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My Contemporary British TV Detectives

For the Love of Cumberbatch

For the Love of Cumberbatch

I’m not the only one who enjoys getting lost in the Cumberbatch. Legions of Cumberbatch fans roam the internet like Medieval highwaymen, hijacking comment threads and shooting them up with Sherlock mania.

Benedict Cumberbatch—the man sounds like his own classification of mania. “But I can’t go outside, darling, Sherlock’s on, my cumberbatch is acting up again.”

Seventh greatest detective in contemporary British TV, and after only three episodes of Sherlock? Why not? Cumberbatch is the best Sherlock Holmes since Jeremy Brett. No argument necessary. In my imaginary world, where the coffee is never bad, the death penalty never administered to innocents, and Guy Ritchie can’t raise money, Robert Downey Jr. is Cumberbatch’s caddie.

Just try saying it out loud: Benedict Cumberbatch. At first, you think it’s a joke. His parents decided to play a trick on the birth-certificate office by inventing their own syllabary. I mean, you need two breaths to get the whole thing out.

Also, Cumberbatch is strange-looking. He’s gauntly handsome, but scarcely any of his features seem to match. His eyes are buried in their sockets, piggy small. When inflated, his cheeks look borrowed from a fatter man. His lips are too fleshy. Plus his cheekbones are so wide and high, he looks from a distance like he’s wearing an opera mask of someone even more handsome than himself.

(Other men I’d enjoy drinking with whether or not they were in their public guises: Jim Rome; Eddie Murphy; Nicolas Sarkozy; Tom Robbins.)

It helps that Sherlock, airing its second season this fall in the UK and supposedly in May in the States, is phenomenal. The series revamps stories from the Holmes canon for the 21st century—BlackBerries, etc.—but its tense plots and scrolling-text effects aren’t enough. What sets the series apart are Cumberbatch’s faces from Planet of the Antelopes. His enthusiasm for wearing the role. His attention to movement. I have an 11,000-word essay in my spleen on what Cumberbatch does that’s so good, but basically he creates more substance—more stuff on the screen—than is found in most series’ lifespans. If Cumberbatch were a pop song, it would take you a long time to learn the hooks. Martin Freeman as Watson is also admirable, but it’s Cumberbatch’s show. If you haven’t discovered Sherlock yet, you are in for a lot of pleasure.

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded The Morning News. He is the author of Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There. His next novel is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. His Kindle e-book for The Morning News Editions, about visiting different American towns called Paris, was selected as a notable essay for Best American Essays 2013. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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