One TV series tried more than any other to mark itself out as the quintessential Holmes adaptation. Airing from 1984 to 1994, the Granada series is definitely the most comprehensive, adapting 42 of the original stories. But it didn’t stop there in its quest for faithfulness; it’s one of the few majorly successful versions to be set in the correct time period, a sanitised vision of the late Victorian era. And on top of that, half of the shot compositions themselves are taken from the Sidney Paget illustrations that accompanied the original stories.
Speaking of our favourite chronicler, Granada also has one of the most canon-faithful versions. Up until this point, thanks mainly to Nigel Bruce’s portrayal, Watson was a bumbling fool. It was difficult to understand how he was able to tie his own shoelaces, let alone gain a medical degree. David Burke, the first Watson paired with Brett, has elements of this, wandering amiably through London without a care in the world. Edward Hardwicke, who replaced Burke after the first series, is far better, acting as a proper foil to Holmes. He doesn’t put up with any of Holmes’ nonsense, and is actually a competent human being.
The saddest part of the Granada series is watching Jeremy Brett’s decline into illness. In the final series, he lacks his earlier physical energy, and he looks bloated and pale. But his verbal attack is as good as ever, with the very final episode containing a wonderful performance as he fights with Mrs Hudson over Christmas decorations and figures out which present to give Watson. Even in one of his final performances, Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes in a way no other actor has quite managed.