Before you start assuming that my main reason for watching Sherlock is that its showrunners are Steven Moffat (of Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss (of The League of Gentlemen and Doctor Who), let me give you a rundown of why this interpretation is not only the best modern interpretation (bring it on, House, M.D. and Robert Downey, Jr.) but a smart and captivating show in its own right.
1. It’s the greatest detective story of all time, put together by two of the sharpest mystery masterminds of our time, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Any further explanation needed? I really should just stop right here, but I’ll go on.
2. The actors. There are just no better choices for the Sherlock and Watson roles than Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, respectively. I dare you to try to find someone with Cumberbatch’s gravitas and Freeman’s visible integrity. Mark Gatiss as Mycroft, Rupert Graves as Lestrade, Una Stubbs as Mrs. Hudson and Andrew Scott as Moriarty also couldn’t be cast better in these classic roles. Further, the entire minor supporting cast of the last two seasons have each actor been flawless.
3. The balance between Sherlock’s and Watson’s points of view. Generally, Holmes tales are told from Watson’s point of view, but we’d be constantly left behind if that happened here because of how fast-paced it is. Plus, this way we’re able to visualize Sherlock’s deductions is fascinating. So many connections that the average person would never make, but when he puts them together, they clearly make sense.
4. The fact that there are only three episodes per season. They’re more like short films, really, being an hour and a half each. Anything less, though, and it wouldn’t be enough. The length is just long enough to really flesh out the stories and characters into a plausible situation, and short enough to keep the suspense high the entire time.
5. The modern setting. This is a Sherlock set in 2011, where there are cell phones, email, blogs, and all of this is not just taken into account but used in the most impressive way. You might assume Sherlock would be a luddite (for some reason I did), but no, he’s quite adept with most modern technology.
6. Jim Moriarty. I’m going to go ahead and give him his own category because Andrew Scott portrays Sherlock’s ultimate villain so, so well. Little did we know that Moriarty would truly have his fingers in every plot so far, all of which will surely come to a head in next week’s episode, The Reichenbach Fall. Something about Scott is so likable and at the same time, quite terrifying.
7. This show will make you feel smart and as if you can’t keep up at the same time. While that doesn’t exactly sound like a glowing recommendation, it is. Sherlock will keep you on your toes, racing to understand the mystery and connect the dots before he does – which you never will, of course, because he’s Sherlock Holmes. There’s a reason he’s better than everyone else.
8. The first series won two BAFTAs, one for Best Drama Series and one for Martin Freeman in the Best Supporting Actor category. Kind of a big deal.
9. There’s no question that this is a drama of the highest order. It’s smart but also serious, with the occasional side of humor. There’s very little slapstick here, though, and there’s nothing here that doesn’t directly add to the plot (as all the best stories go). You’d never catch Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in drag to solve a case, simply because he’d be able to figure it out on his own first. At the same time, though, it’s quite clear that Sherlock isn’t Superman. He’s human, and he frequently needs help, usually saving him from himself. There’s a reason he has a close-knit group of people around him, making sure he doesn’t take it too far while riding on a high of his own intelligence (or another substance). It’s quite serious, but there’s nothing better.
10. Literally no one I’ve spoken with who has watched these has disliked them. On the contrary, every single person I know who watches Sherlock is mildly obsessed with being caught up just because it is so excellent and so intellectually demanding.
Have I convinced you? Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that season one is on Instant Netflix and the third installment of the second season airs this coming Sunday. You know what to do.
In case you need that last little nudge, here’s a clip from BBC One that will show you just how brilliant Cumberbatch and Freeman are. A truly matched Holmes and Watson, if there ever was one.