It’s Elementary the review or…
Why you should watch this show while smugly knowing you are smarter when you watch Sherlock on PBS (then again you’re always smarter when you watch stuff on PBS).
The setup: Sherlock Holmes in modern day New York with a female Dr. Watson. Sherlock is played by Jonny Lee Miller (not gonna lie, I heart him) and Lucy Liu (she was so good on Ally McBeal) plays Watson. The show is on CBS and is exactly what you would think a CBS update of Sherlock Holmes would be, a forensically based crime procedural, FUN (confession I totally watch CSI and NCIS on USA, Melissa stop laughing, both are excellent workplace comedies)!
Across the pond and on PBS here in the USA there is Sherlock by Stephen Moffat. The setup: Sherlock Holmes lives on Baker Street in modern times using deduction and modern technology to solve crimes with his retired military doctor sidekick Watson (who is also a bit of a playboy). There have only been a total of six episodes of Sherlock and I would imagine that Elementary will get a full season (22-24 episodes) if it can pull in numbers similar to Person of Interest so it might be too early to compare them and yet I’m going to do it anyway (it’s my blog I’ll snark if I want to).
Compare I must…
Sherlock used just one whole episode to set up the relationship between Holmes and Watson and references the source material in every episode, i.e. they update actual Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes stories and use his characters. Elementary will probably spend the entire season setting up the relationship and with its procedural format will most likely NOT use the source material (at least they didn’t with the pilot and it looks like next weeks will also just be a CSI-type mystery). It also looks like Holmes and Watson are the only two characters from the stories with Holmes nemesis Moriarty showing up later in the season. I totally understand this, as Elementary must appeal to a wider American audience who has heard of Sherlock and Watson but not the other characters nor be familiar with the stories.
Sherlock benefits from much shorter seasons (three episodes) and an audience that is very familiar with the source material (if they were to change inspector LeStrange’s name there would be an uproar). It was also created in an environment where a showrunner often creates and then writes the whole or most of the series (in this country HBO has been doing this all along and basic cable is following suit with shows like Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy). This helps with continuity as well as making sure the characters are more well rounded.
Stephen Moffat is a great writer
Currently he is the showrunner for Doctor Who and he created Coupling and Jekyll as well as Sherlock. He is very good at writing in many different genres– comedy, drama, horror and fantasy. Some of the scariest episodes of Doctor Who were written by Moffat, yet they were also quite funny. Because of Moffat, Sherlock is really fun, the mysteries are well thought out, and the characters’ relationships are fantastic. Rupert Graves is a stand out as Inspector LeStrange, Sherlock’s contact at Scotland Yard–part defender of Sherlock and adversary. Aiden Quinn is playing a similar character on Elementary and I hope the writers give him more to do than they did on the pilot.
Benedict Cumberbatch is so dreamy!
And Martin Freeman too (Fun Fact: Freeman originally turned down The Hobbit to be Watson in Sherlock, but because it took so long to get a director he was able to be both Watson and Bilbo)!
The bottom line
Sherlock is the much better show. However, Elementary is neat for those of us who like crime procedurals and Miller and Liu have nice chemistry (I call bullshit on the characters never hooking up; all showrunners say that in the beginning then the shippers go crazy on the interwebs and next thing you know Watson will be pregnant) so it’s worth watching after Grey’s Anatomy (wait you don’t watch Grey’s???) as a precursor to bed.
Lastly, I highly recommend spending a rainy Saturday pouring through Sherlock on Netflix. Seriously for those of you who are going to pick up Netflix once Arrested Development returns this a must see (hmmm, hmmm, Melissa)!!!
[I have fifty things on my list once I get Netflix again for AD. Sherlock, Breaking Bad, The Shield… I’m afraid I won’t be able to cancel it again. Anyway I was looking forward to this but I hate procedurals, as cable TV’s short seasons of high-quality, tight storylines have spoiled me. It’s on the DVR, though, so I might watch it if I ever catch up on Fringe. -M]