Sunday, 4 November 2012


First it was the BBC, now it's CBS' turn to reinvent my favourite detective, Sherlock Holmes. It's safe to say CBS were not afraid of making changes, so let's dive straight in.

First of all, the title is simply, Elementary, which is suitably familiar, yet distinctive enough to feel new and different. A more controversial decision, for us Brits anyway, was the move across the pond to New York. The show is made for a US audience after all, and CBS explains the move by having Sherlock Holmes attend a drug rehab. Again, a sensible decision I think. Besides, we can't have Sherlock Holmes doing heroin, or other drugs, anymore. An issue which the BBC production brushed under the carpet. However, the most controversial decision was to make Dr Watson a woman, but again, I think this was the right thing to do. Nowadays, women can be both soldiers and surgeons, so time to move Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century. Besides, Watson has always been Holmes' conscience, voice of reason, and acted as the bridge between his cold logic and the more emotionally active, which is pretty much everyone else. After watching a couple of episodes of Elementary, it's quite clear CBS Holmes needs someone with maternal instincts. He does act like a spoiled teenager, one who still thinks he knows better than everyone else, and is a complete stranger to the informal social protocol.

What about the casting then? Jonny Lee Miller is playing the famously arrogant detective. I'm happy we have a Brit in the leading role, but I still have not actually met anyone who talks with such an accent. Have they all been exported to the US to play movie villains? I'm afraid he is the weakest link in the cast, but this is only because of the inevitable need to compare with Benedict Cumberbatch. Jonny Lee Miller certainly has the energy required, but he does not possess the necessary charisma, nor does he quite achieve the same level of intensity, or zeal, which Cumberbatch projects so well. Don't get me wrong, he is good, and he certainly pulls of eccentric, but it's a different kind of Holmes we see. BBC Holmes is more mature and dark, whereas CBS Holmes is more manic teenager, bordering on hysteric at times.

Dr. Joan Watson is played by Lucy Liu, who might be small in stature, but a giant when it comes to acting. She is also adorable. Super adorable. This is a brilliant piece of casting, as she brings a lot of credibility and warmth to the show. Sherlock Holmes' father has hired her to look after his son and prevent a possible relapse into drug abuse. She tries to help by imposing order and routine into Holmes' chaotic lifestyle, but also by attempting to crack the shell he built around himself. There is a level of caring, sympathy and dignity which we did not see from Martin Freeman's Dr. Watson. She still puts up with Holmes' 'abuse', but with a look of concern on her face. So far Dr. Joan Watson is a lot less physical than her male counterpart, and I am not sure we will se Holmes asking her to bring her gun.

Aidan Quinn takes on the part of Captain Toby Gregson. I liked him a lot in Prime Suspect (USA), where he played a very similar role. Another case of good casting, although in Elementary, his character does not do much except make sure Holmes is allowed to be in on the case. Jon Michael Hill plays Detective Marcus Bell, whose only purpose is to make Holmes look good by always being wrong.

Elementary so far has not disappointed, and by the looks of the solid cast and the slick production seems like CBS are very committed to the show. My only real objection is the remake Sherlock Holmes has suffered. He has gone from a slightly disheveled, but still proper attire, to a more shabby look with t-shirt and a couple of tattoos. Also, the opening sequence would be more appropriate for another British classic, Wallace and Gromit.

I have enjoyed Elementary a lot so far, and it can hold its own against Sherlock. The two shows are sufficiently different for there to be room for both of them. Sherlock is the darker, more serious older brother, and Elementary, the younger, with a much lighter mood. Both are worth watching.


  1. ...
    This is the first I've heard of this. I'm a bit shocked to be honest. My first thought was that it must be some atrocious Hollywood cockup, but I guess it's worth a look.
    But I should probably see the BBC series first. I'm ashamed that I haven't watched it yet.

    1. I strongly encourage you to watch Sherlock, and then Elementary :)

    2. I recently watched the first season of Sherlock and loved it!
      Still apprehensive about Elementary, but if I get the chance I'll give it a go :)

    3. Glad you liked Sherlock at least :)