I do find it hard to watch a lot of modern television. I am, for instance, probably too old to enjoy Sherlock (BBC One, Sundays, 9pm). It moves too fast; the characters mumble. There’s a lot of snappy wit that, to me, sounds like old jokes sped up. And I have happy memories of a better time.
I remember Peter Cushing – a dashing Holmes with a gallon of charm – or Vasily Livanov, the Soviet version of our hero as an eccentric aristocrat. Or, most compelling of all, Jeremy Brett – the fierce yet feline Holmes who came to resemble a panther with a pipe. All took the part seriously; all put an emphasis on plot and character. Things moved sedately back then, so that even if Sherlock was a couple of steps ahead of you, there was still time for the audience to catch up.
I would love to have dinner with any of these actors. I wouldn’t even accept a pizza delivery from Benedict Cumberbatch. His Holmes is ridiculous. He is rude, sociopathic, apparently irresistible to both women and men. Athletic to the point of godly. The show is essentially Doctor Who for adults, except that Doctor Who has become way too adult and Sherlock far too childish.
There is some maudlin drama, enough to give the appearance of psychological depth. Watson, played with zero conviction by Martin Freeman, was married to a woman who (inexplicably) gave her life to save Sherlock, and is now left with the baby. Imagine how Cushing, Livanov or Brett would have handled this situation: with compassion, brotherly love. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is frozen, useless. Later we discover that he has a sister. But this, rather than humanising anyone, just adds to the mounting preposterousness. Surely it’s not long before we learn that Sherlock was raised by wolves. Or is a robot.
As in all contemporary TV, the flaws are skipped over with quick editing. We are not being entertained, we are being confused into thinking we’ve had a good time. At the end of it all is a feeling of loss. I miss Sherlock Holmes. The BBC should bring him back someday.
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