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Mysteriously Masterful Masterpiece Mystery

by on November 11, 2010
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The past few weeks have been a lot of fun on Twitter because every Sunday my feed explodes with comments about the latest episode of Sherlock on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery. I had tuned into the show because I’m a big fan of the writer Steven Moffat, who has written some of my favorite programs in recent years including Coupling, Jekyll and the current season of Doctor Who.

Moffat is quite the draw for some, but why else are so many people suddenly tuning into PBS programming? Don’t they know The Walking Dead is also on?! It’s because lately Masterpiece Mystery has become incredibly compelling. Sherlock just finished its three episode run (90 minute episodes) and it was such a hit here and in England a second series has been commissioned.

It is a modern take on the famous detective that focuses on what made the original stories so compelling. It isn’t just blogging and texting, but a return to really clever cases with a fun spin on it. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock as “a high functioning sociopath” and Martin Freeman (BBC’s The Office, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) does not play Dr. John Watson as a buffoon, but a worthy friend.

Every episode is exciting and fun (and leagues better than Robert Downey Jr.’s version). This is a different pace than the usual Masterpiece Mystery fare, which is usually a bit dry. But there are more shows that reaching a wider audience. Kenneth Branagh stars as the titular Wallander based off the bestselling Henning Mankell series. Branagh’s presence brings in a new audience and his performance is so outstanding it causes people to keep watching.

The show itself looks rather amazing at times, as well. It’s full of haunting imagery and deep themes. This is an excellent response to what people are clamoring for with mysteries. With the popularity of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the Red Riding Trilogy, people clamoring for quality mysteries that have a focus on intelligence.

Masterpiece Mystery is putting out high quality productions that rival things that are in theatres. Television is becoming a hotbed for cinematic storytelling, often with higher emotional factors. I’ve seen more enthusiasm about one episode of Mad Men (or even…Glee) than any non-Inception summer film. Television is becoming something incredible special and inventive and Masterpiece Mystery is setting itself up as the staple for high quality intelligent mysteries. I only expect more and more great things from them, especially with this heightened attention.

Sherlock trailer

Wallander trailer