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Sherlock: TV Review

"Sherlock"

The Bottom Line

This Holmes update's second season continues to be both clever and classic.

Airdate

9 p.m. Sunday, May 6 (PBS)

Cast

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Lara Pulver

Benedict Cumberbatch returns in this Holmes update's second season, which continues to be both clever and classic.

Maybe there can't be enough Sherlock Holmes adaptations. Moviegoers still seemed intrigued by Robert Downey Jr. on the big screen, and with the triumphant return of PBS' stellar series Sherlock, the smart set gets its thoroughly modern adaptation. Sherlock first appeared on BBC, then PBS in fall 2010, and was an immediate critical darling. Casting is the first of many things -- including superb writing -- co-creators Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, The Adventures of Tintin) and Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, The League of Gentlemen) got right.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement, War Horse) plays Sherlock Holmes, and Martin Freeman (The Office, The Hobbit) is Dr. John Watson -- and the chemistry was clear from the first scene. Cumberbatch has that dismissive intellectual aloofness that so fuels Sherlock, and Freeman parries witticisms while projecting the right amount of exasperation and protectiveness that define the role.

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But the best idea for invigorating the franchise was simply to make it modern. In this version, Watson has a blog and Sherlock a smartphone. If you've never seen the series, the natural reaction might be to roll your eyes, but Moffat and Gatiss understand that Arthur Conan Doyle always had Holmes on the cutting edge of, well, fascination. On the page, he was never afraid to be a modernist, and here we have him portrayed wonderfully that way.

For a series with only three episodes a season (each a 90-minute movie), it was unique that the last of the 2010 cases was a cliffhanger, which now gives way to Sherlock still being annoyed by his nemesis, Moriarty, and, in the first episode, feeling the first pangs of (gasp!) love. Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), a dominatrix who looks up to the task of being both Sherlock's rival and charmer, returns with untrustworthy secrets.

Fans of the first trilogy will unquestionably return for this second installment (a third is in the works), but newcomers should drop everything and jump on board. It's easy to play catch-up with the first season, and subsequent cases will be new. Plus, you get a hint of the lighter, funnier bits reflective of the books. "Remember, Sherlock, I was a soldier. I've killed people!" yells Watson, who has Holmes in a headlock. "You were a doctor," replies Holmes with annoyance. Watson: "I had bad days."