Well, I'm glad I gave it a chance; it was splendid!
Each of the eight episodes of The Mystery of the Manor House begins with a charming framing sequence. Holmes himself, using a cylinder Dictaphone, has recorded a, audio record of this adventure from his youth. It is to be listened to by Doctor Watson only after the death of Holmes, as it contains secrets involving the queen herself! Charming. Each episode, in fact, begins with a differently-labeled cylinder. I love that touch. I'm an Edison cylinder enthusiast, and anything that puts them into the mix is greatly appreciated by me.
Guy Henry plays our 17-year-old Holmes (though he was apparently in his twenties), and, in spite of his height (he's head and shoulders above anyone else in the show), and his mildly afro-like hairdo (an affliction shared by Nicholas Rowe, the "Holmes" from the previously mentioned film), he does an incredible job. This is not surprising, as he trained at RADA, then spent over a decade with the Royal Shakespeare company. His young Homes is appropriately dry, with an appropriate amount of both charm and arrogance. I liked him immediately.
The story begins as Holmes returns to the ancestral manse, only to find his parents have vacated the place and have pushed off to France, after a disgrace in society. The manor has been taken over by a Colonel Turnbull and his mysterious wife, whose house guest, the attractive but arrogant Jasper Moran (younger brother of canonical Holmes villain Sebastian Moran), sends our young Sherlock off with a push, reinforced by a hound at his heels. Holmes goes to his hideously prissy Aunt Rachel and crude Uncle Gideon, not knowing what has happened to his home, or to his parents....shades of the Zorro story there. This aunt and uncle are very Dickensian characters (as are a great many in the series); very broadly played, sanctimonious, and fun. Very much the type that the Harry Potter stories emulated, which is extra fun, as Guy Henry was in those films, as well. Here he learns the fate of his parents, and is grudgingly taken in by his aunt.
His first goal is to investigate the new inhabitants of the manor house; something is not right there, and his inborn detective's instincts have his curiosity awakened. Nobody is who they seem to be, and there's a plot in progress that threatens not only blighty, but the safety of Queen Victoria herself...and there is a sign of a professor named...Moriarty!
As I said, Henry is fantastic. The rest of the cast is very good too; Heather Chasen as Aunt Rachel and John Fraser as Uncle Gideon were delightfully and harmlessly despicable, Christopher Villiers was fantastically brash and vile as Jasper Moran, Tim Brierly, as the Watson-esque figure John Whitney, was very good, and especially charming was Jane Lowe, who played the housekeeper, Mrs. Cunliffe...who, due to impending nuptials, would soon be Mrs. Hudson. The acting, as I said, is a bit broad, but just enough so to be colourful. I really love this kind of 70's UK atmosphere, with it's stagey quality.
I very much recommend Young Sherlock: The Mystery of the Manor House to Sherlock Holmes aficionados; although Holmes portrayals can be hit and miss, particularly in these modern times, this one is nice and steady. The additions to the Holmes backstory are fun, and it's nice to see a few of the known characters in their younger years. It's good stuff.