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Primal Screen

Feed Johnny Carson's mother to the Hound of the Baskervilles

Photo: , License: N/A


I wonder if other TV shows would be improved by complete darkness. Total Blackout: The Real Housewives of New Jersey? Total Blackout: The Today Show?

Common Law (9pm Fri, USA)

I was ready to write off this new series after the first couple scenes. It had the hallmarks of Yet Another Cop Show, starting with that most tired of premises: a bickering odd-couple partnership. Travis (Michael Ealy) is the loose one, Wes (Warren Kole) the uptight one. Add in the gimmick — the pair are sent to couples counseling by their captain — and you’ve got another cookie-cutter production straining to seem original. Would you be surprised to learn that the skeptical D.A. wants our bad boys off the case as they investigate a homicide in the premiere episode?

But Common Law worked its charms on me, much as Travis and Wes work their charms on both colleagues and criminals to get what they want. Ealy and Kole have a fast-talking rapport, as well as a gift for hitting comic notes even at a murder scene. The script makes them believably smart, so it’s no surprise when they catch the killer in spite of their flagrant interpersonal problems.

“Well, I guess I owe you an apology,” says the skeptical D.A.

So do I.

Masterpiece Mystery (8pm Sun, PBS)

If you watched last week’s season premiere of “Sherlock,” as I told you to, you won’t be able to resist episode two. And if you didn’t watch it … well, why aren’t you following my instructions? I’m not writing these blurbs for my health, people.

This week’s installment uses Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles as inspiration. But Doyle would scarcely recognize his story — or his detective, for that matter. The 21st century Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) has a computer-grade brain, charged up to the point of near-madness. (He’s reminiscent of Hamlet playing mind games in his antic disposition.) The detective and his mere-mortal sidekick, Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), head to Devon to investigate reports of a massive, murderous “hound.” Holmes is suspicious of the archaic word, and he looks for answers in the region’s top-secret military weapons-testing facility.

Can’t tell you more than that, but I will say that Holmes becomes punch drunk on his own powers of deduction in the midst of solving the mystery. This occurs at an inopportune moment, right at the climax, when he and Watson could still be killed. “This case, it’s been brilliant!” he exclaims.

I suppose I’d take the time to shout out “Yes it has,” even with a massive, murderous hound bearing down on me. 

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