with Hamish McKenzie
London is getting a disproportionate amount of attention this summer; partly because of the upcoming Olympics, but also because the Queen just celebrated her diamond jubilee, part of which involved half of Britain stopping what they were doing to watch a flotilla sail down the River Thames for several hours, with nary a toilet break.
The London love-in continues this evening with the arrival of Sherlock (BBC Entertainment; 7.30pm), a re-imagined take on the classic Arthur Conan Doyle detective series. Set in 21st-century London, Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, with part-time hobbit Martin Freeman (The Office) as his trusty sidekick, Dr Watson.
While the three-part series stays faithful to the central tenets of Conan Doyle's stories, everything about it has been updated. In this telling, Sherlock Holmes fights crime in an age of mobile phones and internet while having to contend with remote-controlled bomb vests and an evil villain, the infamous Jim Moriarty, who can call on snipers with laser-targeted rifles for assistance. Instead of his trademark pipe, Holmes uses nicotine patches, and even writes a blog (although he apparently still hasn't caught up on Twitter).
The sexual innuendo has been modernised, too. As in Guy Ritchie's movie Sherlock Holmes, the writers play up the homoerotic tension between the detective and Watson, but only with knowing winks. In one scene, for instance, Watson asks Holmes if he has a girlfriend. 'Girlfriend?' Holmes replies. 'Not really my area.'
Fans of the BBC's Doctor Who will doubtless love Sherlock. Creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (a novelist who also starred in The League of Gentlemen) were writers on the time lord series. This show has similar cultural touch points, clever dialogue and charismatic characters to its predecessor, and the same slick production standards. Like Doctor Who, it's also a rollicking good adventure, so add it to your viewing list.
More sobering, but gripping in a different way, is Ghosts of the Third Reich (below; History, tonight at 8pm). The grandchildren of Nazis who committed the crimes of the Holocaust feature in this fascinating documentary. In a series of emotional interviews offset by footage of Hitler and company, the descendants discuss the anguish of being tied by blood to some of the most despicable monsters in human history. They are at pains to distance themselves from the Nazi ideology and the actions of their ancestors as they contend with their guilt and shame.
The sight of the grandniece of Hermann Goering breaking down in tears when discussing her granduncle's pride at being a Nazi leaves a deep, lasting impression and is a reminder that, even though seven decades have passed, the second world war really wasn't that long ago. It still occupies a dark and grisly corner of our collective imagination.
The documentary also highlights The Austrian Encounter, a group of descendants of Nazi perpetrators and of Holocaust victims who have been meeting every few years to foster constructive dialogue in the interest of healing wounds.
Of course, for some people, the great monsters of our time have a more ever-present quality. That's the basis of train-wreck-ish reality-television series Monster In-Laws (Bio; Thursdays at 8.30pm), which focuses on the unpleasant conflicts that arise when in-laws don't get along with their new son, daughter, brother or sister. This trashy but familiar show picks out extreme familial feuds - think screaming matches, public showdowns and thrown glasses of wine - and milks them for all the ratings they're worth.
For anyone who has experienced even the slightest tension with their in-laws, this is a show that might just make you feel a little bit better about your lot.