This is a production still for the TV show "The Irregulars," streaming now on Netflix. CNS photo/Matt Squire, Netflix
This is a production still for the TV show "The Irregulars," streaming now on Netflix. CNS photo/Matt Squire, Netflix
NEW YORK – More than a century-and-a-quarter after his literary debut, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional English detective Sherlock Holmes seems ubiquitous these days.

The past dozen years have seen two feature films starring Robert Downey Jr., an acclaimed BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch and even a recent Netflix film, "Enola Holmes," introducing the sleuth's sister.

Netflix dips into the Holmes canon again with "The Irregulars." All eight episodes of the crime drama are streaming now.

Creator Tom Bidwell takes his title from a group of street urchins who crop up repeatedly in Conan Doyle's works. Enlisted by Holmes to track down information, these resourceful lads come to be known as the "Baker Street Irregulars" since they report their findings to Holmes at his residence on that London thoroughfare.

In Bidwell's take, the gang is now made up of teenagers. More diverse but no less streetwise, in Holmes' absence – which lasts for much of the series – they take their instructions from his partner, Dr. John Watson (Royce Pierreson).

Bidwell, alas, is no Conan Doyle, and "The Irregulars" is an offbeat mix of adolescent soap opera and gothic horror movie. Suitable neither for kids nor the faint of heart, it showcases villains who revel in such gruesome behavior as pulling teeth from the mouths of their victims or collecting skin flayed from their bodies.

In a nod to Alfred Hitchcock's classic film "The Birds," moreover, thousands of ravens descend on the seedy underbelly of London and pluck out the eyes of its denizens with abandon. As for the ears of the audience, they're assailed by pervasive crude and profane language.

With wicked supernatural forces at work, Watson goes in search of gang leader Bea (Thaddea Graham). He believes Bea's sister, Jessie (Darci Shaw), holds the key to averting a global apocalypse. Jessie's psychic nightmares indicate that a rift has opened to the "spirit world," with the result that people are turning into monsters.

"Your sister has a gift. She can see things normal people cannot," Watson tells Bea. "When you spend a lifetime fighting demons, you learn how to spot an angel."

Jessie finds an ally in her dream world in the person of The Linen Man (Clarke Peters). Impeccably attired, this well-mannered Southern gentleman shows Jessie around his Louisiana plantation as he preaches patience. 

Joining Bea and Jessie (and The Linen Man) in their crusade are pals Spike (McKell David) and Billy (Jojo Macari), as well as a newcomer, Leo (Harrison Osterfield). Though his freshly minted comrades are unaware of it, Leo is, in fact, a prince named Leopold who has escaped the captivity of life as a royal for some excitement in the real world.

A prince longing to be a pauper, Leo falls fast and hard for Bea, much to the consternation of lovesick Billy. Leo is also a hemophiliac, which – needless to say – complicates matters.

Much angst and bloody violence ensue before Holmes (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) emerges from the shadows. He's a physical wreck, writhing in pain from his addiction to drugs. But he carries a clutch of revelations.

Though it features impressive production values, "The Irregulars" comes across as maladroit and gratuitously macabre. The game may once again be afoot, but it's hobbling.

 McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.