Elementary is the new Sherlock Holmes TV show that premiered last night. It’s modern. It takes place in New York. Sherlock is played by Jonny Lee Miller and Dr. (Joan) Watson by Lucy Liu. I thought that Sherlock was going to be American, which would be blasphemy because Sherlock needs to be British just as much as any version of Arthur Dent or the Queen does. And rest assured, he is. In fact, Watson has taken to correcting his British-ism, telling him the baseball game is not called “a match.” He also refers to the New York subway as The Tube. I’m not sure how realistic that is that he wouldn’t know it’s called a subway, unless he’s being stubborn.
I can’t say that the show is bad. I just don’t know how necessary it is. If you want a modern day Sherlock, you need only to watch Steven Moffatt’s Sherlock or even House, which is based on Sherlock Holmes. The crime/mystery, at least in this pilot episode, is nothing original. It’s just like any other of the billion cop dramas. What’s going to make people tune in is the relationship between Sherlock and Dr. Watson. So let’s look at that.
Miller’s Sherlock, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, and House all draw from the original source in terms of personality. Caring for people on a human level is sacrificed for genius. The mystery is fun, even if someone got hurt. Miller and Cumberbatch both do the same thing when they are forced to swallow their ego and say something nice to someone else, that someone often being Dr. Watson. When Sherlock and Joan Watson are first introduced to each other, it seemed clear that the fact that Dr. Watson is a woman is going to make a big difference to their relationship. (The first thing Sherlock says to her is that he’s in love with her.) But this is quickly dismissed and their friendship becomes that of any friends regardless gender. Are they going to change that later and make either of them a love interest for the other? I don’t know, but I hope not. It seems a tacky move to assume just because Dr. Watson is a woman in this version therefore she has to be a love interest. We’ll see if the show can maintain its dignity or cave to the sappy masses.
In House, Dr. House (Holmes (Homes?)) and Dr. James Wilson (Dr. John/Joan Watson) do not live together. They work together. Regardless, Wilson is the one relationship House really cares about and needs. This need is also reflected in Sherlock and Elementary. Sherlock finds that he needs Watson’s help, both in the case and to keep his humanity in check. The biggest difference between Sherlock and Elementary is that in Sherlock, Watson was a doctor in the war who has come to rent a room with Sherlock and finds himself working cases with him. In Elementary, Watson was a surgeon who now works to watch over people who’ve just been released from rehab. She lives with Sherlock because he had been on drugs, went to rehab, and was released. Are drugs going to be a challenge for him later? At the moment, he makes it out to look like addiction was just something he wanted to try once and now he’s over it, he’s too rational to give into it without reason. However, it would take an interesting turn. Not unique though. House was addicted to drugs, too.
Both Miller’s and Cumberbatch’s Sherlocks have lives governed by their families from a distance. In Elementary, Sherlock’s father had him put in rehab and organized Watson coming to stay with him. He checks in with her via phone from time to time. In Sherlock, Sherlock’s brother is constantly “kidnapping” Watson and asking him to do things for or say things to Sherlock, since he and his brother do not get along.
What I would like to see (if I keep watching): More original crimes/mysteries and less formulaic cop show plotlines. Also, something that makes this show different from both House and Sherlock.
Verdict: If you’ve seen all 176 episodes of House and just can’t get enough, this is the show for you. Same character, different setting.