Sherlock: Masterpiece Theater’s Masterpiece

28 Jan

I love to read. No shock there to anyone who knows me. Yet somehow, in all my years of reading, I have never gotten around to reading anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Shame on me.

Even though I have never read any Holmes books, I am, like pretty much every other person in the English-speaking world, familiar with his stories. I have watched a few movies – including the newest version starring the Ironman himself, Robert Downey, Jr.

But it’s not that franchise that has inspired me today. It’s the version, simply titled Sherlock, starring Khan (of Star Trek Into Darkness fame), aka, Benedict Cumberbatch, that is currently in its third season, Sunday nights on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS.

Oy, Vey, how did I not know about this series prior to a month or so ago?

Back in early December, while ushering at the Downton Abbey premier in Worthington, Minnesota, I was talking to Les Heen, the General Manager at Pioneer Public Broadcasting. I hope he doesn’t mind me indirectly quoting him when I say that he asked me if I watched Sherlock. In fact, he mentioned the series twice.

I looked at him blankly. But I remembered that he’d asked because I felt, somehow, like I was missing out on something I really ought to know about.

Then, a couple of weeks later, low and behold, Sherlock showed up on PBS as they replayed season two in preparation for the next season, which began on January 19th. I saw it in the lineup and thought, “Oh, what the heck, I’ll record it.”

I put it on the next evening. My husband came home halfway through and sat down to watch as well.

We were hooked.

Within days, thanks to Netflix, we had watched all existent episodes and then watched some of them again as they came on TV. That’s the kind of show this is: the kind you can watch again and again because you see hidden things that you didn’t catch the first time.

What is it about this show? How is it that Khan and Bilbo make such a wonderful team? (Martin Freeman, the inestimable Bilbo of The Hobbit, plays Dr. Watson. Ironically, Cumberbatch is the voice of Smaug the dragon of the same movie – fun to think of Bilbo and Smaug being friends.)

The two of them play off each other superbly. You are irritated with Sherlock as Watson is irritated onscreen. You love him when he smiles ironically and shows those rare moments of caring. You love Watson, too, because he’s so sincere and vulnerable. You cringe when Moriarty scores a point and you flinch when Sherlock blunders along in his interpersonal relationships even as you smile when he floors you with his deductions.

It is, in short, a marvelous show. Intelligent, funny, and clever, it holds your attention and leaves you thirsting for more. And, I must say, part of its charm is that both my husband and I can watch and enjoy it equally together. There aren’t a whole lot of shows that can claim that.

And now, I really need to rectify a long-held wrong and go read the books. Because any books that have survived this long in history must be fabulous.

But first I need to make sure that my DVR is set to record the one remaining episode. Because my life will not be complete if I forget.

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30 Responses to “Sherlock: Masterpiece Theater’s Masterpiece”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots January 28, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    I’m clueless, too, on the show and the book. So don’t feel like you’re the only one.

    Recently I watched a segment on J.D. Salinger and realized I’d never read Catcher in the Rye. I looked for the book on the library shelves Saturday, but couldn’t find it, although the catalog showed it in stock. Next time.

    Unfortunately, there are many classics I have not read. And I’m rather embarrassed, being an English minor and all. But teachers never assigned these.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 28, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      All of my Sherlock Holmes experience is through tv and movies, and yes, that is rather surprising to say! I read Catcher in the Rye the summer after I graduated from high school and didn’t like it. Then I read War and Peace when I was expecting my first child and didn’t much like it, either. I think that classics may be overrated?!

  2. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen January 28, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    We’ve just got an account with Netflix and we’re hooked. It’s awesome to watch as many series in a show as you want and all uninterrupted. They say that’s the future of television right there, no more “cable”. I will have to check this one out.. I’m between series! xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 28, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      We love Netflix. It really is so great to be able to get whatever you want…often whenever you want! Definitely worth it and worth checking into Sherlock!

  3. Top Of The Slush Pile January 28, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Martin Freeman is fabulous and I can see him playing this role perfectly. I’ve not heard anything about this show so doubt it’s reached Australia yet. I’ll keep a look out – thanks for the heads up.

  4. Lee January 28, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Love Sherlock! One of the best shows I have ever seen.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 28, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      Yay! The term “masterpiece” might have been over the top…but then again…maybe not!

  5. akismet-980e0078713607cc39d8c7f2c57f0d1e January 28, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I read many of the Sherlock stories when I was in 5th or 6th grade, and I read them now as low commitment material or when I’m between bigger reads. Despite all that exposure, I can’t easily differentiate between the stories based on their titles. If they named them like Friends episodes (“The One Where…”), I think I’d do better. :)

    I really enjoy the BBC Sherlock, but in some ways prefer the CBS TV show Elementary. They’ve done some really interesting things with the characters, beyond just casting them outside their race and gender, which some feared would be just a gimmick. Just be warned you can’t catch up so easily since the series has the American standard of 22-24 episodes per season.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 29, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      I rarely watch CBS and so I knew nothing about that series until this past week when there was a CBS Sunday Morning story about Sherlock. I need to check it out! Thanks for the reminder. Sounds like it might be a good thing to watch while on the treadmill!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 29, 2014 at 10:03 am #

      By the way, how did I not know that you have a blog?!!

  6. Doreen January 28, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    One of my treasured books is the Complete Sherlock Holmes that I gave my dad years ago and “inherited” when he died. I have read and reread it numerous times!!!!!! It is a ‘must’ on those stormy evenings (when the fog is on the moors). I’ve not watched any of the TV series, but I/we don’t watch much TV anyway.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 29, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      Oh, yes – foggy moors definitely make for good British book reading! I must get the books. I will.

  7. gardenfreshtomatoes January 29, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    I learned about Sherlock when my daughter moved home last spring…she’s addicted to it (and Dr. Who). It sounds like something I’d love, too….but so far I’ve resisted getting involved. Getting harder, though…Game of Thrones doesn’t come back until April! ;)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 29, 2014 at 10:01 am #

      My husband loves Game of Thrones! I’m not quite so enamored of it, though. Bit violent for me. But I know I’ll be watching it come April! I just might do so with a book in my hands at the same time!

      • gardenfreshtomatoes January 29, 2014 at 11:36 am #

        You should read the series – awesome characters. I’ve been hooked for 15 years, since I picked up the first one!

  8. Jackie January 29, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    Wow, this sounds great, thanks for the info, my husband has always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes, he’s read the book(s), watches all the movies he can but I’m pretty sure he knows nothing of this series…I will be sure to tell him tonight and maybe we can begin watching on Netflix. I’m excited, eep!!!

  9. Hotly Spiced January 29, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I’ve heard of the series but haven’t watched it. I’ll look out for it. What I’m really looking forward to is the next series of Downton Abbey xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 29, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      Season 4 of Downton began this month for us. I hope you get it soon!! And yes…look out for Sherlock!

  10. francisguenette January 29, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    Talk about synchronicity – I have just discovered this Sherlock and can’t wait to order in the DVD’s. It is definitely Bilbo who sold me on the whole thing.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      He is perfect in both roles! So glad you’re enjoying it as well!

  11. Gwen Stephens January 30, 2014 at 4:56 am #

    I’m also a Downton Abbey junkie, and I’ve seen this one advertised on Netflix and on the PBS app. I do need a new show to occupy my mind while I’m toiling through the miles on the treadmill…maybe I’ll let this one suck me in.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 30, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

      I need that exactly, too, when on the treadmill. And it has to be something I’ve not seen before in order to hold my attention. I’m betting that Sherlock will fit that perfectly for you!

  12. Jenny January 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    I have gotten the Sherlock Holmes books for my Kindle if you want to try them out that way! And I think they were free! Easy reading. I also have gotten many classic books for free for the Kindle. I am really enjoying them. Though so are very long. Good for on a long plane ride!

  13. My Odd Family January 31, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    I have a strong desire to start off with…no not the first comment…I’ve never watched Sherlock. In fact, up until 6 months ago I was clueless about Downton Abbey. I watched, hooked and called it Downtown Abbey until a kind soul pointed out the errors of my way. I’ll give Sherlock a try. I’ve always loved the characters so I’m sure that I will find the series delightful. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

      I agree that the name “Downton” is confusing! :-) I admire your ability to admit to your confusion! I always am nervous recommending tv/movies to people, because I know that not everyone shares identical tastes, but truly…this is worth recommending!

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