This weekend, on Netflix, I discovered a new BBC/WGBH co-produced series called Sherlock. It takes Holmes and Watson and moves them into the Twenty-First Century. The producers said they wanted to recapture the characters for audiences by moving the setting and not necessarily following the canon, but I get the sense of the influence of _House_ and _Monk_, as well. Certainly a lot of cliches of the genre, but watching the pilot movie _A Study in Pink_ (they did 3 movies in 2010 and have 3 more coming up in 2011), I caught a lot of things that could have been “ripped” from _House_ or _Monk_, which is only fair.
I don’t recognize the dude who plays Holmes, but he’s *very* good.
Martin Freeman, “Tim” from the original UK The Office, plays Dr. John Watson, who in this case is a veteran of the contemporary Afghanistan war as opposed to the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880). Watson has a leg injury and limp which may be real or psychosomatic, which obviously evokes Dr. Greg House but also plays on the inconsistent way Conan Doyle treats Watson’s leg in the books.
Their choice of how to handle Lestrade evokes something of Capt. Stottlemeyer on _Monk_, and I kept waiting for them to say that Holmes was an ex-cop. There are two cops who can’t stand him-DI Lestrade’s sergeant, whose name I don’t recall but they should call her “Gregson”, and a forensics guy named Anderson. In a scene reminiscent of both _Monk_ and _Psych_, though again potentially cliche, Holmes deduces that the two are having an affair, and the Sergeant spent the night at Anderson’s house–because she’s wearing his deodorant.
Interesting that forensics basically exists because Conan Doyle pioneered the idea through Holmes, and that is one of the challenges here. As shows like _Monk_ have handled the problem, they emphasize Holmes’ ability to see the significance things that others don’t catch, such as a victim’s death note actually being her computer password, or the victim’s coat being wet in a pattern that indicates she was recently in the rain (he whips out his Smart Phone and looks up where within a 2 hour radius of London it had rained that afternoon). The series definitely makes use of computer technology–in a more realistic manner than _Bones_ or _CSI_ but far more than contemporary whodunit shows like _Monk_ and _Psych_. The characters carry smart phones and netbooks, and Holmes doesn’t have to know everything in this version; just how to look it up.
He tells Watson that he knows he has a brother with whom Watson isn’t close who’s going through a divorce, probably due to alcoholism.
Watson asks how he figured that out. Holmes replies that Watson is an out of work Army doctor looking for a cheap rental to share, so he obviously doesn’t have a relative he’s close enough to stay with, nor a lot of relatives. The condition of Watson’s fancy smart phone indicates he got it for free, and the smart phone is inscribed “To Harry Watson, from Clara.” Holmes observes that the phone’s power connector has scratches like a person fumbled to plug it in all the time; unsteady hands most likely indicate alcoholism, especially in the context of Holmes’ hypothesis. The recent model phone was obviously a gift to “Harry” from “Clara,” so they’d have to be married to have such a fancy expensive gift, and separated or divorced for Harry to regift it to John Watson so quickly. Tying into the power supply thing, the divorce is probably over alcoholism.
Watson is astonished that Holmes got it “exactly” right. Holmes says, “I never get it exactly right; there’s always something.” Then Watson replies, “Clara gave Harry the phone 6 months ago for their anniversary, and they split up 3 months ago because of Harry’s alcoholism, but ‘Harry’ stands for ‘Harriet.'”
When Holmes and Watson arrive at 221B Baker Street for Watson to decide if he wants to rent the extra room, Holmes explains his rent is so cheap because he helped Mrs. Hudson a few years back when her husband was on trial in Florida for a potential death sentence. “And you got her off?” asked Watson. “No, I assured his execution,” Holmes replies dryly.
The cops keep warning Watson that Holmes is a psychopath, and that the day may come when he gets bored with solving murders and starts committing them. When Anderson calls Holmes a “psychopath” in his presence, Holmes snaps, “I am not a psychopath; I am a high-functioning sociopath. Do your homework.”
Plus, Watson gets abducted by one mysterious figure, who claims to be Holmes’ greatest friend and greatest enemy, while Holmes learns of another mysterious figure, a “fan” of Holmes (Holmes has a website) who financially sponsors promising murderers.
This is a great show. Too bad it wasn’t picked up for a full series but only the series of movies, but hopefully it will have as long a life as the classic BBC/PBS mystery movie series from the 80s and early 90s.