I’ve finally found time to sit down and watch the first two episodes of CBS’s new series Elementary starring Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as his companion Watson. I have to admit after watching the premiere episode I was a little concerned and frankly distinctly underwhelmed.
To be fair, having experienced two seasons with Benedict Cumberbatch as a lead in BBC’s Sherlock Miller was always going to get a tough ride from critics who have seen both and could happily compare the two shows. Miller is a very accomplished actor (I loved him in Eli Stone) and although the writers have clearly opted not to follow the BBC’s portrayal of the genius detective I think they’ve missed a trick. The game’s afoot and I’m not sure even Sherlock can save the day this time around.
Gone is the quick and frenetic dialogue, Holmes is rather more sedate than his British counterpart, and although the deduction is eventually impressive the screenplay leaves a lot to be desired. The production isn’t as slick as I would have liked, CBS have opted for a gritty New York to help promote the series and I fear not even New York’s finest can save the day.
Watching Elementary I could have been watching any detective drama, it often reminded me of The Mentalist, Castle and various other detective shows – it had nothing standout for me. Sherlock enters a room, looks around and eventually comes up with a plan. There’s only so much a talented actor can bring, he’s only as good as the dialogue and direction he’s given and I’m afraid as I’ve already mentioned earlier they are lacking.
Sherlock Holmes is a recovering addict and his father has hired Lucy Liu to be his companion for six weeks ensuring our protagonist stays sober with round the clock companionship – not in the romance sense I hasten to add – and random drug tests. I did enjoy this angle and to be fair, despite the amount of negative publicity they received casting a woman as Watson, Liu plays her part with aplomb. I just hope they don’t go down the romantic angle but early indications show they won’t, not yet!
Watson as a character is accomplished and strong enough to handle Holmes, perhaps too accomplished. I wanted Holmes to be more eccentric, more opinionated and although he’s not afraid to judge and air his views there is something missing with the delivery.
CBS have given Elementary every chance to succeed airing the weekly episodes immediately following the highly successful Person of Interest so who knows what will happen. However although the numbers are up from last week for Person of Interest (7% increase) Elementary suffered a 16% drop in viewing figures with just over 11 million tuning in. Not a huge surprise to be honest considering the premiere wasn’t a hard hitting episode; it just fails to grab one’s attention.
The second episode however – certainly as far as I’m concerned – was stronger. The dialogue narrative improved and the interaction between Holmes and Watson more pronounced. We get a little more backstory to their lives and Watson is becoming more assured at crime scenes, despite the obvious reluctance to view dead bodies as Holmes takes great pleasure in reminding her. Personality that was lacking in the first episode was clearly evident in the second episode and a great improvement to the storyline and the working relationship between cohabitants.
Only time will tell if Elementary will succeed but I haven’t given up on it yet, I still hold out hope that as the series progresses the acting and writing improves to give us the deductions we crave and the red herrings we demand along the way to make watching interesting and worthwhile.
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