Last night, the Paley Center showcased 4 pilots from CBS. Photo courtesy of CBS. Elementary is one of the most talked about new shows in this fall’s lineup, and it is no surprise that it was the first pilot shown. Crime procedural fans as well as Sherlock Holmes universe fans will find a lot to like in Elementary. Sherlock Holmes, played by Johnny Lee Miller, moves to New York City after struggling with drug addiction and personal problems in London.
Joan Watson, played by Lucy Liu, is Holmes’ appointed recovery companion. She is a former surgeon who left the field after the death of a patient. Watson believes that all she has to do is keep Holmes from returning to his past addictive behavior. Suddenly, she is following Holmes to his job as a consulting detective for the NYPD. Holmes must figure out who murdered a woman in her home. Watson reluctantly assists Holmes in uncovering the mystery.
Holmes is still the cold and calculating jerk fans love. He has extremely sharp deduction skills and is often steps ahead of his coworkers. The most radical change to Holmes’ character concerns his addiction. The original stories have occasional mentions of Sherlock Holmes using opium as result of boredom. Other incarnations either erase or downplay. In a departure from previous incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, Holmes is not immune from the ability to make mistakes.
His sexuality is also less ambiguous and/or asexual compared to past versions. These additions to Holmes’ character set Elementary apart.
Joan Watson is definitely the more interesting half of the duo in the pilot. Watson’s gender, profession, and race swap dramatically alter her character’s relationship to Holmes. Watson and Holmes have the potential to become good friends as well as coworkers. Hardcore fans of the bromance of Holmes and Watson a lot are probably not going to like this change.
Watson’s occupation also undergoes a dramatic shift. While Watson is still a doctor, she does not have any military experience. Many fans might believe that this will hurt Watson’s ability to fight crime, but the pilot refutes this idea. She is capable of finding clues on her own and can also come to Holmes’ rescue. Her medical background still gives Watson an advantage in case solving. Her additional role as a sober companion gives her more authority and control, and makes the dynamic more compelling to watch. Loyal Sherlock BBC fans and critics looking for Elementary to be a scene by scene remake are going to be severely disappointed.
Most of the similarities are minor details. Holmes and Watson like to solve mysteries. Sherlock likes to text on his iPhone. Some of the shot composure and soundtrack appear similar, but this can be contributed to overall crime procedural tropes. Captain Gregson is a detective for the NYPD. Everything else, especially elements of Holmes and Watson’s personality and their dynamic, is definitely different than the BBC miniseries. Elementary’s writers are steering in a different direction, and I hope this trend continues. Fans of the BBC miniseries should approach Elementary with an open mind and watch at least one episode before making up their minds. I am excited to see what Elementary has to offer in future episodes.
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This was my first The Paley Center for Media event article. Covering Paley panels helped me develop my live tweeting and review skills. Originally posted September 7, 2012.