Elementary Is Holmes

When I reviewed BBC’s Sherlock last year, I noted that CBS was planning its own rip-off version of the Sherlock Holmes character, seemingly to ride on the success of the BBC version.  After watching the first season of Elementary, which concluded with a two hour season finale last week, I’m glad I waited to do a review of the show, since my conclusions now are vastly different from the ones that I would have drawn when the show was just a few episodes into its freshman season.

The set up of the show is that Sherlock Holmes lives in New York City (yes he’s still British), while recovering from a stint in rehab after crashing from a serious heroin addiction problem.  Dr Joan Watson is hired by Holmes’s off screen aloof and distant father to be his sober companion, to assist in Holmes’s recovery.  As part of her job she moves in with Holmes and follows him around to make sure he doesn’t relapse.  From that starting point, Holmes resumes his relationship with the NYPD as “consulting detective;” similar to the position he held in London with Scotland Yard.

After watching the first couple of episodes, my feelings toward the show was that it was a well crafted TV show, well done in the sense that CBS has long experience with putting together solid television programming, with solid leads in the roles, but that it wasn’t Sherlock Holmes.  Although the Holmes stories are the template of the eccentric detective and side kick, which have proliferated on television since the beginning of the TV era, those shows were not Sherlock Holmes stories.  Psych is a good solid show with witty wordplay and a humorous bent about an eccentric genius detective and his down to earth side kick that helps keep him grounded.  Monk was a good solid show with light fun stories about an eccentric detective and a down to earth side kick… well, you get the idea.  It’s a common TV template that’s been replicated over and over for years; with various degrees of success.

That was my initial conclusion.  Elementary was a good solid show, but there was no need for the characters to be named Holmes and Watson.  They could have any names and it wouldn’t have mattered to the show.

Until it mattered.

The last half of the season very slowly began to explore the reasons for Holmes’s spiraling drug abuse, the murder of his one true love, Irene Adler, and Holmes inability to solve her murder.  In the episode, “M” Holmes confronts murders done in almost identical matter to the one that killed Irene Adler and revealing whom may be ultimately responsible, Moriarty.  From this point, the shows seem a bit less stand alone adventures and more interlinked stories that eventually form a story arc leading to a fantastic and fulfilling season finale.  All of the pieces finally fit.

So that’s why I’m glad I waited to review the show.  It turned out to be much more than I initially thought, and even if CBS is trying to ride the coattails of Sherlock, since it leads to a quality show that deserves to be Holmes in its own right, who cares?

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8 thoughts on “Elementary Is Holmes

  1. I haven’t seen Elementary, but I’ve heard good things about it. I might have to check it out. Not that I need yet another TV show to distract me from other, more productive pursuits. But since Vegas got cancelled (damn you, CBS!), I guess I have an open spot in my schedule.


    • It’s a CBS show, so it’s a PG-13 type. I’m sure if it had been done on HBO it would feature a lot of gratuitous nudity.
      Hmmm… there is an idea, Game of Holmes. Sherlock has a sex addiction instead of a drug addiction…


      • Holmes should not have a sex addiction. He needs to continue thinking of women as insignificant creatures. I tend to watch old British mysteries that don’t show much violence. I think sometimes extreme violence and sexual things replace a good story. At times I watch gratuitous sex and violence like Spartacus and Borgia but now I’m on a break. Next I’m going to watch Game of Thones.


  2. My impression with this show is that they took the Law and Order template and threw in some Sherlock Holmes. Not a bad idea but the show didn’t draw me in like it has others. My daughter is an avid fan.


  3. this was one of my favorite ‘new’ shows.. so of course I expected it to be cancelled.. (that seems to be my record). I’m glad to see that it’s a definite hit..

    I didn’t have a problem with it skirting true ‘Sherlock’ lore.. only because I’ve gotten used to show writers and their ‘creative liberties’. I can’t tell you how many times I yelled out loud at the TV during the 1st season of Merlin. I mean, Guinevere a house maid? WTF? Mordred a druid boy? I mean, there are ‘creative liberties’ and then there’s just blasphemy.. and Merlin bordered on the latter.. but somehow made up for it by being a very fun show (too bad it had to end).. So when Elementary was a little.. uh.. ‘off’ I said to myself.. ‘Self, give it a chance, this Sherlock looks to be pretty good actor and you know you love Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn so give it a chance’.. and I’m glad I did.
    I do think they burned “M” a little too quickly tho. I guess “M” (not going to spoil anything just in case someone hasn’t seen the finale yet).. could possible come back in other seasons.. But I could have stood them dragging that little bit of history out a little farther.. Not that I didn’t L-O-V-E their twist.. I just wonder how they can top it next season while staying along the lines of ‘true’ with the traditional story of Holmes… Then again, it’s good enough on it’s own without following the lore, so I’ll probably be happy either way..


    • Well there was really no reason for Holmes purists to diss Elementary in favor of Sherlock. They were both set in the current day and both have to make changes to accommodate that fact. You should have seen the Sherlock version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. There was no resemblance to Doyle’s original story.

      So I’m good with the re-imagining. Particularly when the source material has been done to death, like Holmes, or like Merlin. When there have been 40 or 50 different versions of the Arthurian legend, I don’t have a problem with the source material being tweaked to mine some original storytelling out of it.


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