It's hard to get excited about yet another screen version of Sherlock Holmes, but Masterpiece Mystery's "Sherlock" (Sunday, 9 p.m., PBS) gives the old detective a shot of life. The series is set in present-day London, with Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman) a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He reacts with astonishment when he meets Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), as do we. This is not the fussy, reserved sleuth we remember from the Basil Rathbone movies, but a manic contemporary character, driven to fast-talking fits of deduction by a computer brain always switched to "on." He's so far ahead of mere mortals including the viewing audience that it becomes funny.
"Dear God, what is it like in your funny little brains?" he asks the befuddled police detectives. "It must be so boring."
Cumberbatch works miracles as Holmes. He's at once formidable and silly, sexy and creepy. He has fun with the role while also giving Holmes an intensity bordering on dangerous. Indeed, the police believe he's a psychopath. "Stay away from Sherlock Holmes," a detective counsels Watson.
He doesn't heed her advice, and neither should you.
Monday, 10 pm (Comedy Central)
It's been a vicious, dishonest, depressing election season. But here's a bright spot: Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report move their shows to D.C. for a weeklong series called "When Grizzlies Attack: The Daily Show Midterm Teapartyganza." I envision satire so precise and powerful that its targets sleazy media figures and politicians abruptly retire from public life.
A guy can dream.
The Millionaire Matchmaker
Tuesday, 8 pm (Bravo)
Patti Stanger is one of the great characters on reality TV. She's a matchmaker who boasts "an extremely high success rate" in finding romantic partners for millionaires. You don't for a minute doubt her success rate. This is a woman who understands love the way a butcher understands cuts of meat. She assesses her products and peddles them accordingly, leaving behind a trail of satisfied customers.
Just as it's not pretty to see a butcher prepare cuts of meat, it's not pretty to see Patti make her matches. She hectors; she berates; she maintains a perpetual expression of exasperated disgust. In the new season, she moves from Los Angeles to New York, where she finds a lot of singles to be disgusted by. "I couldn't match you if my life depended on it!" she screams at a hapless male. To a female applicant: "Ditch that stuck-up attitude and shape up or ship out!"
Patti knows everything, and she has no patience for those who know less (i.e., everyone). She screams at a woman who asks her to make the choice between two potential suitors: "I am not in your vagina!"
It's the rare admission of her limitations. Don't expect to hear another one this season.
Wednesday, 9 pm (FX)
This private investigator drama is easy to overlook in the crush of noisy new fall shows. Terriers is the opposite of noisy, even though it deals with heavy subject matter. Ex-cop Hank (Donal Logue) and partner Britt (Michael Raymond-Jones) work their way through cases involving prostitutes, amnesia victims and missing persons while also attending to their messy private lives.
But don't expect the usual kiss-kiss-bang-bang. Terriers dispenses with cop-show clichés in favor of authentic characters and hard-earned emotion. Hank and Britt are believably small-time and down on their luck, with only their terrier-like tenacity to keep them going. Their exchanges are effortlessly smart, funny and tender so effortless that you might not even notice the skill involved.
Actually, you haven't noticed. Terriers has fared badly in the ratings so far. Here's hoping FX shows terrier-like tenacity itself and keeps the show alive.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Thursday, 9 pm (Bravo)
The new Real Housewives franchise is set in Beverly Hills, but so far it's failed to distinguish itself from other versions. We get another group of catty women-of-a-certain-age with disturbingly worked-on faces, throwing their wealth around. One owns the Sacramento Kings basketball team; another is married to Kelsey Grammer. All of them cuss like gangsters when tensions rise, offering a glimpse of ugliness under the store-bought sophistication.
"This is going to sound obnoxious," says the Kelsey Grammer wife, showing off her mansion, "but basically I live in my own little retreat."
Hey, don't tell us what's obnoxious, lady. One of the few pleasures of The Real Housewives is discovering the obnoxiousness for ourselves and looking down our noses at it. You supply the bad behavior, we'll supply the judgment.