“Sherlock” (8 p.m., PBS) returns for a second season on “Masterpiece Mystery!” A cheeky, cerebral delight, “Sherlock” updates Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective series to the 21st century. Benedict Cumberbatch (“War Horse”) returns in the title role.
This series is a celebration of a great character and a nod to other television characters who have descended from Holmes. The show’s theme song owes much to the weirdly jaunty and creepy score to “Dexter.” And Cumberbatch’s petulant, frequently unhinged behavior may remind some fans of a certain doctor named House. Like Hugh Laurie’s character, Sherlock does not suffer fools, or anyone, it seems, except Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), his trusted colleague and only friend. And even he gets his fair share of abuse. In another nod to modernity, many strangers take Holmes and Watson as a rather domesticated gay couple.
If “Sherlock” has a fault, it’s the reliance on frequent, overly clever visual tricks that show us the detective’s deductive powers at work. These quirks detract from the show’s sparkling dialogue, which is punctuated with lightning-fast verbal exchanges.
Add “Sherlock” to a growing list of Sunday’s can’t-miss series.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): Whistle-blowers blast a military plane; journalists risk death to reveal corruption in rural Kentucky; Michael Phelps prepares for the London Olympics.
• The remaining players travel from Japan to Hawaii in search of the grand prize on the two-hour season finale of “The Amazing Race” (7 p.m., CBS).
• Regina schemes to exile Emma on “Once Upon a Time” (7 p.m., ABC).
• Standup salutes its own on the second annual Comedy Awards (8 p.m., Comedy Central).
• A close call for Myrcella on “Game of Thrones” (8 p.m., HBO).
• Evidence leads back to the casino on “The Killing” (8 p.m., AMC).
• A mad bomber threatens terror on “NYC 22” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A trip to Juarez highlights the season finale of “GCB” (9 p.m., ABC).
• Peggy is burdened by a secret on “Mad Men” (9 p.m., AMC).
• Cesare hires mercenaries to repay the French on “The Borgias” (9 p.m., Showtime).
• The press seizes on gossip about a spat with the first lady on “Veep” (9 p.m., HBO).
• Tiptoeing in the dating pool on “The Client List” (9 p.m., Lifetime).
• A gruesome text from Adam jolts Hannah on “Girls” (9:30 p.m., HBO).