Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Elementary, My Dear Holmes

The recent success of the BBC Sherlock series caught the attention of Hollywood. And Hollywood does what Hollywood does: They copied it. Thus we see on CBS this fall the premier of a TV show called, "Elementary."

Not only is the show on CBS, the show is set in New York. And Dr. John Watson is now a girl, the beautiful Lucy Liu who is neither British nor a veteran of Afghanistan. Moreover, Dr. Watson has no limp.

I'm pleased to note that Watson is no dummy in this portrayal. Nigel Bruce was no doubt a very nice man, and he played Watson as a faithful friend, but he also played a dim bulb and that is an unfortunate error that generations of Watson portrayals have struggled mightily to undo.

And did I mention that in Elementary that Sherlock is a recovering addict. Would Sherlock Holmes be stupid enough to fall into an addiction?


A recovering addict?

Sherlock Holmes, a recovering addict?

No. Stinking. Way.

It is well known that the canonical Sherlock Holmes partook of cocaine and did so habitually. Yet a central tenant of the Holmes character is his strength of will. For Sherlock Holmes to be an addict presumes that recreational cocaine use is impossible. One does not become an alcoholic with one drink, but with a pattern of out-of-control drinking. Is this the case for cocaine use?

My reading of the canon shows a Holmes who only retreats to his seven percent solution of cocaine when ennui and boredom result from a lack of interesting work. Give Holmes a heavy caseload and he'll leave his hypodermic in its case. This makes Holmes a recreational user, not an addict.

Elementary's Sherlock brings a posh English accent, and the bedside manner of Gregory House and the mad detective skills of Robert Goren and the forensic science of William Murdock. And that's the problem with Elementary: we've already seen the Sherlock Holmes character on American (and Canadian) TV in all but name.

I've seen two episodes so far and I've had a good idea whodunnit in the first reel. What's taking Holmes so long? It could be the need to pay Hollywood stupid tax: to show Holmes that he must listen to annoying rehab sob stories to find the key insight that'll unlock the case (the one I saw straight off) and line up all the clues into a coherent whole. Oh, it's not like we've not seen that pattern repeated ad nauseum.

It's not that Holmes doesn't listen. He listens most intently to people who were at the scene of the crime. He listens to people who everyone else ignores to pick up clues others miss.

Holmes never lacks for some aha moment where he realizes the body in the library is just like when the schoolboy put a frog in the desk. Like Miss Marple, he'll see the connection and shares it with his noncomprehending Watson.

Sure, I'll watch Elementary, but I will probably gripe about it the whole time.
Or pick up a book.


  1. Hi Steve,

    I just discovered your blog today when you began following me on Twitter.

    What a delight to discover another Sherlockian or Holmes fan or whatever you prefer to be called.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the new Elementary. I began to gripe when I saw the first previews. Since I'm a fan of the TV versions and haven't read Doyle's originals, I'm not sure how Doyle would take this newest interpretation. But I suspect that he is making a couple of flips in his grave right about now.

    We have had to endure so many Sherlocks on TV and movies over the decades, and they keep stretching our patience. I loved Basil Rathbone, but see Jeremy Brett as the best ever Sherlock. I enjoyed Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law because they were so entertaining, and tolerated Benedict Cumberbatch (his banter was entirely too slick and fast.)

    Like you, I'll watch the next episodes of Elementary, but not with great anticipation.

    I never knew much about Mycroft, so I'll have to roam around your site to learn what you've written about him. That promises to be fascinating.

  2. Thank you. You should read the originals. Having read the canon you can appreciate the BBC Sherlock episodes much better. The BBC is a bit too "whovian" to be taken seriously. Mycroft appears in 3 canonical stories, as well as my little story The Aristotelian you can see in the side-bar.

  3. Sir Poling, I completely agree with you on all terms.You exactly delineated "Elementary". We as Sherlock Holmes fan know what are his strengths and weakness. Moreover "Irene Norton nee Adler" was broached in Scandal of Bohemia. How can someone infer romantic connections from it, which on record "Elementary" did.

    Sir Arthur conan doyle himself was a surgeon so he wrote everything in such a meticulous way that no error can be found out especially "Sign of four", "Study in Scarlet", "House of Baskervilles". One still enjoys reading it because it carries the prolix way of writing which still has the painted strokes of Victorian era.

    Yes the BBC's Sherlock or Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson portrayed by Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke are worth applauding because they left appalling impact on viewers and did justice to Sherlock Holmes(Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

    I really feel for People who have not read a single letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's corpses. All they've seen is Elementary and Judge him as stodgy,insipid person.


Those more worthy than I: