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Mark Peters

 

 

If you caught any of the first season of Sherlock - wonderful renderings of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective stories, set in contemporary London - then you won't need telling it is one of the finest drama series to have graced our screens in recent years. Now, the aloof and enigmatic Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and his exasperated conscience-made-flesh, Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman; The Hobbit), return for another three glorious 90-minute yarns on consecutive days this week (beginning tomorrow at 9pm, BBC Entertainment). Amazingly, this series surpasses the impressive highs of the first. Creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat blend pathos and comedy to perfection but it's the impeccable pacing and crisp dialogue that make Sherlock shine. Cumberbatch and Freeman are once again on top form, borne along by their undeniable natural chemistry as their characters' intriguing relationship develops; and, in the first episode, A Scandal in Belgravia, they are joined by the excellent Lara Pulver (True Blood), in the role of Holmes' rival, seductress Irene Adler.

The narrative picks up from the previous season's cliffhanger, where the boys were left in a Mexican stand-off with arch-nemesis Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott, who won a Bafta for his wicked interpretation of the role), and the entertainment doesn't let up until the credits roll on the final episode, The Reichenbach Fall. It is simply television at its best.

Bestselling author Will Studd's encyclopaedic knowledge of all things cheese would surely have even Baker Street's great egghead detective eating out of his hand in admiration: "It's Emmental, my dear Watson!" (Sorry.) In his fascinating new food travelogue series, Cheese Slices (above; TVB Pearl, Tuesday at 8pm), the British-born fromager takes a mouth-watering look at the world's best-loved cheeses and examines the skill and dedication of those who make them.

Beginning in the lush green pastures of western Ireland, Studd journeys across three continents, visiting dozens of dairies along the way as he investigates a renaissance in ancient European cheese-making techniques and explains the importance of preserving these traditions.

As a passionate advocate of raw (unpasteurised) milk cheeses, our guide waged a campaign to challenge a ban on their sale in his adopted homeland of Australia. In 2002, he imported 80kg of roquefort to the country. The haul was immediately quarantined and, following a lengthy and expensive court battle, a judge ordered that the "king of cheeses" (Studd's name for it) be buried in a landfill site. Studd refused to give up, though, and two years later - thanks in no small part to his expertise and persistence - the ban was lifted. Which all just goes to show that where there's a Will there's a whey! If you enjoy cheese you'd be crackers to miss this.

Another retelling of old stories - with a little added prime-time cheese - comes with the second series of family-friendly fantasy Once Upon a Time (left; Fox Movies Premium, tonight at 9.15pm). Following the breaking of the Evil Queen's curse in the first season's finale, the townsfolk of Storybrooke become aware of their split identities as they travel between an enchanted fairy land and reality.

Despite its maudlin sentimentality, Once Upon a Time tickles the imagination, and it's great escapism. What's more, if you thought this series was bound to go down a worn, predictable road, you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the plot twists. Then again, the show's co-creators, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, previously worked on Lost, so you really shouldn't have expected anything else. Every fairy tale has a happy ending … or does it?

 

Correction: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown airs on CNN International on Sundays at 9am, not 9pm as listed in last week's Q&A. We regret the error, which was due to misinformation received by Channel Hop.

 

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