CBS Jumps on the Sherlock Bandwagon with Elementary

PlayItGrand June 11, 2012 No Comments »

Over the past month or two, viewers of CBS might have caught sight of a very short trailer for a new  Fall series called Elementary. Starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, Elementary is CBS’s attempt to jump on the Sherlock and Steven Moffat driven bandwagons.

Check out the series description that CBS has released:


ELEMENTARY stars Jonny Lee Miller as detective Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson in a modern-day drama about a crime-solving duo that cracks the NYPD’s most impossible cases. Following his fall from grace in London and a stint in rehab, eccentric Sherlock escapes to Manhattan where his wealthy father forces him to live with his worst nightmare – a sober companion, Dr. Watson.  A successful surgeon until she lost a patient and her license three years ago, Watson views her current job as another opportunity to help people, as well as paying a penance.  However, the restless Sherlock is nothing like her previous clients.  He informs her that none of her expertise as an addiction specialist applies to him and he’s devised his own post-rehab regimen – resuming his work as a police consultant in New York City. Watson has no choice but to accompany her irascible new charge on his jobs.  But Sherlock finds her medical background helpful, and Watson realizes she has a knack for playing investigator. Sherlock’s police contact, Capt. Tobias “Toby” Gregson (Aidan Quinn), knows from previous experience working with Scotland Yard that Sherlock is brilliant at closing cases, and welcomes him as part of the team.  With the mischievous Sherlock Holmes now running free in New York solving crimes, it’s simple deduction that he’s going to need someone to keep him grounded, and it’s elementary that it’s a job for Watson.  Rob Doherty, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly and Michael Cuesta, who directed the pilot, are executive producers for CBS Television Studios.

I first heard about this series when my mom found a tiny blurb in the Chicago Tribune. I believe my first reaction was something along the lines of, “Wait, what? . . . No no no no no!” Why? Because I could see it for exactly what it is: an attempt to snag Sherlock fans while we wait for the next series to arrive God knows when next year. It could even be CBS’s way of trying to bring House fans over from FOX, since there are certain similarities in character and genre niche. It bothers me when a network takes up a show because of the popularity of the idea. To me it says that the show might be so busy chasing that popular idea that it might not take enough risks to really be unique.

On the other hand, Elementary seems to be taking a pretty big leap in one very important way. John Watson, the ever present male sidekick to Sherlock Holmes has been turned into Joan Watson, a woman! Of all the changes to make, this just made me shake my head. Really? A woman? I’m all about strong female characters, but historically Watson has usually gotten the short end of the stick. To make Watson anything less than a strong female character who does a lot more than kowtow to Holmes’ genius will only add insult to injury. Already I can’t help but think she won’t be as strong as she could be because, unlike the Watson of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work and many subsequent versions, they chose not to give this Watson a military background. It also seems to be a really cheep way to put a twist on the time honored duo. If there is one hint of a romance between them, that will completely ruin it for me.

Jonny Lee Miller is an excellent British actor, far better known in the UK than in the US. I immediately recognized him from Eli Stone, a show I enjoyed a lot, short lived as it was. I believe he is a good casting choice for Sherlock Holmes, but, if the trailers are any indication, I think there will be a lighter feel and a more humorous tone to the show with him as lead than in previous adaptations. Is it just me, or does his Sherlock seem a little goofy?

Otherwise, the show seems to be pretty predictable, and pretty well spelled out in the description and the multiple trailers you can find online. The only question I am left with is about the cases themselves. Will Elementary steal directly from Sherlock and adapt the original Victorian era stories to our time? If they target the lesser known stories that Sherlock has thus far skipped it might be interesting, but I have a hard time believing that they will be able to do it with nearly as much panache. It looks more likely that these cases will be completely apart from the original mysteries, so essentially only Holmes and Watson have made the trip to the present day. If so, the cases had better be very complex indeed, or this is going to be downright boring.

Despite my first reaction, I have to admit that I’m curious about the approach they will ultimately take, and if it will to any justice to the classic or to Sherlock which inspired it, or simply fall flat. Either way, you’ll know what I think if you check back here after Elementary premiers this Fall.

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