Monday, January 3, 2011

TV Series review: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

I will admit, I watched this season of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series back in November when I was also busy with my NaNo so I wasn’t paying the closest attention to these stories. Thankfully Wikipedia has summaries of all the Sherlock Holmes stories and those were enough to jog my memory but if this review seems a little bare bones, it is. Also, this is the third season of the show and I’m starting to run out of things to say (makes me worried if I’ll have anything to say at all by the time I get to the fourth and final season).
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

Summary: Sherlock Holmes continues to investigate the various and myriad strange cases brought to him and Dr. John Watson attempts to understand what the great detective is thinking.
The Good: One thing that Sherlock Holmes does better than many mystery shows is that the murders in this show are actually strange and confusing. You may be able to guess whodunit but you probably won’t be able to guess how they did it or better yet, why. Most of this credit goes to the source material of course (I do wonder sometimes how Doyle came up with all of this stuff) but the show did expand on several stories to make longer episodes and the writers adapted the stories very well. I’m afraid that Sherlock Holmes has spoiled me, I might not be able to go back to mere locked room murder mysteries and such, at least in Sherlock Holmes the locked room mysteries really are creative.
The Bad: If you don’t pay attention to the entire story you will be horribly confused since, unlike the books, not everything is explicitly stated in the end. This is no fault of the show, they are actually making good use of the visual medium by employing “show don’t tell” (and the episodes would be even longer if they don’t), but merely a warning that blogging while only half paying attention to this show does not work so well. Also, unlike the first season which choose a good episode to end on (ie, one that also worked as a stopping point in the story) this episode neither starts nor ends with an episode that feels like a beginning/ending. True this is an episodic series but I still think that the episodes could have been arranged a little better.
The Music: As I’ve said before, on Sherlock Holmes it’s the time when there isn’t any people talking or background noises that’s key to the story. A lot of times I have the show playing in the background while I type up other stuff but when I realize that it’s gone quiet I make sure to switch over since that’s usually when a key visual clue is shown. The show integrates it’s visuals and soundtrack with more care than most shows do, many times I think they just slap in some music so the scene doesn’t get too dull, and it is nice to see all the extra effort that went into it.
The Visuals: I think this was the season when Holmes accidently did some drugs (testing out a hypthosis about how some people have been killed, although this may have been the second season) and other than that creepily trippy experience everything looks fine and normal. Which is to say, good video quality for the period (late 1980s), good use of scenery and costumes, it really does work very well as a historical show, but then again I’m a sucker for a nice looking proper English garden.

I was surprised when the season started up at just how haggard Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes) looked. I had heard that his health took a turn for the worst around this time (and that working on the show may have killed him, but the last two seasons were spread out over so many years that I find this a little hard to believe) but the change between the end of the second season and this one was staggering, I can hardly imagine any actor or actress today working when they look like they just crawled out of their own grave.