High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Rants > Reviews > Sherlock


The BBC has a new(ish) series: Sherlock. It's a modern reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes. It has a lot in its favor. Holmes, Watson, and Mycroft are appealing characters. They simultaneously feed believably modern and true to the essence of the original. Mrs. Hudson is a bit forced, but is still fun. Amusingly, Holmes comes across as a bit of a selfish wanker. Upon reflection, the Victorian Holmes is a selfish wanker, but I'm more forgiving because of the alien Victorian culture that surrounds him. The show is worth watching just to enjoy the character's interacting. If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes and the idea of a reimagined Holmes in the modern world is appealing, I recommend it.

That's the review part. Should you watch it? See above. Now on to the criticism.

Texting, blog, smartphone, texting, website, testing, blog, smartphone, texting, email, texting, blog, GPS, texting. That is not going to age well. It feels a bit like a desperate attempt to be hip to appeal to those kids these days.

Beyond feeling forced, Holmes and Mycroft's aide spend much of their time engrossed in their smartphones. I've a slightly unsocial tech geek. I love my smartphone. And even I thought they needed to get their noses out of their phones. Worse, Holmes does time sensitive research on his smartphone's itty bitty keyboard. Smartphone input sucks, and your laptop was 10 feet away!

The show is heavily edited, most notably with lots of floating text. It is frequently overused, especially when it's repeating information the audience already knows. However, using floating text to show us text messages that the characters see worked really well, more timeless than zooming into the screen and less artificial than having the receiver repeat the message.

Of the three episodes in the first season, two are highly derivative. The first episode takes a scene from The Princess Bride and stretches it over an hour and half. The third episode feels nicked from Die Hard 3.

The second episode engages in some massive exoticising of Chinese culture, which grated a bit.

Sherlock is occasionally quite dense. He is unable to identify Chinese numbers, and unable to identify an "invisible" person in modern England (invisible as servants are in Victorian England).

Moriarty is a problematic reimagining. On the big picture, I like him. On the moment to moment decisions, he is less "criminal mastermind" and more "insane person," a sort of Heath Ledger's Joker, but stupid. Moriarty's plan in the first episode makes no sense at all. In the third episode it makes very little sense (Sherlock has not proven himself enough of a threat for address in that way) and his decision at the end is utterly insane.

Finally, the series ends on a cliffhanger, a "Lady or the Tiger" moment. A nonsensical one. The "surprise twist" at the end isn't actually any different from ten minutes earlier, but the camera work and music tell us otherwise.

Despite the flaws, it's a fun show and worth your time.

2010-10-21: Fixes: Lady or the Tiger, not of. Also the "unable to identify Chinese numbers" sentence was pasted into the middle of the exoticising sentence.

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