Hype, I find, destroys even the very best of pleasures. And the BBC’s Sherlock has most certainly been hyped, not least by its own fans, who – over just six episodes – have evolved into a fervid and passionate community, whose excitement over the return of the show this week can practically be smelt.
Fear of spoilers among them has reached such heights that I suspect some might not even watch the actual episode for fear of finding out what happens (they’re safe here).
And the thing is, it’s not totally unworthy of such hype. Steven Moffat’s other series, with co-creator and similarly busy bee Mark Gatiss, is generally exciting, frothy and at its heart has two superb performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman which serve to ground plots that threaten to fly off into sheer glee at their own trickiness.
But it has flaws: every episode ends up dragging on too long, while the abbreviated series mean that the leads’ relationship has skipped too many stages; Moriarty was played as a fool, while the show has had trouble making its female characters more than saps or wish fulfilment – though Watson’s new lady, Mary, played by Freeman’s real-life-partner Amanda Abbington – looks set to change this. And the more hype that’s piled upon the show, the more these things irritate, somehow.
So while Sherlock’s return is welcome, especially with what’s reported to be a lighter, funnier story, it’s less enticing that the show is apparently increasing the element of self-indulgent in-jokes about its own success, with Watson pointing out that speculation has been rife online about Holmes’ ‘Reichenbach fall’ and possible ways he could have survived. But those very devoted fans will certainly not mind at all.
Agatha Christie’s Marple does not need much hype; indeed, ITV’S other Agatha Christie adaptation should really be the antithesis of everything that modern, hashtag-friendly, sexed-up Sherlock represents. Except that mysteries do all share a common structure and Miss M’s deductions are often just as based on leaps of logic from observation as Mr H’s.
Marple suffers in comparison to the recently-ended, long-running Poirot series, having never found a definitive leading actor in the way that David Suchet just became the character. The current incumbent, Julia McKenzie, is twinkly but doesn’t rival the late Joan Hickson’s waspish portrayal.
And the plots are too often messed with: this one is based on Endless Night, one of Christie’s most unexpected later books, in which she captured the voice of an angry young man rather well, despite being 77 at the time. Miss Marple has been shoehorned awkwardly into the story and while there are the usual classy guest stars – it’s fun to see Borgen’s ace reporter Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) in a very different role – the dark, chilling tone of the book becomes blanded out into just another period puzzle.
Finally, The Thirteenth Tale is a gothicky suspense drama, in which National Treasure Olivia Colman easily holds her own as the biographer to literary legend Vanessa Redgrave, uncovering two lifetimes of secrets.
Mad Dogs Finale
Today and tomorrow, Sky1, 9pm
This laddish caper has often seemed like an excuse for real-life chums Marc Warren, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Max Beesley to enjoy themselves in the sun, but all the stops are pulled out for this two-part final series, as the guys try to finally escape their pursuers.
Tomorrow, Channel 4, 11:05pm
Recall the year just gone by with this inventive remix, by animators, musicians and artists including YouTube favourites Cassetteboy, who mash-up some of the big events in humorous style.
Two Doors Down
Hogmanay, BBC1, 9pm
One-off adaptation of the Radio 4 sitcom, with Alex Norton and Arabella Weir as a Belfast couple hosting the Hogmanay party from hell, with annoying relatives and neighbours descending to ruin their night.
Jools’ Annual Hootenanny 2013
Hogmanay, BBC2, 11:30pm
The 21st annual shindig, hosted by Jools Holland, above, still features that fake moment when performers recorded earlier pretend to welcome the bells. This year, there are songs from Ray Davies, Rudimental, Emeli Sande, Charlie Wilson – the voice of the Gap Band, Laura Mvula, Lisa Stansfield, the Proclaimers, Melanie C, the Lumineers, Haim and umpteen more.
David Blaine: Real Or Magic
New Year’s Day, Channel 4, 9pm
A starry guest list including Jamie Foxx, Ricky Gervais, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, Will Smith, Kanye West and Stephen Hawking marvel at the trickery of the American illusionist in this street magic special.