1. If it were just Steven Moffat, it would be better. Sorry, Gatiss. Of course, Moffat would probably kill everybody heroically, so probably it’s a good thing that Gatiss is involved. (Heh. Just ragging on you, guys!)
2. Aside from the curtseys to contemporary pieties and certain jokes that most Holmesians and Sherlockians won’t like, it’s very clever and funny. On the whole, the storytelling devices are solid, and the playful adaptation of A Study in Scarlet into an entirely different fanfic story is sensible enough.
3. The Watson writing and portrayal is quite good. I don’t quite buy Martin Freeman as ex-military (he obviously didn’t go through as good an actor boot camp as some), but I do buy him as Watson, with all the Watsonian qualities we know and love. The vexed question of Watson’s wound is dealt with in a very sensitive and interesting way.
4. Holmes… um. Well, Cumberbatch makes a fun Holmes, but he looks like an alien. Which would be fine if this were whatever that one was called, where Holmes was a genetically engineered time traveler, but it’s not. Nevertheless, he does a good job with many of the classic Holmesian traits. The writing of his character is another thing.
The insanification and pulpification of Holmes is more acceptable than turning the Doctor into someone willing to cross the line, because Holmes always has been highhanded. Nevertheless, I disbelieve that Holmes would ever torture anyone, even if he were amoral. There are ways to cheat that Holmes would not stoop to do, and he just doesn’t strike me as stupid enough to believe anything learned by torture. I also failed to believe the sexual harassment moment. This sort of thing is bad writing.
5. Rupert Graves is quietly competent as D.I. Lestrade. Just letting the man be a police inspector works very well, because Holmes is so crazy in this version. I totally failed to believe his crew, though. Particularly Sgt. Donovan. I don’t care how torqued off she was (and admittedly, one could be torqued off a lot by any Holmes, and particularly this one). She didn’t come across as a police detective doing her job, or as any kind of professional. If you’ve put up with some jerk on the job for several years, surely you will have achieved some kind of equilibrium. (Even if you then make mocking comments behind his back later.) If the writers were trying to do a tsundere character in real life, they also failed badly.
6. Mark Gatiss as Mycroft was hilarious, and the writing and staging was excellent for both his appearances. It’s obvious that both Moffat and Gatiss watched way too much Avengers and Airwolf, and that they read Stross. Not that that’s a bad thing.
7. I’m not sure why they threw in stuff to torque off the old-school fans, and then simultaneously threw in tons of in-jokes about Sherlockian/Holmesian papers that only true fans would get. I guess they can’t decide whether they want to be part of the tradition or not. (Either that, or they were getting their in-jokes from Les’ annotation books.)
8. Boy, did they make it abundantly clear why Holmes might not be romantically attractive. It was practically a male fanboy rant about “why do women like Holmes?”, except put into a visual format! Hysterical.
9. Watson as an optimist about romance just managed to avoid making him look like a loser, and also just managed to look like persistence and not stupidity. A fun take on Watson’s penchant for appreciation of the ladies, though I hope to see him achieve some success with his renewed self-confidence. Brave, proud, intelligent, kind guys who also look like Martin Freeman probably don’t stay home on Saturday nights.
10. I like the music. It’s pretty clearly a ripoff of the Sherlock Holmes movie score, which seemed to have been inspired by equal parts pub songs and Castle, but still it’s darned listenable.
11. I really, really like the contemporary deductions. Nice.
I am going to watch the show tonight, and I expect to enjoy most of it. It is probably not something kids should be watching, though, unless they’re older kids. If you missed the first episode, it will be available for viewing on pbs.org until December 7, and the other episodes will also be available the day after airing.