Sherlock: Season 1
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Very soon, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) will be matching wits with the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent (Benedict Cumberbatch), in the second part of the epic movie series, The Hobbit. But recently, these two Brits also paired up to star in the BBC’s mini-series, Sherlock, where Freeman again plays a gentle warrior--this time the veteran army doctor John Watson. Cumberbatch has the title role as the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes--and a wily adversary he can be. Fortunately, in this case, they are playing on the same side.

This Sherlock reinterpretation is breakneck-paced, brilliantly written, with a terrific score, and features dazzling cinematography, from the shiniest downtown London buildings to the darkest back alleyways. It’s done with a huge helping of humor, and a bucketful of surprises around every corner.

Episode 1: “A Study in Pink." Scotland Yard enlists Holmes to determine if four apparent suicides are more than what they seem. Holmes and Watson follow clues through the streets and alleys of London looking for a murderer who hunts, unnoticed, in plain sight. Watch for shades of Batman and Robin in this one!

Episode 2: “The Blind Banker.” An old friend in the banking business hires Holmes to investigate a security system breach, which leads them to a Chinese antiquities smuggling ring. Spoiler alert: Don’t go on a date with John Watson unless you’ve got mad self-defense skills.

Episode 3: “The Great Game.” James Moriarty, Holmes’ archenemy, engages Sherlock in a game of beat-the-clock to solve puzzles to save the lives of body-bomb-wrapped hostages.

So, what makes this series stand out from all the other contemporary portrayals of this beloved super-sleuth?

First, there's the use of modern technology. Holmes texts and emails, and Watson blogs their adventures. But the filmmakers take it a step further, by floating the words from the texts on the screen, as well as Holmes' thoughts as he sizes up a crime scene. We can see right into Sherlock's head.

The iconic Holmes-ian traits are exaggerated to a gut-busting extreme here. His in-home lab now includes body parts in the appliances. Watson, angrily: “Sherlock, a human head? In the refrigerator??” Holmes, annoyed: “Where else was I supposed to keep it?” Conan-Doyle's Holmes used cocaine; this Holmes is trying to quit smoking, but since he needs the stimulant so much, he wears three nicotine patches at a time instead.

But the main difference in this incarnation is its emphasis on the deepening friendship between Sherlock and John. They call each other by first names, not the last, as in the original series. John Watson is far more than a sidekick here--he's an essential partner, who figures out what Holmes is doing, and rescues his manic friend from his misguided, and sometimes deadly, loss of common sense and conscience. They clash often. But they know they need and balance each other: Watson is Holmes’ moral compass; Holmes gives Watson the adventure and purpose he needs.

Let Hollywood’s heroes keep on blowing up aliens and saving the universe. I’ll take a bag of thumbs in the microwave and a wild cab ride with these two daring detectives any day.

Look for Season II right here, next month.

Bonus features on DVD/Blu-ray:

“Unlocking Sherlock" is a very good making-of feature, narrated by the creators, explaining the development of the original concept through production. Also included is the shorter, unbroadcast pilot version of A Study in Pink, and audio commentaries of Episodes 1 and 3.

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