Last year I bemoaned Guy Ritchie's reinvention of Sherlock Holmes as a nineteenth-century James Bond (although when I did actually see the film, I enjoyed it). Yes, Conan Doyle describes Holmes as an expert in boxing and single-stick fighting, but he wasn't an action hero per se. The fun of reading a Holmes story is watching him use his singular powers of deduction not break some guy's nose with a karate chop.
Which is why "Sherlock," now airing on PBS, is such a pleasure. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have reimagined the great detective for the twenty-first century. Holmes, played by an actor with the Dickensian name of Benedict Cumberbatch, uses texting, GPS, and a knowledge of traffic signals to solve crimes. Watson is once again a doctor invalided out of the Afghan campaign; only he's a veteran of our current war in Afghanistan and he writes a blog instead of magazine articles. (Watson is played by the wonderful Martin Freeman who was Jim in the original British version of "The Office" and is about to become famous around the world when he stars as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's big-screen adaptations of The Hobbit).
The reason the TV series "Sherlock" is superior to the movie Sherlock Holmes is that it understands its characters so much better. Cumberbatch's Holmes is the brilliant, "high-functioning sociopath" familiar to us from A Study in Scarlet. Freeman's Watson is not some dope (sorry Nigel Bruce) but an intelligent everyman who craves adventure more than he realizes. And, as a real plus, the mysteries are actually quite ingenious as well. Definitely worth watching.