when we were going on about Downton Abbey back when. Looking for Downton episodes to watch online after they'd been shown, I found the Sherlock episodes and watched them. (Ben, who adores Downton, still won't look at Sherlock.) Can't wait to see this season's episodes (a day late).

    I've seen the Robert Downey-Jude Law movies. They're great campy steampunk fun, but terrible versions of Sherlock Holmes.

  7. Love Cumberbatch! So many layers. Keep us guessing, Ben. And Freeman is excellent---not playing a buffoon the way most sidekicks are portrayed.

    But: I gotta bring this up. Does anybody else get the feeling that Sherlock has always been a character bordering on the paranormal? He makes the extraordinary observations that feel a little too much like Author Intervention to me. The reader/viewer can't really play along if the mystery depends on one of Sherlock's big leaps of logic that is impossible for the reader to catch. I thought this version played more fair than most, which is why I'm definitely tuning in from now on.

    Cumberbatch is yummy.

  8. Romona, he's wonderful in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and it's a very quiet role.

  9. Love the new combo -- although for anyone who hasn't seen Season 1 yet, I'll say that the onscreen texting in the first show is a little hard to follow, but they slow it down later, so don't let it bother you.

    What I particularly love about Freeman and esp Law as Watson -- and Ted Hardwicke in the Jeremy Brett version, but not David Burke, Brett's first Watson -- is that they are strong enough actors to make Watson a match for Holmes. A credible partnership, not the genius-dolt portrayal they're sometimes given.

    And Sherlock bordering on the paranormal? Yes. Conan Doyle was a spiritualist.

    We're both reading Michael Dirda's new book On Conan Doyle -- scored a signed copy at Malice -- and loving it!

  10. I just returned from visiting my geeky scientist daughter in Miami, who insisted we watch all three of the original episodes of Sherlock before Season 2 began airing last night. And of course I thanked her. Profusely. Such fun, and as Reine would say, I am now a devoted Cumberbitch!

  11. P.S. Last night's entry was the best, so far. The Irene Adler storyline/character/actress/interaction with Sherlock: delicious.

  12. Karen, I thought last night's was the best episode yet, too. Loved not only the Adler/Holmes interaction, but Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson, and of course, Holmes and Watson together.

    And as in another life I might have been a set designer, I loved the Baker Street flat in this one.

    Not to mention the sheet in Buckingham Palace:-)

  13. Cumberbatch played the cavalry unit commander WAR HORSE. He rode the black horse Topthorn - and apparently was a new rider for the film.

    That's pretty impressive considering he went from non-rider to leading cavalry charges. He's the officer in the movie who calls out, "Be brave! Be brave!"

    On another note, if you'd like a little eye candy, Google "War Horse," "Vanity Fair" and "Cumberbatch" to see some of his photos from the Vanity Fair shoot with the cast of the "War Horse" film. I'd post a direct link, but couldn't find one.

  14. All right, you've all convinced me to check this series out. The name Cumberbatch is enticement enough.

  15. For authentic sherlock Holmes, I would got to the Books. Basil Rathbone was the first, and jeremy brett embodied what I thought Sherlock would be like. but here New Sherlocks are a joy, and bless the producers, are less stuffy. I agree that robert Downey's Sherlock is fun, and I adore Benedict Cumberbatch. They're vigorous and truly enjoyable, and I agree with Rhys, young enough to do all that adventuring. It has been written that Holmes may have had a touch of Asperger's because he was so insightful, but socially competent. It's interesting to think about. Who know what Doyle ran across in his practices?

  16. Cumberbatch is my one and only, forever, Sherlock. There is no other for me!

    I bought both versions of Season 1, the US download and the more complete UK DVD set. It's been fun comparing the two, but I wish I had known about the differences before I downloaded from iTunes. I've just now pre-ordered Season 2 - Yay!

  17. Okay, I was good all day. But now, I have to throw down. THE best Holmes and Watson, *ever* were Christopher Plummer and James Mason in MURDER BY DECREE. Plummer's Holmes actually allowed himself emotion, Mason as Watson was inspired, and the two of them together were cinema magic. If you haven't see this one, by all means, track it down!

  18. William, I just added it to my Netflix queue.

    I wonder if there's another character who so many great actors have portrayed. Just to name a few: John Barrymore, John Gielgud, John Cleese, Robert Downey Jr., Charlton Heston, Frank Langella, Peter O'Toole, Leonard Nimoy, George C Scott, and the list goes on...

  19. Hallie, when did Leonard Nimoy play Sherlock Holmes? I have to see that. I sometimes thought the character of Spock on Star Trek was inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

    William, MURDER BY DECREE was one of the best Holmes movies, I agree. My one complaint is that, once again, Holmes and Watson were too old. The originals were young, physically active men.

  20. You know what, though...even though I love the series, I don't think--and this is JUST me--that BC is handsome or attractive AT ALL. Not the slightest bit.

    Okay, Reds. I can take it.

  21. Hank, I agree with you, on a purely physical level. But he is oddly appealing. Like Doc Martin, who is as goofy looking as they come, but who has some indefinable characteristic that draws one.

  22. Reine, what do the UK DVDs have that's not included in the US versions? I'm going to buy these one of these days and would like to get the best sets.

  23. Hi Deb,

    The UK version has some brief bits that weren't included in the version shown in the US. So, if you download the US TV show from iTunes, you get the TV show that was shown here, not the one that showed in the UK. The BBC One version also has interviews with the cast and others. Great!

  24. I was immediately drawn in by the first episode and have watched avidly. I watch a lot of British TV here in my native U.S., and I think in general they have developed, due to their series/seasons being very short, great skill at developing almost instant camaraderie among characters and also drawing the audience in to attach to the characters very quickly. They don't have 22 episodes to develop characterization and relationships. I think Benedict Cumberbatch is genius with Martin Freeman following close behind. Just the amount of rapid-fire dialog BC has to master is mind-boggling. Too bad there will only be three episodes this year but they are well worth watching and watching again!

  25. As a rule, I'm not too fond of modernized versions of classics. Yes, I hated the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes version of "Romeo and Juliet." And I usually want musicians to leave my classic rock favorites alone.

    Luckily, I suffered from temporary insanity last year and turned on the new Sherlock Holmes. It probably helped that it was Masterpiece Theatre, which frequently finds a way to delight me.

    I loved it! By far, my favorite Sherlock Holmes adaptation.

  26. Hank, looks ain't everything. Cumberbatch has given us a glimpse into Sherlock's damaged heart---and we're totally hooked.

  27. Just wonderful all around, grand writing and heart. Can't wait for next week! Cumber me up!

  28. I adore the new Holmes & Watson. Cumberbatch may not be handsome, but he's thoroughly engaging. And the dialogue is so well written! It's one of the best Mystery shows ever.

  29. Having grown up with Basil Rathbone (talk about a *name*!) and Nigel Bruce as Holmes & Watson, they have a special place in my heart. However, I'm enjoying the hell out of this new series. The writing, acting, and inclusion of, but not over reliance on, up to date technology, make this a total delight.

    And I want to put in a word for Andrew Scott, who portrays Moriarty. He absolutely knocks me out!!