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'Sherlock' and 8 Other Television Reinventions of Sherlock Holmes

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire May 4, 2012 at 5:32PM

One of the reasons that "Sherlock," the BBC's delicious contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective stories, is such a pleasure is that it's a reinvention that's also logical and deeply faithful in spirit. Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, may be modern, but he's still a genius and an oddball, emotionally removed, arrogant, disinterested in people other than as aspects of a case and possibly sporting a mild case of Asperger's. Dr. John Watson, played by Martin Freeman, is still recently returned from Afghanistan (this time from the present war instead of the Second Anglo-Afghan one) and injured, and seems drawn to Holmes out of a sense of disconnect to the rest of the world as much as due to his respect for Holmes' gifts.

"The Adventures of Shirley Holmes" (1996-99)

This children's mystery series follows intrepid girl detective Shirley (Meredith Henderson), the great grand-niece of Sherlock Holmes, as she solves crimes around her Canadian hometown and deals with her sociopathic nemesis and classmate Molly Hardy (get it?) while attending a high-end private school. Instead of a Watson, she has former gang member Bo Sawchuk (John White), which is forward-thinkingly "Veronica Mars" of her -- she also got to share screen time with a young villainous (!) Ryan Gosling.

"The Return of the World's Greatest Detective" (1976)

Larry Hagman, J.R. Ewing himself, plays Sherman Holmes in this goofy TV movie from writer/director Dean Hargrove. A Los Angeles cop who gets bonked on the head by his own motorcycle while reading Conan Doyle, Holmes starts believing he's the fictional character, even taken up his style of dress and manner of speech. Jenny O'Hara is his shrink, Dr. Joan Watson, who indulges his delusions -- ones that actually end up making him a better detective as he works to track down a serial killer.

"Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century" (1999-2001)

Holmes is brought back to life with the use of futuristic technology in this animated series set in "New London," in which Inspector Beth Lestrade enlists the reanimated detective to help her catch a Moriarty clone wreaking havoc on the mostly peaceful 22nd century. Watson is a robot -- a "compudroid" -- who takes on the personality of Holmes' companion after absorbing his journals. While we're all about contemporary Holmes these days, this show was actually one of several instances in which the original Holmes was imagined to have been brought into the present or future -- a time storm stranded him in the 23rd century in "BraveStarr," while in TV movies "1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns" and "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" he awakens from suspended animation and from being cryogentically frozen.

"Young Sherlock: The Mystery of the Manor House" (1982)

Like Barry Levinson's 1985 film "Young Sherlock Holmes," this eight-part UK series looked at a youthful Holmes (Guy Henry) as a 17-year-old schoolboy who's forced by a typhoid epidemic to return home from boarding school early to his family's manor, only to find his parents have been kicked out due to their lack of funds -- and the place's new occupants of course turn out to be harboring secrets. The framing story presents the mystery as being one of many recorded by Holmes on a dictaphone and left to Watson to be listened to after the detective's death.

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, Sherlock

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