Russians on the Return of Sherlock

Still from the BBC's trailer for Sherlock's series three premiere. YouTube screenshot.

Still from the BBC's trailer for Sherlock's series three premiere. YouTube screenshot.

Russia has a long history of Anglophilia dating back to the Victorian era. Whilst the UK and Russia have had strained relations in the past few years, this hasn't had much of an effect on ordinary people's opinions. Russians are avid followers of English Premier League Football, with Roman Abramovich going as far as to purchase Chelsea FC. Wealthy Russians have bought up so much of London's West End that Londoners sarcastically refer to their city as “Londongrad” or “Moscow-on-Thames.” While the UK reacted to the death of Margaret Thatcher with deep ambivalence, Russians greeted the news of the passing of the “Zheleznaya Ledi” or “Iron Lady” with almost uniform commiseration. 

English literature has never gone out of vogue. Doyle's ingenious detective, an incorruptible arch-rationalist and autodidact, was adapted for the Soviet and Russian screens numerous times, most recently in 2013, when a big budget television series was broadcast with much fanfare (and rather dismal reviews). 

It's little surprise then that many Russians, were anxiously awaiting the New Year's Day premiere of the third series of Sherlock, the widely popular BBC adaptation that updates the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. John Watson, to the 21st century. The series’ name in cyrillic, “Шерлок”, began trending on twitter as more and more Russians tuned in to watch it on Russia's Channel 1. The premiere centred on the return of the titular hero to London following a two year absence, during which he had faked his own death in order to dismantle the criminal empire of his arch-nemesis, Jim Moriarty.  

British Dreams, a Russian twitter account that caters to Russian fans of British television gently mocked [ru] the online excitement.

The year is 2023. – “Mum, why am I called Sherlock?” – “It was just a confusing time for me, my daughter.”

The long-awaited episode, which had attracted much speculation amongst the show's rabid online fanbase, sharply divided viewers. Some were pleased [ru] with the show's return.

Sherlock is the best detective show in the world. Series 3 is on form. Good stuff.

Others were less impressed. One blogger, who goes by the nom de plume “have gods love“, singled out a litany of reasons [ru] her friends had been less than impressed with the third series’ premiere, including a perceived overemphasis on gay themes (in one of the show's running jokes, Watson and Holmes, two adult men living together in west London, are often mistaken for a gay couple).

Стон катится по френдленте: новый Шерлок не так хорош.
Слишком много кривляний, слишком много стеба, слишком много внимания фанатам, слишком много отношений, слишком много гомосексуальной темы, слишком мало сюжета… Андерсон не тот, Мэри никакая…
И главное – “Что-то не так. Вроде как те же и там же, но не так”.

There's a groan echoing through my newsfeed: the new Sherlock isn't so good.
Too much over-acting, too much banter, too much pandering to the fans, too many relationships, too much of the homosexual theme, too little plot… Anderson [one of Sherlock's minor rivals] isn't quite right, Where's this Mary [Watson's new fiancee] come from…
But mainly – “Something's not right. It looks sort of the same, but it's not right”.

Several Russian netizens announced their intention to stop watching the series, owing to their dislike of the premiere. Nevertheless, the interest the premiere generated demonstrates the enduring popularity of British cultural exports in Russia. The speed with which Channel 1 had a Russian-language localization ready for broadcast (and one which, according to one blog dedicated to the show, was a vast improvement [ru] on the last two series’) also shows that Russia's demand for British entertainment continues unabated, despite Moscow's penchant for taking potshots at the UK. Whatever Kremlin officials choose to mutter at future international conferences, it can be safely assumed that ordinary Russians will be ready to hang on  Benedict Cumberbatch's every word.

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