May 4, 2012 in Features

Mysteriously popular

PBS series about present-day Sherlock Holmes opens second season
Tish Wells McClatchy

Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock Holmes, with Martin Freeman as his deadpan sidekick, Watson, and Andrew Scott as the mousy mastermind of evil, Jim Moriarty in “Sherlock,” starting Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

On the air

“A Scandal in Belgravia” airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on KSPS and 9 p.m. on KCDT.

WASHINGTON – Coming back beginning Sunday to a PBS station near you is a new season of the BBC’s “Sherlock” on “Masterpiece Mystery!”

The popular modern reinterpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” mystery stories drew 4.6 million viewers per episode for season one on PBS.

It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson, a veteran of the current war in Afghanistan.

Cumberbatch says about Holmes, “I think when you’re reinventing an icon for the 21st century you’ve got to be quite sure of your purpose, and that you’re doing it to a high standard, and something good will hopefully be well received; but nothing could have predicted the level that we took on from the first episode.”

The new season, which has already appeared in the United Kingdom last January, offers three episodes – “A Scandal in Belgravia,” “The Hounds of Baskerville” and “The Reichenbach Fall.”

The titles are plays on the titles of the classic Sherlock Homes stories “A Scandal in Bohemia”; “The Hounds of the Baskervilles,” a novel; and “The Final Problem” – better known as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s attempt to kill off his literary creation by having Holmes and his criminal opponent Professor Moriarty fall into the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland.

The first “Sherlock” episode “A Scandal in Belgravia” introduces the best-known woman in the Holmes literary canon, the adventuress Irene Adler (Lara Pulver). The new version is considerably racier – with nudity and riding crops – than the original story published in the 1890s. Even in wealthy Belgravia, close to Buckingham Palace, Ms. Adler’s current profession might raise an eyebrow.

“Sherlock” creator Steven Moffat points out that “Moriarty (is) the famous one but there’re some famous ones in Doyle that have scarcely been touched.” He is currently engrossed with his responsibilities to “Doctor Who,” writing the 2012 Christmas special, but on “Sherlock,” he says, “the work never really stops.”

“We had such an extraordinary response again with the second series in the UK. It was almost an alive and water-cooler moment, and it created a bit of a sensation for those three weeks and beyond,” says Cumberbatch. “It really did catch a cross-generational sort of moment in conversation and was a bit of a cultural landmark. For that to happen in one country, I’d love to have that happen here (in the United States) as well.”

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