Sherlock Holmes’ new foray on American TV is as an ex-addict who sports an assortment of tattoos that would find him at home in an exotic biker bar, and has the kind of day old stubble on his chin that either attracts or repulses most women in an instant. As though seeking to cover up these marks of his past however, he wraps himself in a scarf and coat of respectability and talks with a rapid fire English quip that bulldozes anyone who attempts to second guess his powers of observation. Jonny Lee Miller, perhaps known most recently for playing the demented self-help guru Jordan Chase on Dexter makes him feel less like a superhuman deduction machine, and more like a guy with serious baggage who is also kind of a pratt, but more so because of his inner struggles then because he lacks social graces. In spite of this, he’s fun, if a bit repetitive to watch, with his best moments being less about his deductions, and more about the human foibles he displays regularly.
He’s joined by Joan Watson, played with quiet exasperation by Lucy Liu, introduced as a “Companion” (Only without the snark) who has had history as a surgeon but has now been hired by Sherlock’s enigmatic father to keep an eye on him in case of a relapse. It’s a little hard to tell what kind of relationship she has with Sherlock so far, though she recognizes both his brilliance and his need for some kind of stable element in life, she’s really just there to play straight man to Holmes eccentricity. Her one moment comes when she queries Sherlock about his past, and makes an observation that his baggage probably had to do with a woman (Woman’s intuition some might say, but personally I like the hint of some “Irene Adler” like figure having history with him instead of meeting him for the first time)
The thrust of the pilot is a pretty standard procedural fare, featuring an in-his-element Sherlock dissecting a scene of a home invasion with tactile precision, and couple eyebrow raises when it comes to Sherlock’s hobbies, and a rather twisted murder plot that unfortunately doesn’t give us much insight into the perpetrator to make it memorable. Aiden Quinn (from Weeds and Prime Suspect) also shows up as a “Lestrade” style detective, who gives Sherlock absurdly free reign of the scene and really doesn’t contribute anything worthwhile with his rough monotone voice When I first heard of him I confused him with Aiden Gillen of “Game of Thrones” fame, and seeing how boring Detective Gregson is I sure wish they had gone with Littlefinger.
All in all, this new breed of Holmes has some things going for it in terms of characters and setup (And nary a mention of a Moriarty, hopefully suggesting there are great possibilities for the future) but needs to step up the scenarios. As any Sherlock fan will know, his best mysteries are those that appear to defy logic and the the fun comes from knowing that Holmes is one step ahead of everybody. And with bigger crimes to react to, maybe this new Holmes will rise to the occasion just like so many in the role before.