‘The Game’s On’

PBS’s ‘Sherlock’

In an age of Google Earth and Twitter, when Facebook knows more about you than your mother does, and advertisers track your every move online, would anyone have need of Sherlock Holmes for his deductive powers?

Absolutely yes, according to Sherlock, a brilliant new television version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal stories. Airing on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! on October 24 and 31 and November 7 (check local listings) after a UK debut last summer, this riveting update plunks down the great detective in twenty-first-century London, surrounded by smart phones, antismoking laws, and the trappings of the “war on terror.” As the show’s taut plotting unfolds, this young, antisocial, technologically proficient Sherlock becomes recognizable as a private eye who could go toe-to-toe with Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, an alienated character he resembles more than a little.

We first meet the 221B Baker Street resident (an aptly dweeby-looking Benedict Cumberbatch) as he examines a corpse in a morgue. The camera is positioned inside a body bag that he unzips, so the introductory shot captures his face above us, upside down. Like the show’s credit sequence, featuring sped-up footage of cars careening across modern London, this topsy-turvy portrait is a visual signal that program...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.