October 29, 2012
This latest modernized Sherlock Holmes is getting better, and it could get a lot better (or ruin itself by trying too hard).
The Jonny Lee Miller/Lucy Liu pairing so far is like a sports car driven by somebody learning how to shift. With Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman, and Jeremy Brett/David Burke, not to mention Hugh Laurie/Robert Sean Leonard fresh in our minds, the bar is high.
Miller and Liu are watchable by TV standards, and I'm hoping that they'll hit their stride in a few more episodes. At least they've stuck so far to the "cozy" murder mystery style (straying from which ruins the genre in short order).
Cumberbatch/Freeman is great contemporary casting, but I loath the scripts, that seem to be written by X-Files castoffs. Robert Downey Jr.'s Holmes is too much muscle and mugging for the camera. Highly entertaining but closer to a steam punk James Bond than classic Sherlock Holmes.
It's all about digging up the relevant clues, applying brainpower, and solving the problem. Hugh Laurie remains the best modern Holmes since Jeremy Brett. Nobody has yet come close.
I do have one big beef with the Liu's Joan Watson. Despite my dislike of the BBC Sherlock, they not only cleverly kept Freeman's Watson within the literary canon (talk about history repeating itself!), but showed convincingly why he would want to hang around with such an eccentric character.
We see this in Robert Sean Leonard's Wilson as well. Liu's Watson, on the other hand, gets the standard "tragic" backstory that essentially denies her the opportunity to make an up-front decision. Granted, Wilson and Watson do end up being mother figures, but Liu's is a bit too literal.
I see no problem stealing from Sherlock and making Liu's Watson an American doctor recently returned from Afghanistan (make her an ROTC grad). Again, it could hardly be called copying because it's canon! Not to mention that there'd be a ton of potential story material in a biography like that.
However, I've noticed that Joan Watson's backstory has evaporated. And good riddance. But it still leaves Liu with a what-am-I-doing-here problem that will have to be resolved if the series lasts more than a season or two. I don't mind the drug counselor premise, but it's got a definite half-life.