New Year, Old Favourites

The first two days of 2012 saw the return of two detective icons to our TV screens: Holmes and Morse.

Sherlock, BBC1

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in Sherlock
(Photo: BBC)

The second series of the superb Sherlock began with ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’, which sees Sherlock and John engaged by Mycroft to recover some compromising photographs on behalf of a royal client.

It’s the difficult second series, but Sherlock doesn’t disappoint. Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss have chosen to bring in three of the most famous Holmes stories to this series (‘Why wait, we thought’) and in many ways this adaptation of Doyle’s ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ is closer to the original story than previous episodes. It introduces Irene Adler, known to Holmes as ‘the woman’, for the first time – in the form of Spooks’ Lara Pulver. Her allure is presented a little less subtly than in Doyle’s story (she makes her entrance naked), and yet there’s no doubt that Sherlock’s attraction to her is based on the fact that she’s the only person he’s met whose wits are on a par with his.
The plot is typically tight and rewarding (although the final twist is a tad silly), and we are given the thrillingly clever moments we have come to expect (most notably Sherlock cracking a code in slow-motion in the time it takes John to put a mug down, and a seemingly incidental comedy montage of clients at the beginning turning out to be relevant to the plot). It may be over by the end of January, but Sherlockis on track to be one of the best things on TV this year as it was in 2010.
If you missed it, Sherlock will be available on BBC iPlayer until the end of the series. You can even pre-order the DVDand Blu-ray already.

Endeavour, ITV1

Shaun Evans in Endeavour 
(Photo: Mammoth Screen/Masterpiece Productions)

Following in the footsteps of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and, er, James Herriot, Inspector Morse is the latest fictional icon to be given the ‘young’ treatment (though the makers exercised impressive restraint in not just calling this prequel Young Morse).

Set in 1965, Shaun Evans plays the young Endeavour Morse, a new Detective Constable arriving back in Oxford – though he keeps his alma mater from his colleagues in an attempt to help fight the inverse snobbery he encounters. Morse, inevitably, soon finds himself involved in a full-blown murder investigation, allowed helpful if improbable free reign by his boss DI Thursday (the brilliant Roger Allam, wasted a little here).
The story – by one-time Morsescreenwriter and subsequently Lewisdeviser Russell Lewis – is neat enough, and the plot manages to incorporate Morse’s twin loves of opera and crosswords – a nice touch, although the latter’s connection is rather unbelievable. The production has not been skimped on; it looks lovely, with lots of dreamy shots of idyllic Oxford (which is of course totally like that in reality) and old buses making it seem like a cross between Morse and Heartbeat.
But the element that will receive the most attention is Morse himself. Shaun Evans plays him faithfully, not attempting, fortunately, to mimic John Thaw but incorporating occasional subtle reminders – the slight drops in accent, the long gulps of beer, the general frowning…
As with Lewis, I assume this will be treated as the pilot for a series. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but Endeavour was pleasant, sedate, and strangely comforting viewing, almost as if Morse was back.
If you missed it, Endeavour will be available for a week on ITV Player. It’s also being released on DVD on 9 January.

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