Holmes is where the brain is

Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Martin Freeman return for Series 2 of “Sherlock.”
Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Martin Freeman return for Series 2 of “Sherlock.”
Posted: May 04, 2012

MASTERPIECE MYSTERY!: SHERLOCK. 9 p.m. Sundays through May 20, WHYY.

He’s traded in his BlackBerry for an Apple product, but his smartphone’s still smarter than yours.

He is Sherlock Holmes and as “Sherlock” returns to PBS’ “Masterpiece Mystery!” on Sunday, the thoroughly modern “consulting detective” played by Benedict Cumberbatch (“War Horse”) is dealing — grumpily — with his newfound fame (following, of course, the resolution of that nasty-looking cliff-hanger from Series 1).

He’s also badly in need of distraction.

“Tell us from the start. Don’t be boring,” he orders those who, drawn by the blog on which his sidekick, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), recounts their exploits, come looking for answers to a variety of mysteries.

Like his character, Cumberbatch is a bit more famous now than he was when “Sherlock” debuted, with a role in the next “Star Trek” movie and the kind of fan base that includes some who may have, ahem, downloaded the new episodes a few months early.

Co-created by Steven Moffat (“Doctor Who”) and Mark Gatiss — who also plays Sherlock’s brother-in-high-places Mycroft — the first “Sherlock” took Arthur Conan Doyle’s know-it-all and placed him firmly in the 21st-century London of the Eye and the iPhone.

The second, which begins with Sunday’s “A Scandal in Belgravia,” reimagines another of Doyle’s characters, Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), as a dominatrix who may be the closest thing Sherlock has to a soul mate.

Assuming either of them believed in souls.

Or Sherlock in mating of any kind.

“Brainy’s the new sexy,” declares Adler, and though it’s hardly a revolutionary idea — from “House” to “The Mentalist,” the descendants of the original Holmes have been turning heads for years — it’s a perfect tagline for “Sherlock,” whose Series 2 premiere was risque enough to sell a few papers in Britain when it aired on the BBC a few months ago.

“It’s very suggestive. It’s very clever camerawork, and it’s just a character device,” Pulver told reporters in January of the scene that caused the fuss. “But it was no mean feat for me to shoot it being naked for eight hours in just a pair of Louboutin shoes.”

It’s no mean feat, either, to follow three highly entertaining reinventions of stories involving one of literature’s most adapted characters with three more even better than the first.

But it must not be impossible, because “Sherlock” has done it.

Out of ‘Plain Sight’

“Sherlock’s” Holmes has his Watson, “Bones’?” Brennan her Booth, “Castle’s” Castle his Beckett.

On “In Plain Sight” (10 p.m. Friday, USA Network), the odd-couple partnership between Deputy U.S. Marshals Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack) and (yes, that’s his name) Marshall Mann (Frederick Weller) has been, perhaps, more grounded in reality than any of these, but no less central to a show that’s always been about much more than people who work in the federal witness-protection program.

Mary’s fugitive father (Stephen Lang) left her family when she was a child (only to return in the show’s final weeks),

In Marshall, she found a man who literally had her back.

And in Mary, the considerably less damaged Marshall found a woman who had his. That she also needed ongoing talk therapy, often conducted on long drives in pursuit of fugitives, seemed to actually be a plus for Marshall, who, like so many other crime-fighter sidekicks, saw it as his job to smooth out his partner’s rougher edges.

The series ends its fifth and final season Friday with an episode titled “All’s Well That Ends” that gives their relationship the respect it’s due and ties up enough loose ends for the rest of the characters to make fans feel that even if these people are no longer where we can see them, they are, like those they protect, somewhere safe. n

Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.comor follow on Twitter @elgray.Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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