First Impressions – Elementary: Pilot & While You Were Sleeping


Here’s another modern take on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.  Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is a recovering addict and a former consultant to Scotland Yard who comes to New York to check into a rehabilitation center.  His father hires him a sober companion, Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), to look after him when he gets out.  He takes on assisting NYPD’s Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) in solving various crimes taking place in New York City after his stint in rehab.

BBC’s Sherlock it is not.  Producer Sue Vertue said that she would be watching this show very closely for infringement.  In that respect, I don’t think Elementary has anything to worry about.  Regardless of the fact that I absolutely adore Sherlock, I had to give this show a try.  I love Jonny Lee Miller.  I love Lucy Liu.  I love Aidan Quinn.  Just in case you’re keeping a count, that’s three loves and they’re all playing leading roles.  That’s rare.

So I took a giant leap of faith with a very skeptical look at it, setting myself up for a huge disappointment.  I am glad that I waited to watch 2 episodes before doing this review though.  The set-up in the first episode was so cut and dry.  Holmes and Watson meet.  They solve a case.  Holmes realizes he needs Watson to stay on.

This drama opts not to take Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and adapt them into modern times.  In my opinion, that was probably the best course of action.  First, Sherlock has adapted the stories extremely well.  Second, the run is considerably longer for an American television series than it is for British television series.  Of course, the BBC version is actually a three episode miniseries.  Whatever.

Elementary only takes elements, personality traits and perhaps background history of Sherlock and Watson to work them into these brand new crime stories.  The problem with that is that the story and its characters becomes muddled.  It doesn’t have the unique Sherlock feel therefore making Sherlock the character become this eccentric smart ass and nothing more.  It can work as we’ve seen that with Hugh Laurie and House but the set up with Elementary places it in the crime drama world and I feel a little cheated if it doesn’t take it the full mile.  It’s simply doesn’t have that unique Sherlockyness to it.

The whole point of Sherlock solving crimes in the Victorian era was that he was able to find clues and deduce the facts using forensic science when the science was only in its infancy.  Where BBC’s Sherlock takes it is that even with modern forensic science, Sherlock Holmes is like a walking talking forensic science lab and database.  Here, I don’t know what this Sherlock Holmes is except to say that these cops must be idiots if they don’t see the clues that even I can spot from a mile away.

Having said that, the drama has established a formula with each episode.  The cases are mildly entertaining but they aren’t enough to keep me on my toes.

So that leaves the characters and relationship and/or chemistry with each other to keep audiences coming back week after week.  This reminds me of Castle.  The cases in Castle weren’t all that unique but what kept me going was the underlying romance between Castle and Beckett.  Unfortunately, the writers and producers toyed with the audience and dragged us along for so long that when they finally got together last season I was no longer interested.  We’ve been told that we won’t have that kind of relationship here between Holmes and Watson.  It will simply be a bromance which I think is unfortunate.  I’m sorry, but I’m just not interested in that.

I want their characters to be building towards something significant if the cases aren’t interesting enough to deliver.  As for now, it’s still a little early to completely pan on this series and I plan on sticking around for a little longer.  Other than some great actors I’m not sure if I’ll be sticking around until the finale if the show is unable to insert their own brand of distinction that will set it apart from other crime dramas.



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