Elementary TV Review (Eps 1-4)

Elementary, the latest reincarnation of the 19th century sleuth Sherlock Holmes, proves to be…well, pretty elementary.

Modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes aren’t exactly a new idea – during the WWII period, Holmes and Watson were seen battling the Nazis and of course, there’s House M.D. and Moffat-Gatiss’s very own Sherlock.

Elementary does try to differentiate itself from the rest, by having Lucy Liu play Joan Watson. Watson’s backstory is completely revamped as well, she’s no longer an ex-army doctor looking for a flatmate. Watson is now Holmes’s erm, post-rehab / sober companion. Elementary further steers itself away from the original books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as Scotland Yard becomes nothing but a distant memory of Holmes’s past and the duo now solve crimes in contemporary New York City. There’s also no instance of a Greek interpreter or a mysterious hound lurking in Baskerville* (…yet?).

IMLTHO: Sherlock has mad texting skillz (click on image for a larger version)

Miller-Liu’s partnership is frosty at first, but by the third episode, they seem to have found their footing. Set against cardboard detective figures (Lestrade, where art thou?), the Holmes-Watson dynamic is fresh and exciting. Miller plays a tattooed Holmes who texts in abbreviations and has an uncanny knack in getting out of handcuffs (I mean this in the most non-sexual way possible, honest). His bursts of energy set against Liu’s stern-faced Watson are quite endearing. Liu’s take on Watson is interesting, she shows some restraint when interacting with Holmes’s antics – he is, after all, still her client per se, but she also subtly reveals a more approachable side from time to time. The pair, as a whole, are highly captivating and are a delight to watch.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all Elementary has riding for them. The stale cases – evil twin murderer, child abduction, a secret scandal in a multi-million dollar corporation – seem akin to Hollywood FBI cases, ones that could be found on Criminal Minds or The Mentalist. I highly doubt we need another conventional crime show or CSI: Sherlock.

It is interesting to note that one does not need to have read the books or seen any of the films or television series to already know what Sherlock Holmes is more or less about. The great detective has been ingrained in the global collective memory for many centuries and his influence can undeniably be seen in many instances of pop culture today. The reason why Sherlock Holmes stories still excite 21st century audiences lies in none other than the remarkably gifted mind of Holmes. But more importantly, it’s the compelling cases he solves with such quick skill and intelligence that wows the viewer. Without the backdrop of gripping mysteries, Holmes’ display of intellect and wit is only evident with his interaction with Watson and his brillance, thus, being greatly reduced.

My rating: **1/2

*Side note: Hounds of Baskerville is my favourite Sherlock Holmes mystery by far. I’m currently reading The Valley of Fear, my heart aches – I don’t want it to end!

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7 thoughts on “Elementary TV Review (Eps 1-4)”

  1. Always a pleasure to meet a Sherlockian!

    I too love ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and ‘The Valley of Fear’. ‘Silver Blaze’ is my favorite short story.

    Cheers!

    1. I thoroughly agree! And ‘Silver Blaze’ is one of my favourites as well.

      I really enjoyed reading your reviews over at your blogspot website – I think you’re right, Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes influence is still very Robert Downey Jr. -esque (and maybe Cumberbatch too…) And I quite like your take on the Sherlock BBC mini-series as well, though Andrew Scott’s Moriarty isn’t that bad. His over-the-top attitude is pretty hilarious. I’m probably being very biased too because I think Sherlock is a lot more enjoyable to watch than Elementary.

      1. No problem! Yes, I agree with you again that Guy Ritchie’s film version of Moriarty was alot closer to the original ACD version and he was pretty damn sinister, and very cunning.

        I’ll probably go for BBC Sherlock’s Watson over Jude Law though. I think it’s because I have a soft spot for Martin Freeman ever since The Office (UK)!

  2. Yes, Jared Harris nailed the character of Moriarty. I think he gave the definitive performance.

    I would also recommend the Arthur Wontner series and the Russian series with Sir Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes. Both of these gentlemen gave excellent performances as Sherlock Holmes.

    1. Oh I haven’t seen those yet! Will definitely try to get my hands on them.

      What do you think of past British renditions of Holmes like Jeremy Brett or Basil Rathbone?

      1. I like Sir Basil’s version of Holmes, despite the fact he had to make do with (arguably) the worst version of Watson ever! Basil had a great resemblance to Sidney Paget’s representation of Holmes and presented a very debonair Holmes.

        Unfortunately, I do not count myself among the numerous fans of Brett’s performance. I like the Granada series in general for the excellent Watsons, sets, costumes, music and everything else…. But Holmes himself was exceedingly neurotic as the series went on… I would recommend the book “Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes” by David Stuart Davies. This book explains a lot about the Granada series….

        PS: Arthur Wontner’s series was also British!

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