There’s much to be afraid of when the US get their hands on a series to remake it (need we be reminded of Kath & Kim?). In re-imagining Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless detective AGAIN the immediate risk is comparison to the BBC’s spectacular new version Sherlock and the performances of Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman in the signature roles. It’s movements, it’s re-telling of classic Conan Doyle stories in the modern era. It is, in short brilliant.
Elementary is one of the few to survive the reiteration and come out an eminently watch-able series. Compelling, even.
Straight up there’s reasonable and unique twists to both Holmes & Watson – Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is a recovering addict now living in one of his wealthy father’s homes in New York City, tattoos and all; Watson is a disgraced former surgeon now working as a for-hire companion for ex-addicts to help keep them clean. And Watson’s first name is Joan.
While it may seem the simplest of twists, making Watson (Lucy Liu) a female works remarkably well. Miller’s Holmes is obsessive about the cases he works on and his addictive personality leaves him no space for platonic relationships. Thankfully the danger to gather Holmes & Watson into romantic intrigue is avoided allowing more a patient/doctor and coach/student relationships to grow. The inclusion of Aidan Quinn as Captain Tommy Gregson and Holmes’s open door within the NYPD offers a little history to the enigmatic detective as well.
When Elementary first aired in the US on CBS in September last year, it opened with 13.4 million viewers (a reasonably strong launch). It performed so well the network confirmed it for a full season, even giving it an episode to air straight out of the SuperBowl, and then ordering an extra two episodes bringing the total to 24 in season one. Not bad considering the grand possibility of failure.
Elementary is an enjoyable procedural drama with well constructed characters and plots to keep the audience hooked right into the final segment. Miller is delightful as the at-times skittish Holmes and his flair for the dramatic brings great light and shade to his flawed detective. Liu offers a distinct vulnerability in her Watson but doesn’t deliver the sleuthing partner as impotent (far from it). The series is carried marvellously by the two central characters and works well in the American context. Let’s face it – there’s a lot of crime in New York that could do with a Sherlock Holmes on the case.
It’s one of those intriguing shows where as soon as you get to the grand reveal at the end of the episode you smack your head with your palm and think “Of course! It’s Elementary…”
Elementary – starts Sun 03/02 8:30pm, Ch10.