Holmes sweet Holmes

American broadcast television often relies on exciting action scenes (Person of Interest, The Blacklist) or an onslaught of one-liners (Two-and-a-Half Men, 2 Broke Girls) to move a story along. Getting to know a character often happens by accident. British television, however, focuses so intensely on character development that it's easy to forgive that an episode may be as long as a feature film. BBC's Sherlock has managed to give viewers both: nail-biting suspense--as in the cliffhanging Season 2 finale--and characters so well developed, we experience their highs and lows as if they were our own.

Series creators Steven Moffat (Dr. Who) and Mark Gatiss (League of Gentlemen, Holmes' brother Mycroft) seamlessly updated Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and added cinematic effects that give the series a 21st century feel, but don't make Holmes appear anachronistic. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman inhabit the brilliant but socially bereft Sherlock Holmes and the level-headed, good-hearted Dr. John Watson so exceptionally, it's hard to remember that anyone else ever played the iconic characters. In the first episode of Season 3 (which aired Jan. 19 on PBS), we learned Watson's feelings for the sociopathic detective and his capacity for forgiveness run deep, even in (faked) death, and we were drawn even closer to the odd couple.

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