There's no mystery behind the appeal of Credo's Adventures of Shirley Holmes
The benefit of crafting a TV series from a character as universally loved as Sherlock Holmes is pretty obvious. The basic story is internationally recognized and stands a better chance of being watched in more homes, in more countries.
And, indeed, that is exactly what Winnipeg's Credo Entertainment Corp. is hoping for its Holmes spinoff for kids, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes.
Shirley, played by Goosebumps vet Meredith Henderson, is Sherlock's great-grandniece, a 12-year-old student at Sussex Academy in the anywhere town of Redington. She inherits not only Sherlock's sleuthing genes, bu also his trunk of props and tools, complete with his trademark cape and deerstalker cap.
But, for producers, the sleep-depriving flip-side of invoking such a classic chronicle is that it sets the bar higher than it already is for a new TV series. And indeed, the pressure is on for co-producers Credo Entertainment Group and Forefront Entertainment. When The Adventures of Shirley Holmes premieres Monday at 8:30 pm on YTV, Credo and Forefront are hoping for a large enough audience to clinch a second season order from YTV. Already sold to more than a dozen countries, a second season could also firm up plans to launch lines of Shirley Holmes clothing and merchandise.
But a quick peek at the first two episodes shows there will be no angry spinning in the graves of Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and even the dusty old Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Invoking Harriet The Spy and Nancy Drew as often as great-uncle Sherlock, Shirley is a strong-willed girl with a flair for funky clothes, a keen sense of curiousity and the eye of a brilliant and meticulous investigator.
Although it occasionally wanders into the realm of the fantastic, this kids series is plausible, fun and well written. Moreover, the upfront detective work that makes up the bulk of the first 13 episodes is nicely puctuated by more substantial issues - homelessness, sweatshops, native history, and her own mother's long-time absence.
Episode 1, entitled The Case of the Burning Buildins, finds Shirley tracking an arsonist. Shrugging off a warning from her diplomat dad (Chris Humphreys) to go straight to school, she stops off at the latest fire site, slipping under the police line and snatching two telling pieces of evidence.
Intrigued, but late for school, she is sent to detention along with the scrappy new kid, Bo Sawchuck (John White). At first reluctant, because she butts into his scuffle with a local youth gang, he eventually becomes her devoted Watson. Together, they uncover a plot that exposes some unexpected bad guys.
Along the way, we get a glimps of Shirley's inventive spy kit, which features shower caps to disguise her footprints, and talcum powder to dust for fingerprints. We meet her ultra-cool Gran (Elizabeth Shepherd from PSI Factor), who coaches her wisely and teaches her t-ai chi.
We also uncover the precarious story of Shirley's mother. She tells John her mother is merely "away", but here dad says she's dead. It's a nicely handled seed of a story - and key to Shirley's unfailing optimism - that is fully explored in Episode 13, The Case of the Second Sight, in mid-May.
Tow points of complaint about the premiere. The story of how Shirley assumes the Holmes mantle - she cracks a puzzle lock that has stumped two generations before her - is glossed over in a brief, although well-done intor to each episode. It could also have been woven in to one of the early episodes.
Also, the arson story hits a snag when the culprit's logic gets too loopy. Less would have been more for that story line.
Episode 2, The Case of the Alien Abductions, introduces one of many guest stars, Colin Fox, who lampoons his regular series, The PSI Factor, by playing a neurotic who claims he's been abducted by aliens.
This episode, which airs Monday March 3, is a cute, goofy story that would give even open-minded X-Philes a bit of a giggle.