The answer is no, I don't like it.
I mean, the premise is interesting enough. Making things modern and all that. Holmes uses an iPhone to look things up, he reports his solved cases on a blog, Dr. Watson just got back from service in Afghanistan (like the original Watson), the Hound of the Baskervilles is a chemical weapons experiment, etc. etc. It's a neat enough idea, to adapt the series to the digital age.
I like that concept. I'm not that much of a purist. But it seems to me, if you want to make a movie or show about Sherlock Holmes, you cannot change the character of Sherlock Holmes. Change anything else, but leave the archetypal detective the same.
Rather than the charming, socially clueless yet genial, bohemian and eccentric Holmes of the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle, instead we get an even more nasty, even more snarky and antisocial Dr. House.
Maybe I didn't read enough of the stories? The Sherlock Holmes that I remember was constantly described by Watson as welcoming and accommodating. Clients would come in, and rather than sassing off to them, Holmes would greet them cordially, offer them a place by the fire if they were wet, or in a chair to elevate their legs if he detected a slight limp, or cup of brandy if they seemed to have had a long ride in from the country (as he noticed by the slight speck of mud and a small twig of hay on their jacket). Holmes would listen to their story patiently, usually interrupting only to ask questions that clarify the situation, then very politely tell them he would call them when new information turned up.
Of course, Holmes was also supremely confident in his abilities and completely upfront about the deductive failures of either his close friend Watson or of any of the police. But he was not condescendingly arrogant, and he wasn't insulting or belittling, either.
The closest thing to rude that I remember Holmes getting is when a client would directly lie to him. Holmes would immediately see through the lie, rebuke them for it, tell them to cut it out and tell the truth, and begin talking to them about the true details of the case.
Holmes was a gentleman. He was weird and headstrong and brilliant, but in his own eccentric way he was also a gentleman.
And at this point, I need to ask why the Sherlock Holmes of BBC's new series is not an accommodating gentleman, and is rather a snarky, malevolent, and violent-tempered little boy who happens to memorize lots of information?
Why did BBC feel the need to portray him in that manner?
The answer to this, really, is what I want to talk about.
The primary characteristic of Sherlock Holmes is that he has almost supernatural powers of observation and deductive logic. He can notice minute details, piece them together, and from them arrive at a complete picture of a person's motivation, or the facts of a case. He uses reason in the same manner a normal person uses emotion, freely and intuitively.
To a modern audience, that makes Sherlock Holmes smart. Intelligent. Brilliant. A genius.
The real Holmes wouldn't consider himself such; "not at all, Watson, my dear fellow!" I can almost hear him replying. He solved the case sure enough, not because he was smart, but because the case was obvious once a particular fact was revealed.
The problem is with how modern audiences perceive intelligence.
In real life, the more education and understanding a person has, the more humble they are about what they know. When I took Intro Physics, I was the flippin' King of Physical Laws, the mathematical universe bending to my whim. When I finished Advanced Quantum (Phys 8800), I doubted if I could even tell you one unqualified true statement about the universe. My professors will oftentimes just say "I have no idea and know nothing about that" in response to basic questions that are even about physics, just about a branch slightly different than their own.
On questions that they do know the answer to, however, they are completely forthcoming. Just like Holmes is very detailed and precise when describing to Watson how he deduced from the black thread on the man's tweed jacket that the case was about a con man trying to cheat a widow out of her inheritance, people in real life who are very intelligent are normally very happy and very enthusiastic (as opposed to crude and dismissive) to tell you about the things they know well, yet hesitant to explain anything that they do not understand.
The real Sherlock Holmes is like this.
In American fantasyland, the more education and understanding a person has, the more it justifies them to act like a condescending jerkhole to every simple-minded peon with the temerity to question their intellectual pronouncements. If intellectuals like time alone, it must be because they find the company of the weak-minded so tiresome. If an intellectual understands something the little people don't, it must be because the little people are ignorant, uneducated, and unwashed.
|compliments abstruse goose|
The result is that any little bit they know - or think they know - becomes to them a cudgel with which to bash others, increasing their self-esteem in the process.
Most people don't know enough to call them on their bullcrap, so most people tend to see these sorts as possessing actual education and intelligence, as opposed depressive over-compensation.
Hence, when most people think of a brilliant and insightful detective/doctor/scientist, they think of someone from a 4chan forum.
And that's what BBC's Sherlock is. He's a Mary-Sue right out of 4chan with his own show on network television.
And that's why I don't like it.