Elementary: TV Review

Nov 17, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Jesus Ibarra, Mysteryrat's Maze, TV

by Jesus Ibarra

I am not the biggest fan of CBS shows for a variety of reasons: they often follow a strict formula that gets tiring really fast. Then they got a hold of Person of Interest, an amazing Sci-fi procedural that is incredibly good, so I had to give them some credit. That is the real reason I was even remotely interested in the Sherlock Holmes project when I first heard about it.

I am a fan of the character and don’t object to there being so many adaptations for shows or movies as long as they are good. Generally, my take on reimagining is: change enough of it to make it different, but keep the core of the characters and themes.

It’s one of the reasons I loved House (who was inspired by the Holmes character), and really like the Robert Downey Jr. led movies.

Then I heard they cast Jonny Lee Miller, one of my favorite actors, as Sherlock, and freaking Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. My first thought was, “WHAT? LUCY LIU AND JONNY LEE MILLER!? YES!” I am a total fan of those actors, and once my excitement wore off, I noticed they made Watson a woman, which I was completely ok with as long as they didn’t make Watson and Holmes a couple — which the producers vowed not to do. Ultimately I had to see how the pilot was, and what interpretation of Sherlock they went with. I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised. I like this show.

The basic premise of Elementary is that Sherlock Holmes used to work for Scotland Yard, but after falling into an opiate addiction, moves to New York to complete rehab and stay clean. To fill his time he consults with the NYPD and has to contend with Joan as his partner.

In this modern retelling, Joan Watson is a former surgeon who is hired by Holmes’ father to be his sober companion. It’s her job to make sure he stays clean. The pilot is serviceable but, as with so many CBS shows, you have to watch a couple of episodes because the procedural aspect is so encompassing.

The acting is amazingly done, which is not surprising. The writing, however, isn’t so great, except for the awesome character moments Holmes and Watson share. That is the real treat of the show: seeing these two people become friends, although it isn’t easy. They quickly establish that for the time being Holmes needs Joan, and Joan, for all her incredulity at Holmes for his behavior, enjoys flexing her detective skills.

This brings me to the portrayal of Holmes. They went with my favorite and most realistic. He is an addict who sees the world differently because of his intelligence, and he recognizes the inherent shortcomings of being how he is. The show also does away with the overused “he is so smart he doesn’t understand emotions or people.” Holmes understands them, he just doesn’t have any use for them.

Ultimately, though, the show grew on me because it’s weird. It feels like a CBS show, yet it feels so not a CBS show. Its charm, at least to me, is enough for now, but as with any CBS show, I worry that it will just become another overwrought procedural like the Mentalist and CSI. Check it out, though, and see what you think.

Learn more about the show on their website.

Jesus Ibarra is 20 years old and currently attends UCLA; with a love of all media, he’s always on the lookout for the best finds.


  1. I wasn’t sure I’d like this adaptation at all, esp. with Lucy Liu as Watson. I’m surprised how much I like it, though. It grew on me. I’m a huge fan of *Person of Interest*, too. But I still like The Mentalist–have been blown away by a couple of the episodes. Thanks for your take on the show–very interesting to read!

  2. Thanks for reading. I only dropped Mentalist because the Red John story should have ended already. That they keep that same villain for so long instead of exploring new stories with Jane in my opinion has made the show somewhat stagnant. And that’s the best part of Person of Interest everything is fresh, and mostly all the major story lines come together.

  3. I agree about Red John! But I do like all the characters and keep watching to see them.

  4. Thanks for the review, Jesus. I have yet to see the show, but I haven’t heard anything negative. Reviews like yours are encouraging.



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