Well, I was distracted by… life, I guess. Now I’m back with the first of two more posts in my Sherlock Holmes. For this one, I select my favorite Sherlock.
Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: CI) — A great performance by a great actor, but Goren was more about reading people and seeking a confession than he was the simple act of deduction. As a Holmes, there are better ones.
James Roday (Psych) — There’s something wonderful about a detective who has no demons except a little bit of daddy issues. Shawn is always wild and crazy and hilarious. For him, the deduction is almost incidental to his antics.
Tony Shaloub (Monk) — For years, Adrian Monk was the most interesting example of mental illness on TV. From his OCD to his multiple phobias to his longstanding love (and grief) for his dead wife, this was a character for whom getting up in the morning was a victory. Watching him then also solve crimes and often put himself into jeopardy to do so? It made the whole experience that much more affecting. I miss that show.
Hugh Laurie (House) — There’s simply no better Holmes Lite than Gregory House. This misanthropic drug addict was impossible to look away from. He never quite veered into anti-hero territory (well, except for that car incident) so we didn’t mind rooting for him, despite the terrible way he treated his patients, his subordinates, his superiors and his one friend. House couldn’t resist a mystery, any mystery. The disease of the week might take up most of his time, but he was so much more invested in understanding every little personality tic of his proteges. The show may have stayed past its welcome, but House himself was never less than fascinating to watch.
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) — I will, no doubt, be in the minority when I say this… Benedict Cumberbatch is not the best Sherlock Holmes. While his performance is stellar, his take on the character (or, really, the writers’ take on the character) is odd. He’s a sociopath. Or has Aspergers. Whatever the case, he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of empathy. And while that makes for some awkward and hilarious moments, it also makes for a less engaging hero. His single-minded focus on not being bored makes his (required) fascination with Moriarty and Irene Adler almost tacked on. He does these things because he is “Sherlock Holmes”, not because of the character than he portrays. I love the show, but I can’t say Cumberbatch is better than…
Johnny Lee Miller (Elementary) — This performance is more nuanced, and perhaps more real than any of the Holmes Proper performances. Unlike most of the other takes on the character, and probably because this is US television, this Sherlock is a recovering addict who harbors real regret for his past actions. (There’s a hint of that in Sherlock, but only a hint.) His fondness for Watson is real, including a mentoring aspect that is also missing from every other version. For all these reasons, he’s more palatable as a week-in-week-out TV hero, generating 22 episodes a year. But he’s impish and eccentric and (of course) clever and egotistical. He is, however, not extremely any of these things.
Robert Downey Jr. (Guy Ritchie films) — This is what Sherlock Holmes should be. He’s a brutal fighter, unbelievably smart, endlessly pranking, loves a good costume, and maintains a sense of justice while being fascinated by the crimes he investigates. He shares traits with many of his doppelgangers. He needles his housekeeper and Lestrade and Watson like House. He reads people instantly like Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. He’s as funny as Shawn Spencer, and, at times, as insane as Adrian Monk. His is the best of the Adler romances and the best of the Moriarty clashes. There are better Holmes/Watson bromances out there, but Downey/Law do a great job nonetheless. The only real downside is that we only have two films with this incarnation of the character. I can only hope there will be more.
Coming up next (hopefully soon), my pick for the best overall adaptation!