Elementary is a Sherlock Holmes update, with the classic detective now living in New York and solving crimes alongside his sober companion Joan Watson.
For those of you who are fans of BBC’s Sherlock, the announcement of the American update made us all wonder the same thing – why not just broadcast Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman instead? A lot of Holmes fans felt that Elementary was just a way Americans could take hold of another franchise and set it in the States. Not to mention avoiding the licensing fees of importing a show with only three episodes per season. To an American television audience, only 3 episodes is madness, and to an executive, that just doesn’t make enough money. Add that they were taking the bromance and turning Watson into a woman, and the internet was abuzz all summer.
After watching the show now, I hate to say that there was nothing really original in it. Johnny Lee Miller does a great Holmes, but while his manipulation and observations are intriguing, he is nowhere near as captivating as Cumberbatch or even Robert Downey Jr. on the big screen. Instead, he runs around like mad, always on the hunt for some piece of a puzzle, and no different then the other two incarnations that are running alongside him. Johnny Lee Miller’s Holmes shows perhaps a touch more compassion and a touch less self-control, and yet that doesn’t even make him more appealing.
Lucy Liu, on the other hand, has perhaps the most preconceptions to break. One of the main draws of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson has always been their deep friendship. While Watson traditionally stands in awe of Holmes (especially in the books and in BBC’s Sherlock), they have also developed a partnership that puts them on more equal footing. They compliment each other well, there is chemistry in their interactions. I felt this was lacking between Liu and Lee Miller. She seemed put out and annoyed most of the episode, and you do not get a sense that they really connected. I don’t think making Watson a woman made a ton of difference; men and women can have deep, platonic friendships. But I don’t think the actors are perhaps the best together.
It is hard to really judge a pilot, because each one is merely the beginning for a format that could be years-long. However, other than calling the private investigator Holmes, I felt that there was not enough different in Elementary to make it worth viewing every week. Even Aidan Quinn, playing the New York version of Lestrade, basically stood there and repeated his lines. After watching the pilot, I find it hard to really view this show as anything other than CBS capitalizing on the popularity of Guy Ritchie’s fantastic film series and the cult following for BBC’s Sherlock. I am sure that the show will run for awhile. It has strong bones, a built-in fan base, and it plays up the weekly police procedural format that accounts for about 25% of shows on network television (if I really researched, that number would probably be higher). Is it a worthy entry into the long-running Holmes cannon? Not really.
Rating: 6/10 (Mostly because it was simply boring, not bad, just boring.)