Elementary: Pilot, 1.01 (2012)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cementing himself into our 21st century is the great detective Sherlock Holmes – now it isn’t just book enthusiasts who “get” Sherlock’s methods, he appears in grand fashion on the big screen (explosions and all!) and even on the small screen transplanted into the 21st century. Following in the footsteps of BBC’s, Sherlock, CBS has created a modern day Holmes for audiences to delight in. Those who are Sherlock purists will hate this version but anyone willing to overlook Sherlock’s written character will be sure to find this a grand escape.

Just out of rehab, Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) is a bit of an annoyance to more than one person. To Scotland Yard, he is a pretentious jerk who shouldn’t be anywhere near their crime scenes. To the New York police department, he is a “consultant” who may go about solving the crime in uncanny was but yields results. To his father, he is nothing but a person who needs to be watched. And so, his father hires a “companion” for his son to live in-house for six weeks. That companion is Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). Once a successful surgeon, Joan now finds fulfillment being a sober companion to anyone who asks for her help. Little did she realize the responsibility she was taking by agreeing to room with Sherlock Holmes – nor was she prepared for him to declare love for her upon their first meeting!

Sherlock’s first case involves a missing woman – a missing red-head to be precise. The police, led by Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) have been over every square inch of the home the woman shared with her husband. Sherlock believes she never left the house, despite suggestions of a struggle and possible kidnapping. Evidence leads Sherlock to the home of another red-head who was assaulted by a masked man not long before their victim but is her story truthful? Meanwhile Watson discovers she may have what it takes to make a good investigator. Even Sherlock doesn’t argue that.

If ever there was a show that created so much buzz in my small circle, it was Elementary. There was a lot of chatter about it on my Twitter timeline and most (critic) reviews actually gave it a decent rating. It wasn’t hard to see why. Unfortunately, according to critics, the audience turn out (over 13 million - seems impressive to me!) was low... given the competition, and that translates that this may not last beyond the ten episodes new shows usually get if they aren’t ordered to full seasons. It’s really too bad in my opinion; perhaps not up to the same quality as its British counterpart, Sherlock, this was an entertaining procedural that does deserve observance. Elementary gives us a new Sherlock and yet, he is the same in so many ways. Giving him a drug problem is going to rub a lot of viewers the wrong way – most likely loyalists of his “true” characterization, but it does humanize him in ways we’ve never before seen. Nonetheless that is not in defense of the cheap plot device. Watson’s poignant speech that his indifferent manner is really a defense mechanism is an interesting confrontation as she informs him that she believes he can “love” - a scene unique to most other adaptations. Seeing the usually, blunt Sherlock more as a relatable person is interesting but using a cliché isn’t the way to do it either.

Yet another point of bickering among spectators in channeling Sherlock into Elementary was the gender switch of Dr. John Watson to Dr. Joan Watson. I wasn’t nearly as concerned about Watson being a woman as I was about Lucy Liu taking the role considering she is not my most favored actress. To her credit, Liu was not only a great “sidekick” but also added some finesse to the role and in her defense, she was a kick-butt one at that – granted, it was more in the emotional, pull-no-punches kind of way in that she’s too smart to let Sherlock get away with any nonsense. It is certainly a change to see Sherlock challenged in this way but then if anyone can, it’s his “only” friend, Watson – and I think in the end, Sherlock respects his partner-in-crime no matter the genre or version of the great detective writer’s may give us.  What my conclusions come down to is really very simple. I enjoyed this pilot episode very much. It has style, wit and some interesting dynamics that writer’s should explore, and that translates to enjoyment of every second. The only saving grace, ironically, for this show will be its ingenuity in giving Holmes a female companion and in upping its humor because the procedural – albeit abundantly clever, didn’t seem all that “new” in comparison. Judging a show on its pilot alone is never “fair” and I always say that. From experience, you have to give the show three to five episodes before you decide if it’s worth its salt. That is the precarious position Elementary finds itself in through my eyes. I enjoyed Miller and Liu together and was especially fond of their first meeting given no other scripts could have gone there before. Perhaps, it is flawed but at the credits, Elementary deserves its television slot. That is my deduction.

(What to know: implications reveal Sherlock entertained an overnight guest prior to Joan’s arrival. There are a few innuendoes, and minor profanity. One woman is shown lying on the floor in a pool of blood with her leg lying at an odd angle. The pilot was rated TV14.)  


  1. I watched the pilot the other day, and I REALLY enjoyed it! A lot more than I thought I was going to anyway. And I liked the female Watson - she was sensible, calm, and intelligent yet emotional at the same time. Like you said, it does seem a bit flawed. But it is a lot better than I thought it would be. :)


  2. Gave it a half hour to impress me, it didn't, so I quit.

  3. Hi Rissi! My husband is pretty dedicated in checking out new TV shows, and I'll give them a try while peeking over a laptop and wearing earbuds. So I don't give much of a chance for them to hook me, but I have had shows hook me nonetheless. This one didn't grab my attention, and I thought BBC's "Sherlock" had a better "hook" factor. :-)

  4. I have mixed feelings about this show... Watson as a girl is not a problem for me, but from the trailer Sherlock seemed too... I don't know - peppy? I'll have to watch it before I make a judgement. I just can't see Johnny Lee Miller replacing Benedict Cumberbatch as "the Sherlock Holmes" for me, if you know what I mean. :)

  5. Just started watching the Pilot last night. Very interesting... Though maybe too many similarities between Sherlock and it for my liking. But we shall see. :)

  6. Lydia - as did I. It was fun though sometimes a bit lacking. I don't think you can totally rule out a show's potential for brilliance in the pilot but I do think it can give you an idea of what it will be like.

    Lucy was wonderful as Watson. I loved how she didn't let Holmes get away with ANYTHING. No matter what. Hopefully she keeps that up. :-)

    Charity - I suspected you wouldn't care for this one. :-) I've been told that JLM's Sherlock is actually one of the best characterizations of the iconic detective but that is just one person's opinion. I'll watch the rest on DVD because I did enjoy it a lot and if nothing else, I'll get a chuckle out of it. :-D

    Gwendolyn - I watch way too many shows to be honest. This fall season in particular has grabbed my attention with several shows but unlike the majority of America, I wait for the box sets and watch them at my leisure. It works better that way - even though I am then a year behind. ;-D

    I don't know that I can say CBS's isn't in the same league as the BBC version or vice versa after only one episode but I do know that the British version is BRILLIANT - each time a new series rolls around I am reminded of that!

    Lauren - JLM may not replace Cumberbatch but he did a great job. Lucy as Watson was nice change of pace and she held her own up against the great Sherlock Holmes. Until I see the season as a whole I don't think I will say whether or not the show or acting is better/worse than Sherlock because usually the pilot is just exciting enough to hook us and then writer's really up their game if viewers' response is positive. Hopefully Elementary will have that same opportunity. :-)

  7. Hey, Rosie - your comment just snuck in as I was posting my response! (You've been missed around here, girl!)

    I really enjoyed the pilot - I think it can tell an audience a lot about how well we'd like the show but also I think as a viewer a show deserves to be given three to five episodes before judging it fully. The differences between this and Sherlock are there in subtle changes but yes, the basic plot is VERY much the same as BBC's winner. I cannot wait for S3 of that show as it is unforgettable. Hope you enjoy Elementary if you watch any more. :-)

  8. Well, I'll be frank here; loyalty to my beloved BBC Sherlock and Cumberbatch disallowed me from watching Elementary, but, as not a book purist, but a *character* purist, I have to say this doesn't like like much of a faithful rendition. I wouldn't mind it so much if they didn't pretend it to be based from Conan Doyle's works, but as they do... And, I am tempted to believe that they are shamelessly copying the BBC, or at least capitalizing on their well-earned success with Sherlock. ;)

    However, I do adore Miller, and very much respect your cinematic opinion, so perhaps one day, I might venture to check this out. Really, overall, it's contentment with the brilliancy of Sherlock that keeps me from looking into Elementary. I'm quite happy to smile over Sherlock's wit and revel in the overall cleverness of the BBC's adaption for now. =)

  9. "I've been told that JLM's Sherlock is actually one of the best characterizations of the iconic detective..."

    He's not. Not even close. That sounds more like a JLM fan talking rather than someone familiar with the canon. =P

  10. AnnaKate - that is great. Hopefully those who read my reviews realize they are strictly my opinion and I am never trying to convince people that they should like it (most the time. ;-D). My goal is always to share an honest opinion of something and let the reader make their own choices.

    Cumberbacth is really quite brilliant strictly from a police personality - like you, I'd be more interested in the character not book because I've never read one. For me Elementary is just a good time and nothing else. I enjoyed its pilot and am curious to see where it leads. Hopefully, somewhere good. From experience I've watched shows that grew SO much in the first three to five eps. and especially from year one to two, then three and so on. With that said, I am more than willing to watch this show's growth.

    Reading your input is always most welcome, AnnaKate! I appreciate your honesty and opinions. If you decide to try this, I hope you find it interesting/entertaining if nothing else. Miller was quite amusing and I loved how he brushed past people, too busy to take any time to be sensitive. Watson brings that out in him - or in this scenario, she is going to try. BBC's adaptation is - by all counts - brilliant. Judging pilot vs. pilot, I'd say, Sherlock won but I'll reserve judgement until I see more of America's version. :-)

    I've have NO doubt that CBS (American TV) is trying to capitalize on the re-invention of Sherlock, so successful in the U.K.; there are "enough" subtle differences though. Ironically, NBC had opportunity to air the U.S. installments of 'Downton' and passed - gosh! But what a poor decision that turned out to be! LOL!

    Charity - I knew you'd feel that way... I try not to judge book vs. film having never read Doyle's works. I believe the word that the writer actually used was "personality" and they mentioned being a "scholar" (or a "a Sherlockian" is the exact term) of Sherlock/Doyle.

    Either way, I don't mind all the differing opinions because it all comes down to everyone's personal likes - if we all liked the SAME thing, this would be a boring world to say the least. :-) I found it fun but I wouldn't ever try to press that same opinion on anyone else. Most the time, I don't anyway. ;-D

  11. I've been wondering about this show, and am glad you put a review up about it. I love Johnny Lee in Emma, but haven't seen him in anything else . . . now you've got my interest piqued!

  12. It was really quite entertaining, Camille. I got a chuckle out of JLM's portrayal of Sherlock whether it was "accurate" or not... I'll leave that up to the scholars to decide. As far as entertainment goes: This was fun!

    I think if you are a "scholar" of Doyle's works and you can check your image of Sherlock prior to going into this, viewers may find themselves entertained by the quirkiness of Sherlock and a female Watson. :-) Enjoy if you try it!

    THANKS BUNCHES for dropping by - do so again anytime. :-)

    1. I think I'd call myself the most unscholarly person ever on Sherlock. I've yet to watch more than 2 adaptation episodes in the same series regarding him, and I've only read one of his mysteries. So, I will have no idea if JLM is an accurate portrayal or not... But I'll watch the pilot and claim ignorance :)

  13. Well, I'm back! :D Hehe, no getting rid of my now.

    Ahem, anyway. I finished the pilot and watched the new episode on Thursday- it's growing on me. :)

  14. YAY! I don't want to be rid of you, Rosie. Love your input around here. :-)

    Glad you enjoyed the pilot and E2 - I hope you continue to. Just from what little I've read and my reader's comments, it sounds like the show COULD have a bright future so I am hoping it all pans out.

  15. I (hahaha) actually watched the pilot and was like hooked :D My parents are going to (hopefully) let me watch more, I really liked it and was happy that there didn't seem to be much objectionable content. (no language!) I really liked how smart he was and the little details in the mystery. Especially the rice! That was cool. I thought that Lucy/Joan made a good "sidekick" and really wants to help Sherlock and underneath is all actually likes him a bit. Still waiting to watch the second episode, parents have yet to watch it. Sierra
    Keep growing beautiful!

  16. Wasn't it good!? I know I sure enjoyed it despite the comparisons to BBC's Sherlock. I hope you get to continue watching it, Sierra.

    That "rice clue" was phenomenal - it was one of those clever catches that only the most trained eyes would notice. Good for Watson! :-D

    I agree 100% - Lucy is fabulous in the role of a female Watson. I think she'll be one of the best sidekicks in a long while and won't be letting Sherlock get away with much of ANYTHING. He needs that - whether he likes it or not. :-)

    So happy to see all your great comments around here today, Sierra - hope to see you around here again soon. :-) Thanks for dropping by!

  17. I'd put myself in the same category as you, Camille. I've seen both RDJ versions (SO FUN!) and both series of Sherlock plus one really old film adaptation but that is it. I've not read a novel but have discussed Sherlock with some friends but beyond that, I'd agree: Ignorance is the best policy! :-)

  18. I'll let you know how I like it (ignorance and all) when I get it from Netflix :)

  19. That sounds awesome, Camille - I'd love to know what you thought of it! I am definitely renting the rest also. :-)

  20. I know a lot of people were wary about Lucy playing female Watson, but I was actually really pumped! I think she's done a brilliant job so far.

    I love how they met - so funny!

    Oh no! The viewings weren't good?! I really hope it doesn't get cancelled. :(

    Brilliant review, Rissi! :D

  21. I agree 100%, Renu - Lucy was fabulous in the pilot so it's wonderful to know she is still. :-) Seeing that twist to the iconic role should be loads of fun.

    The meeting = hilarious! I loved how serious it was and Watson's reaction to it - she was very nearly swept off her feet. ;-D

    I read one review that claimed the ratings weren't great and then someone called me on that so I had to revise my statement. As a viewer, 13 million seems VERY impressive but the review cited that given the competition the pilot had, the ratings should have been sky high. My fingers are crossed that it will last!!!

    Thanks - and I am so glad you dropped by!

  22. Thanks for the post. It can be really hard putting your life together. I know that sober companion can make a big difference but, can be difficult to do on your own. Get help today.


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