By Adam Shater
The third season of BBC’s hit series “Sherlock” recently came to a close, concluding yet another phenomenal season for the hit show based on the stories of Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “Sherlock,” which premiered in the summer of 2010 on BBC to glowing reviews, has seen the growth of its writing and style accompanied by a growth in viewership with each passing season, staying incredibly fresh and original in each episode. “Sherlock’s” Season 3 premier drew almost four million viewers on PBS, which airs the show along with BBC for its original run, up from about three million PBS viewers for the season two premier.
The show takes place in modern day London, following the show’s eponymous protagonist Sherlock Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and his sidekick John Watson, played by Martin Freeman, as they go around and solve perplexing mysteries for either desperate clients or Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother, who has a high-ranking job within the British government.
One of “Sherlock’s” signature aspects which has propelled it to the top of many critics’ rankings is its frequent sharpness and wit, usually accompanied by a healthy dose of humor, mostly in the form of bickering between the show’s two protagonists. The chemistry between the leads is easily one of the best in all of television, and along with the show’s razor sharp writing, it makes the show a captivating watch and keeps the show from ever feeling dull. The show is also unique in that each season, or “series” as they are known in Britain, is only three episodes long.
Each episode of the season is about 90 minutes long, and has the feel of a cross between a cinematic film and a well-made television show that is usually only half as long. However, the show is by no means light in its content, and is just as full of suspense and deep, brooding moments as it is with its comedic banter between Holmes and Watson.
The only gripe that fans of “Sherlock” may have with the show is how long the hiatus is between seasons. There was exactly one year between the premieres of the second and third season, which seems a bit too long for a show that is just entering its prime.
But with both actors already superstars in the film industry, it will be tough to produce another season of “Sherlock” on short notice without sacrificing quality.
In the past two years alone, Cumberbatch has had major roles in “The Hobbit” and its sequel “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second installment of the J.J. Abram’s “Star Trek” reboot and two Oscar-nominated films: “12 Years a Slave” and “August: Osage County.” In 2014, he’s slated to star in “The Imitation Game,” a biopic about a World War II cryptographer, which has the early makings of another Oscar nominee for Cumberbatch’s résumé.
His “Sherlock” co-star Freeman has also had his share of success in Hollywood, mainly as the protagonist—-and co-star to Cumberbatch—-Bilbo Baggins in the “Lord of The Rings” prequel trilogy “The Hobbit.”
But the show’s style may not be a fit for a large portion of American viewers, where other intuitive shows that have been seen as dense and witty have often fallen victim to viewer’s short attention spans—-see “Arrested Development”—-in favor of simpler shows and serial dramas.
While shows known for their phenomenal writing like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” have seen sustained success, their style is not especially witty or difficult to keep up with. Also, those shows are much more dramatic and thematically darker than “Sherlock,” although “Breaking Bad” has had its brand of black humor mixed into it, especially earlier on in the shows run.
Still there aren’t too many shows on TV that have such a natural mix of dark and light in its content as “Sherlock,” so it will be interesting to see if viewers take to this unique show or brush it off for something easier to digest.
Either way, it’s best if you investigate “Sherlock” for yourself.