Monday, 2 January 2012
The Perfect Return of Sherlock
A Happy New Year.
'Sherlock' returned to BBC 1 last night, picking up where it had left off - in a swimming pool. Faced by his nemesis, Moriarty, Holmes - and Watson - were in a tough spot, dappled with a dazzling display of red spots from sniper rifles how could Holmes get out of this predicament alive? And then suddenly a blast of the Bee Gees 'Stayin' Alive' filled the air - Moriarty's ring tone. By the end of his conversation, he'd decided to spare Sherlock and Watson, for now.
And so we were plunged into a montage of people bringing cases too boring, too simple, too ordinary to the great man's attention, only to be swatted away like troublesome summer flies. The economy of the device is hardly new, but the laughs Steven Moffat's script generates breathes instant life into the episode. We're up and running - and at such a pace.
The Moffat/Gatiss re-imagining of Sherlock as a contemporary consulting detective and know-all is just a delight. Barely a scene goes by without a guffaw, or two, whilst all the time twisting and turning, giving flight to their take on stories that date back to the 1880's.
'A Scandal in Belgravia' reminds us of Watson's blog and long-suffering Mrs Hudson's trials every time she opens a cupboard in the detective's flat - or in this case the fridge. The smell wasn't coming from rancid cheese but a bag of thumbs Holmes had nestled in the vegetable tray.
I'm not going to go through the plot but point out the economy and invention that lies at the heart of this show. So much is achieved it leaves most other drama's floundering. There, I've used the word drama, and why wouldn't I? Well, if Holmes didn't exist and you were pitching this show would you call it a drama - or a comedy drama? If ever there was a show that teaches us that labels are useless this is it.
Sherlock delivers moments of high tension, of intrigue; it plays with our emotions and the emotions of the characters but its quip quotient is up there with the best of our comedies. No other 'serious' Holmes adaptation (there have been lots of comic takes) has attempted to marry drama and comedy in quite this way. And the quips and comic situations never feel forced, never feel out of place or disrespectful to the master detective.
Added to which 'A Scandal in Belgravia' introduced something new to the mix - sex in the form of Irene Adler. Here she is a high class dominatrix offering recreational scolding to men - and women - in high places. But it turned out that her greatest turn on was intellect. 'Brainy is the new sexy'. Despite entering Sherlock's life stark naked, Miss Adler, found it tough to seduce him. But by the end seduced he was, not physically but mentally. And he proved he would go to any lengths to help her.
Much as I enjoyed Guy Richie's latest Sherlock Holmes film, there were holes in the plot you could drive a coach and four through. Not so 'Sherlock', not one loose end remained at the end of this tale. If you missed it go scurrying for the BBC iPlayer and catch up before the next episode - the most famous story of them all.
By the way, the plan is for this blog to now appear twice a week. It's not a resolution but I'll try and stick to it.