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May 21, 2011

Sherlock, The New Modern-Setting Holmes Series

I just started watching this ten minutes ago. It's available on Netflix now (and other places, of course).

Initial thoughts:

1. Martin Freeman is one of my favorite actors (from the British The Office) and is immediately perfect as a sad, wounded, lost Afghanistan veteran. The guy playing Holmes I've never seen before, and I don't think I like him. He's clearly very young (much younger than Freeman) and is odd looking, and I know Holmes should be sort of odd looking, but so far I'm not loving him. We'll see. I've known this guy all of five minutes so he can grow on me.*

(* Maybe this is a clever bit of casting. Since Watson is supposed to be the viewpoint character and the one we identify with, while Holmes is supposed to be the odd man of mystery, it maybe makes sense to cast someone we already feel like we know as Watson while keeping Holmes a relative unknown.)

2. Updating to the modern day was so seemless I barely even notice. When John from Verum Serum asked me if I was watching it, I said I probably wouldn't like it because of the modern setting. I like the cobblestones, Black Marias, and gaslamps. But it just immediately works and I sort of just stopped noticing it was modern quickly. The fact that there is currently a war in Afghanistan for Watson to come home from makes the series well-timed (and reminds of the repetitions of history); the fact that Watson will recount his adventures with Holmes not in books but on his blog is a cute touch.

The characters are immortal and timeless, so they sort of bring their own period with them. They have a hint of a lost age about them, even while in 2010.

3. It's clever, or at least I think it is, so far. Upon meeting Watson, Holmes did the "I know everything about you based on a cursory examination" schtick. He quickly divined that Watson was:

a soldier;

a doctor;

in need of moral support, but would not seek it from--

his brother, who

had just left his wife,

and that his injury was believed by his therapist to be psychosomatic.

He didn't explain how he knew these.

First, I thought the series had already gone wrong. Holmes is not psychic, after all. He can infer things about you from clothing, bearing, wear marks on shoes, physical traces of your workplace, and your hands, which are often calloused or smooth, rough or pink, stained or clean, etc., per one's occupation.

But that bit about the brother? That's out of bounds. That's magic. Holmes could not possibly know that.

So I thought, Oh, they don't know what the hell they're talking about.

However, now I realized something so obvious. Yes, he would know about the brother, and several other details that couldn't be gleaned from clothing. Because he had done something I forgot about, because I was just trying to "think like Holmes" and only look at clothing and posture.

The point is, I thought they got dumb but they didn't. They sort of set someone up to use his own limited knowledge against him (a type of con I think they call the Kansas City Shuffle, where a mark is a good mark precisely because he's just smart enough to think he's on top of things but not quite smart enough to actually be on top of things).

So even though I figured it out (I think), they did trick me, at least at first, so they seem pretty good at this.

I haven't finished yet but based on a good opening I'm thinking it's generally good.

Easter Eggs: I was wrong about how he knew about the brother. The Easter Egg here is just taking the thing from the book (a pocketwatch) and making it the modern equivalent (a high-end cell phone).

This is a fun game of Spot the Easter Egg, like noticing how the ubiquitous black British taxis of today look an awful lot like like the old British coaches of the original setting.

Actually I liked my solution about the information regarding the brother better ("elementary, Watson: You handed me your phone and I saw your emails, try to keep up"), but theirs works and is from one of the books.

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posted by Ace at 12:44 AM

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