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Elementary, Season One (2012)


Like the start of every new TV season, 2012 introduced a number of new shows; many of which were crime dramas, among those was Elementary. It’s not the cases that are different from its crime show peers so much as the methods by which they are solved. The details that lead to arrests are things only Sherlock Holmes would notice and without question, that is what makes Elementary fun.

Having a keen sense of perception and high I.Q hasn’t saved Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) from falling prey to the temptations of the world. That is why Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is showing up at his home on this fine morning. Fresh out of rehab, Sherlock’s father has engaged Miss Watson as his son’s sober companion to be sure that he doesn’t fall back into bad habits. Before she threw herself into her new line of work, Joan was a surgeon and a good one at that, yet she has never met anyone quite like Sherlock. His to-the-point observations hold nothing back and much to her chagrin, Sherlock pegs Joan before they’ve had a chance to exchange pleasantries.

A London to New York transplant, Sherlock’s keen observations have not gone without notice by Scotland Yard and various police entities which is why he now works for the NYPD as a consulting detective under the watchful eye of Captain Gregson (Adian Quinn). Along with Watson, who is always close by to urge Sherlock to attend support groups and share his feelings. However, Sherlock is generally happy to ignore Watson, and instead keeps busy solving  many a puzzling case, it’s not until a ghost from his past reappears that Sherlock may again be in danger of a relapse he may  be unable to recover from.

If you haven’t already had a conversation with me about this, let me say this before getting into specific thoughts on this new TV show. I’m the girl who is sad when beloved television characters die but come to admire, err, I mean understand it them. In the bright, sparkling wit of Bollywood’s version of Pride & Prejudice I see only creativity and it proudly has a place on my shelf. In short, I don’t mind shows or film re-tooling themselves to adapt to a modern audience nor do I think it’s sacrilegious for writer’s to offer an alternative to the original material. That is what CBS’ recent television drama, Elementary has done. They’ve not only messed with Sherlock’s head, they also swapped out the male version of Watson for an opinionated female doctor and moved Sherlock across the pond.  


Exchanging so much of the “comfortable” canons of Doyle’s studious Holmes may not set well with all would-be viewers and that’s okay. For my own preferences of TV drama, I found this Sherlock hard to resist. The cases are similar to any crime show you put it up against but that’s not what makes this stand out – it’s the quirky dialogue and character traits. Every detail is considered in putting together Sherlock’s character; his decidedly British ancestry is present even when plopped in the middle of NYC. From his wardrobe (talk about quirky socks!) to Watson’s habitual annoyance over his appearing in her room to wake her, Miller is quite good as Holmes. He adds his own pizazz to the role and it somehow works. While I don’t agree with all that writer’s did to this iconic character, I think by making his drug addiction a prominent part of the stories, what they were attempting to do was bring him down a level – to show that he’s not just the man who thinks of everyone else as “minions.” Using recreational drugs wasn’t something that he “controlled” no matter his brilliant mind. As a result, this makes him vulnerable and he is more transparent to Watson and her attempts to keep him from “falling.”  

Now, onto what is probably the biggest debate; the female version of Watson. I’m not going to fib, I liked Lucy’s portrayal. Speaking of personality types, I don’t know how she stacks up however as a creative change, again this works. Season one doesn’t wander into a romantic connotation and if I had a preference, I’d want to keep it this way. They're better as working counterparts and adding in any romantic or unrequited feelings would make things awkward plus follow nearly every other crime duo on television. Making comparisons between this and its British counterpart, I have to say that creator and writer Robert Doherty (Medium) has pushed us to look at the character of Holmes (and Watson!) differently… and it was good. Miller is a portrait of Sherlock Holmes we’ve not seen before. Not from the more recent takes anyway. He’s still crazy eccentric yet there are cracks in his armor that all prove he does care; he even shows it more often than any portrayal I’ve seen.

The crime solving also has a more “old-fashioned” distinction attached to it; the cases are solved through Holmes observations rather than relying on snazzy technology. These elements are what makes Elementary stand apart – Miller and Liu create some nice moments (especially when he opens up to her prompting and the show is more fun once Watson becomes "the student") and of course, the same humor and sense of friendship is still there, with perhaps an even stronger bond.  

CONTENT: several sexual situations "trash" the show but are scattered about the 20-plus episodes. Watson wakes up to find Sherlock has had overnight guests [playing up his casual attitude about sex and also his claims of doing so for more scientific purposes] and there are a few “flashbacks” to “morning after” scenes. There are some sexual innuendoes and crude conversations. Various episodes naturally have victims die in multiple ways; some are poisoned, others shot, stabbed or hung. One particularly “graphic” crime cuts the victim open while hanging them from a tripod and draining their blood. Fortunately this happened off-camera. Profanity is the norm (da*n, h*ll) along with a few British slang. The show is rated TV14.
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  1. Ah, Elementary. I like this one too, however, if it's ever up against the BBC show Sherlock, then, well, I'm going to pick Sherlock. lol Nonetheless, I like the twists the writer has thrown in. I'm with you, their relationship is fine as it is. Season 2 just started up a few weeks ago, and I'm happy to say if they have a relationship beyond friendship, it's brotherly/sisterly. :-) CBS writers are fabulous when it comes to wit and humor. Great review!

    1. Yay! I'm delighted when finding fellow fans of shows that are... "controversial." This one certainly fits that bill, however I think it's great. I like the "intelligent" look at crime-solving, instead of "gritty."

      If the writer's put Sherlock and Watson together romantically, I don't know... that would seem "easy" and in the end be awkward. It's one thing to FINALLY put Castle and Beckett together (who were always attracted to each other), it's another to put two people who are nothing but good friends together.

      CBS writer's are grand when it comes to humor! Love that about so many of their shows. :)

  2. Even though I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan (and completely obsessed with BBC's Sherlock), I haven't had much interest in watching this show...but now you have piqued my interest! :) My dad, who is also a fan, saw one episode and liked it.

    1. Many fans of the "original" Sherlock don't like this show, Kristin. I cannot judge it based on that, however in my reading while putting this together, I discovered that Doyle wrote Holmes as an addict. That was a shock.

      Hope, if you do watch it, you end up liking it! Glad your dad liked the pilot; mine liked the show, and surprisingly, he even watched the whole series! ;)

  3. I really like Elementary! I've read that there won't be any romance between Holmes and Watson, they will simply be friends (thank goodness!). Johnny Lee Miller is able to carry the quirkiness of the character really well. He does as well as Robert Downy Jr.

    1. Me, too, Kate! Another *high five* to you also! It's fun to find fellow fans among such a "controversial" show; honestly, I didn't think many of you would have liked this one. :)

      Thank goodness! Many a good show has been ruined by putting partners together and then breaking fans heart. This show doesn't need to ruin a good friendship - plus I think that would be too "easy."

      You called that right; like RDJ, Miller plays this role quite well. Have you seen him in the Austen period films? He's good in those also. :)

  4. Replies
    1. Hope if you do, you find it fun, Juju! :)

  5. I didn't think I'd like the show, and while it had things I disliked in it, I did enjoy it. It had a new twist to the stories and was fun to watch. I'm even going to give season two a chance.

    1. I would agree, Jack. Sure there were things I didn't love, however for the most part, I adored this show. It's a change in the sense that it's more of an intelligent look at crime-solving than the usual brawn. It's nice.

      I'll definitely be checking out S2. Cannot wait. :)

  6. I think this is the only CBS show that I watch other than the Price Is Right so that's saying a lot! I love that Sherlock and Watson are just friends, it's totally possible in real life so I like to see it in books and TV too! I really enjoy the series, but like Rosie said in her comment, I'd pick BBC's Sherlock a million times over. :)

    1. Renee, I SO agree about Sherlock and Watson just remaining friends. I think that by making Watson female, eventually romantically entangling them would just be wrong. That would be one big common cliché that CBS writer's would do wrong.

      Sherlock does benefit from the more clever writing. However, there are a lot of differences and if I went over them with a fine tooth comb, I think there'd be some things I'd pick as "better" in this show, and vice versa. ;)

  7. I'm a huge fan of this Sherlock Holmes adaptation. I didn't watch it from the very beginning and it took me a few episodes to get into it, but once I did... I'm a lifer. As many seasons as they produce, I'll watch. I love that Watson is an American female and I love the fact that they are just really good friends. I hope that doesn't change as the show goes on. I think she's still an ISFJ as in the book and I would peg Holmes as an INTP with a really well developed sensor side.

    1. *HIGH FIVE*

      That's my reaction also, Kate. I'm quite fond of this CBS adaptation. Right there with you; so long as they keep putting out the DVD sets, I'm there. I actually watched the pilot on TV and enjoyed it a lot - as with nearly every show, it's only gotten stronger since then. :)

      Casting Watson as a woman was great. It's a whole new perspective and while the "natural" progression would be to put the two of them together romantically, I'm hoping fervently they won't. That'd ruin a lot. I think the "original" Holmes is quite different than JLM's, however I still like him. He's bright but also more "human" than the usual interpretation of the iconic detective.

      Glad you stopped by, Kate.

  8. Good review! I do really love Elementary. For me, the choice between it and the BBC's Sherlock wouldn't be so very hard: I'd choose Elementary. I love that you can feel a connection to Sherlock easier in this. And I really, really like Lucy Liu as Watson and the friendship between her and Sherlock.

    1. Me, too, Birdie! ...and to think I thought there was "no one" else who thought this show was good. How wrong I was. ;)

      Choosing between the two is hard. I think there are things that are good about both and each have certain elements they do better than their competition. With Elementary, I love how Lucy plays Watson and am glad they're "just friends." And like you, Sherlock is easier to relate to here and that's really nice. He has actually showed compassion at times where BBC's Sherlock wouldn't have.

      Glad to get your perspective, Birdie. :)

  9. OK. I love Elementary. It's addicting. Sometimes it's a bit gritty. Don't like the opening introduction to Sherlock at all....but still. I love a creative spin on an old classic! Keep up your review magic girl! Wish I had internet consistently so I could keep up better!!! L O V E your new blog style though!!! SO STINKING CUTE!

    1. YES! Another fan! I'm loving all this gushing about Elementary in this comment thread. It rocks. ;)

      I watched the pilot over a year ago (on TV) then the rest on DVD just this fall, so I don't remember everything about that first episode, however I tend to agree, Micah; the intro was a bit "off." As with every show, things gradually got better and I'm glad for that. Spins on old classics are always entertaining plus it allows us to see new sides of the story.

      Thanks for the comments on the design! I like it, too. I've been meaning to go with a new header but haven't found a new pic I like. ;)


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