11 Reasons Why You Should Watch BBC's Sherlock

(And One Reason You Shouldn't)

Jan. 14, Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, and Feast of St. Hilary, bishop and doctor (old calendar).

1.  Steven Moffat

The man who succeeded Russel T. Davies (hurray Welshman!) in being responsible for rescuing Doctor Who from television oblivion; he's the genius of plot-twist character death, who wrote the "clever, darker episodes."  And weeping angels.  Arguably the scariest things ever invented.  (They scare me even more than dementors, so yeah . . .)  He and Mark Gattiss brainstormed the premise for Sherlock while traveling to and from Cardiff to film Doctor Who.  And with a back-story that delightful, you've got to give it a chance.

2.  the soundtrack

The soundtrack, like a star batter at the bottom of the ninth, is what brings this show home.  It's brilliant without any music at all.  With music, it's sensory brilliance overload.  It plays just the right emotional keys with perfect timing, and is so distinct a melody that you'll never, ever again be able to hear anything like it without thinking,"The game is on!"

3.  Benedict Cumberbatch

If Sir AC Doyle hadn't named the man Sherlock Holmes, his name should have been Benedict Cumberbatch.  I mean, the Englishest of silly English names.  So darn English.

Also, that cupid's bow!  I'm not sure whether this man is the weirdest looking person ever or eerily beautiful.  One thing is for sure, though, and that's that he makes the show, by making the character.  Anyone who can overshadow an iconic figure like that with his own unique incarnation is worth watching.

4.  Martin Freeman

The Office, Shaun of the Dead, Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Hot Fuzz, Nativity!, The Hobbit . . . I rest my case.

5.  metafiction

In today's era of  blogging, Twitter, and Tumbler, instant feedback and free fan-creator interaction have evolved a new dimension in entertainment.  Or maybe just brought back an old one, from the days when we sat around bonfires and shaped stories together.

As when we, the watchers, succeeded in bringing back Firefly for one last hurrah with Serenity; or when fans of Doctor Who grew up to write episodes for their favorite childhood television series; Sherlock is generous with its nods to old fans and new alike.  Episode 1 of season three, "The Empty Hearse," was a veritable homage to all the fan theories that floated around the internet during its hiatus.  It was able to incorporate the metafiction without damaging the plot one tiny bit.  Cause I'm fascinated with storytelling in general, I love this approach.  It's also well fun.

6.  Molly Hooper's side part

Just adorable.  Her hair, not her role.  Though that too is adorable.  Molly Hooper in general is just adorable.

7.  artful, cinematic storytelling

This show is simply beautiful to watch.  I mean beautiful, down to the tiniest detail.  The set development, costuming, panning, montages, chronological framing, method of story-boarding, and plain eloquent cinematography . . . the tilt shift affect used on London's most popular and well known monuments and attractions is the visual equivalent of opening with "it was a dark and stormy night."  Immediately strange but familiar.

The visualization of Sherlock Holmes's intellectual gymnastics is expertly and cleverly portrayed, with knife-like precision.  I love the translation of his mental observations into visual text that exists, not just on the screen, laying flat on it as on a table or classroom transparency, but in the actual dimensions of the set--integrated without merging with it, bouncing off of objects such as lamps, and tracing around the outlines of people.  Watch for it--it's a minor detail but it's one of the things that gives this show a flavor like no other.

But probably the best example of the cinematic brilliance is in the second episode of season 3, "The Sign of Three," when Sherlock interrogates women who have been the victims of a ghost date, without ever leaving the comfort of his own flat.  He's in fact chatting with them via messenger.  The interrogation translates into a visual orchestration in which Sherlock is the conductor, benching and silencing women with each swipe of the arm, until he has ruled out all likely suspects.  I can't do any justice to this scene in words.  You have to see it.

8.  Mark Gatiss's writing

The entire expanse of it, from plot to dialogue.  Humorous, moving, electrifying, intense, thought-provoking, nerve-wracking, and memorable.  My Facebook status the day after watching the British airing of Episode 3, Season 3 (I didn't even wait for it to air on American television): "My emotions were so yanked about watching "His Final Vow" that I swear I woke up sore this morning."

You know when you really start to get into a show or movie and then someone says one little thing that just doesn't sit with the rest of it and kind of bumps it off its tracks and you have to kind of rationalize it or ignore it?  Never happens.  (Please don't ever happen!)

9.  best bromance since Frodo and Sam

(Or maybe before, since Holmes and Watson actually came into being before Middle-Earth.)

Real, genuine platonic love between friends--between men at that.  I'm so grateful, and so invigorated.  Since modern viewers can't seem to distinguish between manly love and same sex erotic attraction, be warned of fandom, the large vocal majority of which is pro Sherlock/Watson pairing--which just sort of proves my point about how desperately needed a wholesome model of non-sexual masculine friendship is.  (Cause there are other loves besides the "I want to have sex with you" kind.  Remember, guys?)

10.  G.K. Chesterton

. . . would be the biggest fan.  Scratch that, he'd probably be hired on as a writer.  As he said of his own detective stories, "I did unto others as I would they would do unto me. I provided them with more stories about crime, in the faint hope that they in turn might provide me with more stories about crime."

11.  the moral sociopath

Cumberbatch's character is an opportunistic jumping board for a dialogue on the existence of a morally ordered universe.  How can such a selfish, scientifcally-inclined, intellect-worshiping man care to do what is right, and avoid what is gravely wrong?  What exactly makes him a detective working against criminals when he could have very well been the world's greatest criminal himself?  Cue Sally Donovan, in the very first episode:

You know why he's here?  He's not paid or anything. He likes it.  He gets off on it.  The weirder the crime, the more he gets off.  And you know what?  One day just showing up won't be enough.  One day we'll be standing around a body and Sherlock Holmes will be the one who put it there.

I've got to let simmer my thesis for a while before I can make a satisfactory argument.  Meanwhile, do feel free to discuss this in comments!

And the one reason why you shouldn't watch BBC's Sherlock?  

It's elementary, my dears.  You will be hooked.  Like a turn-of-the-century detective with an opium addiction.  c;



  1. Hi! Just dropping in to wish you good wishes and I saw this!!! ^u^ I agree with every word. Except the word 'bromance.' XD While I love what it refers to and agree it's one of the most glorious things about this show, I hate the word itself, because it's like, we can only talk about such a love by comparing it to romance, treating it etymologically as if it were a strange offshoot of romance? Anyway, I digress. Cheers!

    1. Hm, good points, Mary. Why does romance have to be the only kind of love we can imagine? Great to hear from you, and SO excited about your successes and upcoming projects.

  2. Haha! Love, of course! I think its a really beautiful production, I feel like it captures a beautiful, urban, modern London that is hard to capture in film. And the writing! I watch an episode and then I understand why it takes so long to make these shows, because the words per episode count must exceed some whole american show seasons! I'm also a big fan of the graphics they use when Sherlock is sizing people up - it makes the show so quick, modern and relatable.

    1. The grey, grittiness of London is very accurate, I feel. It's something that's familiar to me about all of urban and suburban Britain.

      The dialogue alone is worth watching this show for; it's so nice to see a televesion production that is actually smart for a change. As a writer-type myself, I really appreciate that!

  3. I just started watching this and now I'm excited to finish it! THanks!

    1. Awesome, let me know what you think!

  4. "I'm not sure whether this man is the weirdest looking person ever or eerily beautiful." RIGHT?!?!

    This was so perfect. I have been totally obsessed with this show since I started watching it last year, and this month was just ridiculous as I re-watched the first two seasons and then plowed through season 3. I am not nearly as good at explaining just WHY it's so great, though. To echo Bonnie: you nailed it! Time to share this with all my friends to help them understand . . .

    1. It helps to rationalize our obsessions with kosher-sounding arguments. c;

  5. Love the post! I am a total fangirl of Sherlock, and your take on it made me happy:)
    God bless!

    1. yay, I'm glad it made you happy, Carey! Isn't the definition of being a fan being happy to talk and talk about your fandom?

  6. I love this! Yes, Molly Hooper is adorable. The soundtrack is Brilliant with a capital B. And you are so right in your description of BC -- whatever else his appearance is, it's certainly compelling.

    Sherlock and Watson remind me of the Gatsby/Nick bromance -- though I am hoping Sherlock won't end up floating in a swimming pool.

    I wrote an article about "Sherlock" that ran on CatholicMom.com just last week (you can find the link on my blog) -- one thing I think is so fascinating about this iteration of the character is that he represents focus on intellectual brilliance at the expense of empathy (though from what I've seen of Season Three, he's slowly gaining in that area). I love how Watson functions as his "sensitive side."

    Big yes to #8 too ... best-written show on TV.

    Thanks for a fun article!


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