Shawconnect TV critic Brent Furdyk samples the upcoming pilots for a first look at the new fall TV season
Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn
The gist: In present-day New York, ex-surgeon Joan Watson (Liu) is hired by a wealthy man to be the “sober companion” of his just-out-of-rehab son, a heavily tattooed Brit named Sherlock Holmes (Miller). Although her job is to keep Sherlock off drugs, she winds up becoming his “glorified helper monkey” as he solves crimes as an unpaid consultant for the NYPD’s Capt. Gregson (Quinn). See, Sherlock’s brilliant mind tends to race like a Lamborghini, so he needs to keep it constantly occupied lest he become bored and drift back into bad behaviour. Solving mysteries keeps his mind engaged, which is why he finds crime scenes even more addictive that drugs.
Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Victorian original was known to use a magnifying glass, the primary tool of the modern-day Holmes is his iPhone, which he uses to take crime-scene photos, grab crucial info from the Internet and hack into the NYPD database.
If the premise sounds familiar, it’s because it’s practically identical to that of Sherlock, the critically acclaimed, megahit BBC series about a modern-day Holmes and Watson.
It’s like… Sherlock. Period.
Sample line: “I don’t guess. I observe; then once I’ve observed, I deduce.”
IMHO: Elementary will inevitably be contrasted with Sherlock, but it’s simply not as good. Compared to the original, Elementary seems dumbed-down and clumsy; where Sherlock’s mysteries are painstakingly intricate and head-spinningly complex, the mystery in the Elementary pilot seems to have been lifted out of an old Columbo episode.
In addition, Elementary has an abundance of problems that are impossible to overlook, not least of which are the performances. As Holmes, Miller has big shoes to fill playing a role that’s recently been inhabited brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey, Jr. Unfortunately, Miller’s Holmes comes across as a tattooed bad-boy version of Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House, with a bit of Star Trek’s Data and Community’s Abed thrown in the mix. Meanwhile, Liu’s Watson greets every situation with the exact same facial expression of wide-eyed, slightly bemused surprise — if this isn’t the result of an overabundance of Botox in her face, then Liu has seemingly forgotten how to act. It doesn’t help that Watson, at least in the pilot, is given practically nothing to do other than ask Holmes stupid questions so he can provide answers that explain critical plot points to the viewer.
An even bigger problem is the decision to recast Watson as a woman in the first place. Whether it’s intended or not, there’s some serious sexual tension between the doctor and the detective — at one point they appear to flirt like they’re on a date. This fundamentally alters one of the world’s most iconic fictional partnerships, and not for the better, and the dynamic is more akin to that of Mulder and Scully than Holmes and Watson.
Fun fact: Sherlock creator Steven Moffat reveals he was approached by CBS to helm a U.S. remake of his critically and commercially successful reboot. According to Moffat, he declined — “and they just did it anyway.” After seeing the result, Moffat described Elementary as “another example of what happens in L.A. television, I suppose. I wasn’t very impressed by it.”
Verdict: Anyone who’s seen Sherlock will hate it; anyone who hasn’t will find a bland, somewhat pedestrian modern-day take on literature’s greatest detective. Viewers who have never heard of Sherlock Holmes might actually enjoy it, but that’s got to be a pretty small demographic.
Prediction: No mystery here — Elementary is a rip-off and a dud.
ELEMENTARY will air Thursdays at 10 p.m. on Global & CBS