(CNN)There have been so many variations on Sherlock Holmes that the idea of another — especially built around teenagers — didn’t provoke much enthusiasm going in. But “The Irregulars” proves unexpectedly fun, in what amounts to a Victorian version of “The X-Files,” revising the most familiar characters while introducing a major dose of the supernatural to Baker Street.
Holmes himself, in fact, remains merely a shadowy presence through much of the series, which focuses on a highly resourceful group of street urchins, recruited by Holmes sidekick Dr. Watson (Royce Pierreson) to assist him in probing matters of the paranormal. Those strange occurrences add up to a larger threat, one that unfolds via a series of cliffhangers that make “The Irregulars” perfect fodder for a regular old binge.
The teens are a diverse lot, including a pair of sisters, Bea and Jessie (Thaddea Graham and Darci Shaw), the latter exhibiting eerie psychic powers. Adding to the soapy qualities, Bea encounters a slumming prince (Harrison Osterfield) who has defied his handlers by venturing out into the city, becoming an unlikely member of what amounts to this Victorian London-era version of the Scooby gang.
Written by Tom Bidwell, “The Irregulars” playfully jumbles expectations, while possessing a darker and harder edge than another recent Netflix production mixing teens with Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, the movie “Enola Holmes,” in what might be the most particular “You might like” combination the service can offer.
Street boys called the Irregulars were featured in a few of the original Holmes stories, but any similarity pretty much ends there. Indeed, the eight-episode series quickly takes on a life of its own, building toward a somewhat messy (perhaps inevitably, given the subject matter) conclusion that provides a degree of closure while leaving the door ajar for further adventures.
Netflix has already delivered a media darling this year with another trip into England’s way-back machine, “Bridgerton.” HBO, meanwhile, will mix the supernatural with period London in the upcoming “The Nevers,” making this a boom time for costume dramas with a twist.
“The Irregulars” doesn’t yield the same kind of swoon-worthy moments as the former, but it’s generally more satisfying — with a strong cast that includes not only the kids, but recurring roles for Clarke Peters (“The Wire”) and Rory McCann (“Game of Thrones”) — especially for those who can appreciate how cleverly the writing reimagines Holmes lore in order to fit this macabre framework.
What “The Irregulars” achieves isn’t exactly elementary, but it has taken a familiar hodgepodge of elements and managed to concoct something that feels fresh and engaging, if not exactly new. And the show mostly gets away with it thanks, in part, to those meddling kids.
“The Irregulars” premieres March 26 on Netflix.