Yes, he and Cumberbatch are good friends. Bennedict Cumberbatch has said he's concerned about this show because he doesn't want it to ruin his friend's career if it tanks.
As for this show, it was completely unremarkable. I actually completely forgot it was a Sherlock Holmes show throughout most of it. They missed the whole point of the Holmes/Watson dynamic (and no I don't mean Watson's sex).
Sadly, I have to agree.
I decided to give the show a few episodes to settle in and find it's own way but sadly, it's just basically another "quirky investigator helps the police solve crimes'' procedural. They lost me in the pilot episode when Watson asks Holmes "How did you know about my parents?" and instead of a brilliant string of deductions he pops out "GOOGLE, not everything is deducible." Which pretty much means he could have googled everything about her he supposedly deduced.
I agree also that they have missed the Holmes/Watson dynamic. Watson grounds Holmes and gives Holmes someone (a surrogate for the reader/viewer) to whom he must explain his deductions. They seem determined to make Watson an equal to Holmes rather than a sounding board or source of inspiration. She's picking out bits of evidence that Holmes should have noticed and providing facts that he should already know.
The 11/01 episode was the saddest yet. They had Holmes "deducing" that two people had been in a room and one of them was a woman because there were two take-away coffee cups in the trash and one of them had lipstick on it. Watson then figures out from the coffee shop barista that the woman works in an exclusive perfume shop, something that Holmes should have known; his head should be crammed full of perfumes, tobaccos, inks, jewelry, fashions, chemicals, papers, electronics, etc..
The writers, I think, have discovered the hard way that it's really hard to write clever deductions on top of a good whodunit on a weekly basis.
I'll keep watching since I like the cast, but it's really not Sherlock Holmes.
The main thing for me when I say missing the point of the dynamic is how Watson is supposed to be fascinated by Holmes's deductions (he's the POV character after all). I love that exchange of dialogue in the first Sherlock episode. Don't remember the exact quotes, but it's when John goes on about how fantastic that was.
"That's not what people normally say."
"What do people normally say?"