The newest Sherlock Holmes adaptation, Sherlock, relocates our heroes to the twenty-first century, but maintains most of the plots and characterizations from Doyle's original. Unlike the steampunkish 2009 film, which rewrote Holmes and Watson as action heroes, Sherlock emphasizes its detective's near-magical deductive leaps; the only "action" involves a chase scene and, at the end, a bulls-eye shooting. (Equally unlike the 2009 film, Sherlock remembers that if you need somebody dead, get Watson to shoot.) And, as is now inevitable with any Sherlock Holmes adaptation, Sherlock establishes itself by quotation--albeit mostly by inverting the original. Mrs. Hudson repeatedly reminds Holmes and Watson that she isn't the housekeeper; Holmes overdoses on nicotine patches instead of pipes; Mycroft is not only skinny, but also awfully energetic; "Rache" means "Rachel" this time around; and so forth. Equally, viewers will note that Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes owes more than a little something to Jeremy Brett's. The reception and adaptation history has been built into the series, as it were, complete with various characters speculating about just what Holmes and Watson are doing together.
The first episode, A Study in Pink, is loosely based on A Study in Scarlet--only without Mormons, and with CSIs, blogging, texting, GPS, and e-mail. (Speaking of which, "Watson" has a blog, which appears to be standing in for the Strand. And Holmes' website also exists.) The episode's slick appearance clearly owes a lot to the post-CSI procedural, complete with snappy graphics, flashbacks, close-ups of tiny but significant details, and rapid cuts--although, as with many British detective series, the producers have apparently chosen to save money by leaving all the lights off. In any event, one of the side-effects of this Internet-savvy Holmes is that he's a more public figure than his original, whose various forays into print seemed to reach a much smaller audience; under the circumstances, it's no surprise that the as-yet mysterious Moriarty is a "fan," a sort of super cyberstalker. (However, there are limits to Holmes' tech-savviness, as a quick trip through GoogleBooks would have netted him the answer to his questions about postmodern bruising.) Moreover, turning Watson into a blogger personalizes and opens up the original narrative form: this Watson can get instant feedback, trackbacks, trolls...
But back to the missing Mormons. The biggest problem with the episode is that it doesn't substitute a sufficiently motivational motivation for the serial killer's activities. Viewers who saw Sherlock in the UK got something a bit more fleshed out--once again, PBS' habit of hacking and slashing its imports rears its ugly, er, blade--but it still doesn't seem enough to merit offing multiple strangers. As a result, the episode completely wears out its welcome during the last twenty-odd minutes, as it devolves into the sort of silly speechifying and grandstanding one associates with, well, CSI-type serial killers. To make matters worse, Sherlock temporarily mislays all of his little grey cells (what would a twenty-first century Poirot look like?) and manages to get himself manipulated into a rather unfortunate event--which could have been avoided had he just told someone where he was going. (Like Watson. Or even the unusually handsome Lestrade. They're both standing right there.) Other than this major plot bobble, the rest of the episode moves at a nicely energetic pace.
As many other viewers have noticed, the snarky, screwball comedy-ish relationship of Holmes and Watson represents the ongoing House-ification of Holmes--yet another way in which the adaptations have begun to overtake the original texts. However, the producers are also trying to compensate for the loss of Watson as a narrator: given that his primary purpose in life (or, at least, in narrative) is to provide the "normal" POV through which the reader glimpses Holmes' genius, it's always a challenge for scriptwriters to turn Watson into a character who can stand up to Holmes on screen. Despite this Holmes' quirks, he and his Watson have a relatively egalitarian dynamic, as opposed to the sort of thing parodied by J. M. Barrie.