Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:
December 31, 2011 – January 6, 2012.
“Here we are, Watson – this must be the one!”
A very happy new year to one and all! For me the Holmesian highlight of 2010 was the first three episodes of Sherlock, so I’m really pleased to see it back again. The highlight of 2011 was The House of Silk and my lengthy interview with Anthony Horowitz. I hope he follows through on his hint that he might be tempted to pen a few short stories based on cases that never made it to the official Canon.
As ever, I am always happy to receive additional information re episodes, actors and films discussed in this weekly preview. Please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will continue to focus on Holmes, but from time to time I will point you in the direction of other programmes which I think may appeal to you. So could I suggest that you keep a close eye on the schedules for BBC Radio4 Extra, for you will find a lot of detective stuff there, including Paul Temple, Lord Peter Wimsey, Holmes, Dr. Thorndyke and an extraordinarily wide range of short stories.
Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (BBC 1 at 8.10pm) What a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year! This was a huge ratings and critical success for the BBC last year and by all accounts the next three episodes are up to the same standard. It works, I think, because in precisely the same way that Granada ensured the accuracy of period detail and plotting with the Brett series, writers/creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have ensured that Holmes fits perfectly into this era. This is good stuff.
I will write an overall review of the series when the last episode—The Reichenbach Fall—has been shown; and I will tie it in with a review of A Game of Shadows.
Sherlock Holmes, 2009 (Sky Christmas on Sky 303/Virgin403 at 7.40am and 12.15am) While Robert Downey Jnr gives us a Holmes we have never really seen before (and I won’t complain about that) I still think this film is let down by a lousy plot, gorgonzola script and an awful lot of hamming-it-up from a cast who should know better. Guy Ritchie doesn’t seem to have understood that Holmes is a ‘thinking machine’ first and foremost.
I haven’t seen A Game of Shadows, yet, but it has had a critical mauling. Indeed a number of non-Holmesian friends have practically begged me not to see it. That said, it seems to have done very well at the box-office.
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Freeview10/Freesat115/Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.05am and 12.45am) Series 5, Episode 1—The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax (February 21, 1991) Julian Curry—playing Schlessinger/Peters—gets it absolutely right: and that’s important, because so many other versions of this story have failed because of the underplaying or overplaying of this central role. Personally, I would happily chase across Europe after Cheryl Campbell, even if she wasn’t playing Lady Francis!
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Freeview10/Freesat115/Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.05am) Series 5, Episode 2—The Problem Of Thor Bridge (February 28, 1991) The role of J. Neil Gibson (like those of Roylott and Milverton) is easy to get wrong, but Daniel Massey gets it just about right. Massey’s father, Raymond Massey, had played Holmes in a 1931 version of The Speckled Band and had been pretty good in the role. The film turns up on TV very occasionally, but DVDs are easy and cheap to get. Catherine Russell—playing Grace Dunbar—is the daughter of Nicholas Smith (Mr. Rumbold from Are You Being Served?), who had a small role in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. Dean Magri—playing Billy the pageboy—is now a very successful tap dancer and choreographer: which suggests he could have been used in either The Dancing Men or The Problem of the Devil’s Thor Foot. Thank you, you’ve been a wonderful audience!
The Newly Discovered Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (Radio4 Extra on DAB/Freeview708/Freesat708/Sky0131/Virgin910 at 7.00am, 5.30pm and 5.30am) Episode 6—-The Demon Cobbler of Greek Street (January 16, 1999) The great strength of this Holmes spoof is the cast: Roy Hudd (Holmes), Chris Emmett (Watson), June Whitfield (Mrs Hudson), Geoffrey Whitehead (Moriarty) and Jeffrey Holland (Lestrade). The humour is broad and bawdy, but never goes over the knuckle.
Hudd appeared in Granada’s “The Dying Detective” and in an episode of “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” with Clive Merrison and Andrews Sachs. Emmett played Watson to Bernie Winter’s Holmes in a Sherlock-themed edition of the gameshow 3-2-1. Whitehead played Holmes in a 1979/80 Polish television series with Donald Pickering as Watson.
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Freeview10/Freesat115/Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.05am and 2.00am) Series 5, Episode 3—Shoscombe Old Place (March 7, 1991) Yes, that is Jude Law in the role of Joe Barnes! Michael Wynne—playing Josiah Barnes—played Commissionaire Jenkins in The Mazarin Stone, the penultimate episode of the Granada series in 1994.
Sherlock Holmes, 2009 (Sky Action/Adventure on Sky 305/Virgin405 at 9.00pm) See Sunday.
*January 6 is not only Sherlock Holmes’ birthday, it is also the birthday of Crewmate Margaret Sterrett. Holmes is, of course, immortal: Margaret deserves to be. Happy Birthday to both!