Netflix recommendation: the best 'Sherlock' you've probably never seen

Published: Monday, June 18 2012 9:50 a.m. MDT

Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman) are back in "Sherlock: Season Two."

Colin Hutton

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The Times of India recently reported that Guinness World Records considers considers Sherlock Holmes "the most portrayed literary character in TV and film" thanks to more than 254 depictions by 75 actors since the Holmes character made his on-screen debut in 1890 with a silent film that lasted 30 seconds.

The Guy Ritchie film "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is the latest addition to the Holmes canon; released to DVD on Tuesday, it now sits atop Amazon.com's list of best-selling DVDs.

But in a New Yorker blog post published Friday, Michael Sragow proffers that "Game of Shadows" isn't even the best Holmes adaptation to hit store shelves in the past month. That honor, Sragow contends, belongs to Season 2 of "Sherlock," the BBC series that brings Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous sleuth into a modern setting.

"The most worthy item on the 'Game of Shadows' disc may be an advertisement for the second season of 'Sherlock,' which came out on DVD two weeks ago," Sragow wrote. "The BBC series, a string of three 90-minute films per season, achieves in modern dress what the Ritchie film attempts in fancy Edwardian costume. It makes Sherlock Holmes exciting and accessible by finding contemporary analogies to Arthur Conan Doyle’s conundrums."

In the U.S., both seasons of "Sherlock" aired on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. Prior to the PBS debut of "Sherlock" in 2010, The Atlantic's Alyssa Rosenberg declared the series "a brilliant modernization" and detailed why the title character is such a natural fit for the 21st century.

"In a sense, Holmes is perfectly suited for life in the Internet age, an era when specialized, obsessive knowledge makes the fanboy, or policy blogger, king," Rosenberg wrote. "Holmes' monographs on cigar ash may be less strange today than they would have been to Victorian readers, but that's only because it's easier to form communities around obscure interests and information than it used to be. We live in a time when knowledge doesn't have to be inherently and regularly useful to bind people together.

"As Holmes, (actor) Benedict Cumberbatch is a wonderful whip-thin, Aspergerian, asexual type. … With his multiple fascinations and expertise, his disinterest in men or women or anything unrelated to his work, Holmes is no longer an occasionally necessary Victorian oddity. He's king of the modern nerds."

Season 1 of "Sherlock" is available to Netflix subscribers for streaming; all three episodes of Season 2 are rated TV-PG and available for free viewing on the PBS Masterpiece Mystery website through June 19.

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