Tonight was the premiere of CBS’ new Sherlock Holmes’ inspired drama Elementary, and our verdict is in. The long and short of it is if you are a fan of police procedurals or CSIs this will be a show you enjoy. It’s got two excellent actors in the lead roles, a fun mystery to be solved in the pilot, and loads of potential for a romantic subplot (yeah I call major shenanigans on the producers claiming there’ll be no kissing never ever.)
Jonny Lee Miller is fantastic as a manic spiraling Sherlock Holmes. A character who’ll do anything to keep from being bored. Be that drugs, sex, watching five televisions at once, or solving homicides. Whether he was deducing a room aloud or in his mind, Miller was fascinating to watch. As he moved through scenes, his eyes were always wide as they took in everything and his hands almost never ceased moving as he explored his environments.
Lucy Liu was his perfect foil. Admittedly she’s one of my favorite actresses so maybe I’m biased, but the calm curiosity and quiet surprise she exuded never overwhelmed or seemed cheesy. Even better, her Joan Watson never quite let Holmes get the upper hand in their new relationship. She put her foot down more often than in her mouth, as is the case with so many classic Watsons.
The issue here is that this show could have starred the characters Dominic McDonough and Liza Kerbstadt. There is very little that screams Sherlock Holmes to me aside from the obvious. There are a handful of nods to canon: the police captain is named Gregson, Sherlock keeps bees on the roof, and you know he sees everything and anything and has no virtually no filter.
But there have been quite a few modern Sherlock Holmes-type characters on American television already. People who are able to whip out fantastic deductions and astound those around them; who are simultaneously abrasive and charming: Patrick Jane, Greg House, Adrian Monk, Shawn Spencer. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the consulting detective he not only gave history one of its greatest characters, but also one of the most interesting character archetypes. That’s all this show really needed – and instead they wanted to use the name Sherlock Holmes.
No doubt the popularity of the character thanks to Warner Bros and the BBC productions was the inspiration for this American version to come at this time. And CBS clearly wants to emphasize that this is Sherlock Holmes. This was evident in the first minute of the show. The new marketting technique of networks watermarking shows with hashtags to promote social media discussion is used on almost everything. Typically its the title like #DoctorWho or perhaps an acronym like #AHS. I was immeadiately put out when I saw that they wanted us to talk about their show not by its title, but with #Sherlock.
And that to me is the biggest problem with this show. This was a well done procedural, filled with phenomenal acting, and a really great and gritty setting in New York. But the incessant need to plaster the word SHERLOCK HOLMES all over it in neon was unnecessary. It was done to capitalize on the fandom fervor surrounding the character at the moment. If you are a fan simply of the character of Sherlock Holmes – be it BBC or Grenada – and are looking for a new outlet for your detective I wouldn’t look too close here.
The pre-premiere freak out over the fact that this was a BBC copycat or that it would take away from the show is moot, no need to fear there. The shows are different enough to be able to watch both separately. At the same time, if you are a fan of the Holmes archetype, would like to get into a new procedural, and see some kickass actors take on the challenge than you need not worry. Elementary really does have something going for it. I just hope that CBS allows it to grow into its own name, rather than the one with the incredibly prestigious history already occupied by so many others.