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Sherlock is back - sexy, sizzling TV to savour

Good news, people – Sherlock (Sunday, PBS, 9 p.m. on Masterpiece Mystery!) is back. Season two has only three episodes, so savour it while you can.

Prior to the first batch of episodes in 2010 there was considerable skepticism about whether a new Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century could work. It did. In the hands of Stephen Moffat ( Dr. Who) and Mark Gatiss, and with Benedict Cumberbatch as a drawling, sexy young Holmes, the series arrived with a bang – original, witty and stylish TV. Rather than presenting a souped-up period piece, the series reinvented Holmes, Watson and their milieu. This Holmes uses a cellphone and texts Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), who blogs about Holmes. Both inhabit the London of this moment.

These new episodes display all the flash, wit and visual pop of the first series, with requisite dashes of humour. Every now and then, it seems, it's necessary to present Holmes and Watson as sort-of Jeeves-and-Wooster characters. But only briefly. It's a welcome touch because, to contemporary readers and viewers, the work of Holmes's creator Arthur Conan Doyle (no relation) can seem ponderous and stuffy.

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In the first episode, Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia becomes A Scandal in Belgravia, with Holmes and Watson handling, somewhat reluctantly, a blackmail case. Their clients reside in Buckingham Palace. Holmes, who is drawn into the matter by his icy older brother Mycroft, is disdainful until he actually meets the key figure in the case. That's dominatrix Irene Adler (Lara Pulver, who is fabulous), and has certain photos on her smartphone of a member of English royalty. Upon meeting her, Holmes isn't reluctant any more. He's met his match in haughtiness and calculations. The sizzling interaction is delicious. They are both deeply attracted to cruelty, a fact that becomes clear in Holmes's case when he once again fails to grasp that the morgue attendant named Molly (Louise Brealey) has a fierce crush on him.

Dry wit and, sometimes, silliness, abounds. "Don't be boring!" Holmes barks at all and sundry, including Watson. Mycroft refers to Irene Adler's field of work as "recreational scolding." And Holmes shouts at someone, "Stop being boring and think. It's the new sexy, you know."

By the way – if you felt you were left hanging by the last episode, aired almost two years ago, things are clarified (if not neatly wrapped up) in the matter of a certain Jim Moriarty blowing up the pair at an indoor swimming pool. It's all very sexy and engaging, this three-part series. You cannot ask for more.

ALSO AIRING THIS WEEKEND

GCB (Sunday, ABC, CTV, 10 p.m.) reaches it season finale. It seems like only yesterday we were introduced to that passel of nasty, backbiting ladies in Texas who claim to be good, Christian women. If GCB is cancelled, which remains possible, I will miss the sight of tiny, bosomy Kristin Chenoweth using steps to climb to a telescope to spy on her neighbours. Thing is, the series hasn't gotten any more tasty than the pilot episode and needed more zip, zest and nastiness. Desperate Housewives this ain't, unfortunately.

Avatar (Sunday, CHCH, 8 p.m.) arrives on Canadian TV, if you have access to Ontario's CHCH channel and the Metro 14 channel in Quebec. It's an event, for sure, with James Cameron's extravagantly new-technology movie-storytelling unfolding. Perhaps it looks fine on your TV. Perhaps not. Just be aware it's there.

All times ET. Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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