Sherlock is a modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes by Steven Moffat (who already did a modern-day take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and Mark Gatiss. Actually modern-day, unlike the recent Sherlock Holmes movie. In this version of the story, Sherlock uses the Internet and sends text messages and tracks people on GPS and such. So modern!
Sherlock Holmes, as played by the improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch, is a self-professed "high-functioning sociopath," and the show does not sugarcoat his complete inability to interact with—or, in fact, really care about—human beings. Sherlock is a walking computer, a deductive machine, and he does not run on love and kindness and compassion. He needs constant stimulation, and life is meaningless to him unless he is solving a puzzle. It may seem like the Holmesian mentality taken to an extreme, but it totally works, especially in Cumberbatch's able hands. Cumberbatch—Cumberbatch, Cumberbatch, Cumberbatch! WHAT IS WITH THAT NAME—has a cold, alien (yet strangely sexy?) face, and he handles Sherlock's many Deductive Reasoning monologues with ease. I want him and Matt Smith to be in something together so they can have a Talk Really Fast contest.
One stylistic touch I really love is that you get a peek inside Sherlock's head via text on the screen. As he observes a body, for instance, text pops up to represent the key observation he's making, as if you're playing Sherlock: The Video Game. It gives you a chance to follow along with him before he tells you what he's actually gleaned from these observations. Similarly, text messages pop up on the screen; because texting is so common, it's a clever timesaver that keeps you from having to constantly cut to a shot of a phone or have the character read the text message out loud every time.
John Watson, as played by the regularly named Martin Freeman, is a soldier and a doctor looking for a flatmate...and for some action. While he does represent the Everyman, a foil for Sherlock, he does have a taste for excitement and adventure, even if he may attempt to deny it. The relationship between John and Sherlock—another modern-day touch being that they refer to each other by their first names—grows over the course of the pilot and the series as these strangers become colleagues, friends, bros! Sherlock is a hard man to deal with, but John truly does admire his skills, if not his methods and his manners, and Sherlock does begin to respect his skills as well. They're partners. Also, John has a blog, and Sherlock has a website. So modern!
The first series comprises three individual cases. "A Study in Pink"—oh yes, you better believe there's a plethora of in-jokes and references—is a great introduction to our characters and the world, which is modern-day London. The setting is very important, and I got a thrill out of recognizing various locations because I had totally been there. Sherlock investigates what look like serial suicides, and when he finally uncovers the culprit, we get a very interesting look into his character. "The Blind Banker" is undisputably the weakest episode of the three. More articulate people than I have pointed out its racism/Orientalism, which I kind of saw but didn't think was as bad as I had been led to believe, but it does have lots of cool moments and deals with ciphers. It also has a really boring monologue in the middle, whereas neither of the other episodes commit this grievous sin, an anathema to Sherlock. "The Great Game," thankfully, is an awesome finale, as Sherlock gets to have the most fun he could imagine, and that's all I will say about that.
Moffat and Gatiss have successfully reenvisioned these characters for the modern world, and I'm looking forward to series two. The game, as they say, is on*!
*Not afoot. So modern!