Thanks to the good folks at Cubachi, I found out about PBS' scheduled airing of the BBC's reinterpretation of Conan Doyle's great detective, Sherlock Holmes, just in time to catch its first West Coast showing. I was quite prepared to hate it. As a long time fan of the original canon, one who regards the early Jeremy Brett portrayals as definitive, the notion of modernist reinterpretations (even those set in Victorian times) makes me twitchy. Instead, I adored "Sherlock".
The one word for this version of the canon is 'wit'. Not too surprising, since its producers - Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis - are doing double time from managing the current version of the venerable "Dr. Who" franchise (where they labor under the shadow of Tom Baker). The current Holmes version pays due homage to the original, from the obvious (the initial title "A Study in Pink" borrowed from the "Study in Scarlet" novella, along with several of its plot points, the note perfect first Watson/Holmes encounter) to the subtle (the murderous cabbie is no longer an American, but his innocent and bemused passenger is). For those familiar with the canon, "Sherlock" makes great play with things in common with Victorian times (Afghan wars, the maze of London) and those in contrast (the optics of two single men living together, drug related mores). Watch for Holmes' deductions to run aground on "Harry".
Moffat and Gattis also amuse by importing tropes of modern suspense and action. We have the obligatory scene in a deserted parking garage, plenty of crime scene tape, and mad dashes through traffic. If there's risk here, it's in too liberal quoting from current culture, particularly technology. Blogs, mobiles, notebook computers and GPS, it's all there, and could feel very dated in ten years. On the other hand, the blur of 120 years conceals the reality that Conan Doyle did the same. Submarines, telephones, the complexities of the railway timetables, and the latest pop psychology were all pressed into service to keep the Victorian readers of The Strand engaged enough to miss the often enormous plot holes in the canon. "Sherlock" recapitulates both the holes and the contemporary references, and is a fitting tribute to the original. It will be very interesting to see what sort of historical patina it may accumulate in 30 or so years.
If you missed the first episode, PBS has it available for viewing on the net (this link will rot) for a few weeks. I'm planning on catching the next two episodes in real time as well.