"Six Cases Which I Have Added To My Notes" [BLUE]
It didn’t take long after the short stories began appearing in the pages of The Strand Magazine
in July 1891 for Sherlock Holmes to be not only a hit, but something of a phenomenon. Robert Barr’s parody, “Detective Stories Gone Wrong: The Adventures of Sherlaw Kombs’’ appeared in The Idler
in May 1892. In November, 1893, Holmes first trod the boards in the musical satire “Under the Clock” at London’s Royal Court Theatre, just before “The Final Problem” hit the newsstands.
After his supposed death at the hands of Moriarty at the Reichenbach, other authors tried to fill the void with their own more-or-less brilliant detectives—with or without more-or-less dullard sidekicks assisting them. Holmes appeared on the silver screen before he returned to the pages of the Strand
to battle a demon hound in Sherlock Holmes Baffled
(1900). He is the most filmed fictional character in history. His appearances in fiction, radio, stage, screen and advertising are legion. While his presence in the popular culture has waxed and waned, he is a perennial; always present to help those in need.
Holmes-inspired investigators that sprang up on American TV like problem-solving weeds in the first decade of the 21st
century culminated in his return to the movies in the hugely successful Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law franchise and the small screen with BBC Sherlock
and now Elementary
The September 27 debut garnered just over thirteen million viewers, making it the number two highest rated new show on the major networks, after CBS’s Vegas
. In fact, the combined average ratings for the first three episodes—live viewership and those who watch on DVR within seven days after broadcast—was 14.2 million (with a 3.5 rating in the desirable 18-49 demographic) leading CBS to order up a full season of 22 shows. On November 5, the network announced that Elementary
won the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot and on November 15 upped the episode count to 24.
However, there was a large contingent of Sherlockians who were vocal in their dismay of what they saw in the pilot. It was seen as a pale imitation of BBC’s Sherlock
. There was not enough Sherlock Holmes. Instead, the character seemed too much like Gregory House
or Adrian Monk
or Patrick Jane
Indeed, an unshaven, tattooed, sexually active, drug addicted, and tantrum throwing Holmes dependent on the largesse of his father seems like no Holmes at all. As Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes has reached the end of his probationary six-week sobriety period under Joan Watson’s (Lucy Liu) care, now would be a good time to assess those first six cases through a Sherlockian eyes.
“Let Me Have an Opinion upon the Character” [SIGN]
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, co-creators of Sherlock
, have delighted fans with their deep knowledge of the Canon. There seemed to be precious little of that in Elementary
’s first episode. However, creator Rob Doherty has shown over the course of the first six episodes that he knows his Doyle. Here are some examples:
Miller: “I don’t guess, I observe. And once I’ve observed, I deduce.” (Ep. 1)
Holmes: "No, no; I never guess. It is a shocking habit - destructive to the logical faculty.” [SIGN]
M: “Attic theory. I’ve always believed that the human brain is like…an attic. A storage space for facts. But because that space is finite, it must be full with only the things one needs to be the best version of one’s self. It’s important, therefore, not to have useless facts.” (Ep. 2)
H: "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose….It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones." [STUD]
M: “I can smell ‘T-Blossom’ brand deodorant on the chair. A lady’s deodorant.” (Ep. 2)
H: “I…was conscious of a faint smell of the scent known as white jessamine. There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that the criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other, and cases have more than once within my own experience depended upon their prompt recognition. The scent suggested the presence of a lady…” [HOUN]
M: “From a drop of water, a logician can infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of either one. I’ve got my drop of water, now allow me to infer.” (Ep. 3)
H: (from a magazine article entitled “The Tree of Life”) “From a drop of water a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.” [STUD]
Miller: “Since we first collaborated you’ve always held me and my work in a certain esteem. I guess I’m…more vain about that than I would care to admit.” (Ep. 4)
Watson: My companion flushed up with pleasure at my words, and the earnest way in which I uttered them. I had already observed that he was as sensitive to flattery on the score of his art as any girl could be of her beauty. [STUD]
Liu: “Are you expecting someone?”
Miller: “Am I ever?” (Ep. 5)
W: "Why that was surely the bell? Who could come tonight? Some friend of yours, perhaps?"
H: "Except yourself I have none. I do not encourage visitors." [FIVE]
M: “You know I dislike proposing a theory in its formative stages before I feel confidant of its conclusion.” (Ep. 5)
Miller keeps bees and is writing Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen; Holmes does those things in his retirement. Miller practices lock-picking on padlocks, doorknobs and handcuffs; Holmes has a first-class, up-to-date burgling kit and “the opening of safes was a particular hobby with him.” [CHAS] Holmes speaks French, German, Latin and possibly Italian; Miller speaks Mandarin. Both play the violin. Holmes has “never been known to write where a telegram would serve” [DEVI]; Miller loves “text shorthand. It allows you to convey context and tone without losing velocity.” (Ep. 4) Holmes engages in indoor target practice and adorns “the opposite wall with a patriotic V.R. done in bullet-pocks” [MUSG]; Miller uses Adam Kemper’s immunity agreement tacked up on the brownstone’s walls for a knife-throwing target (Ep. 3). Holmes beats “the subjects in the dissecting-rooms with a stick” [STUD] to test for postmortem bruising; Miller, through the offices of fellow beekeeper Bruce, morgue attendant at Chandler Memorial Hospital, conducts the same type of experiment on donated cadavers (Ep. 5). Holmes’ pipe is absent. Indeed, tobacco use on television is almost non-existent today, but Holmes’ magnifying glass is present in Miller’s smart phone with magnifying lens attachments.
On the other hand, Miller is perpetually unshaven, often wearing novelty t-shirts or wrinkled clothes. Holmes “affected a certain quiet primness of dress” [MUSG]. Even after living for days in a dilapidated stone hut on the moor, Watson remarks, “In his tweed suit and cloth cap he looked like any other tourist upon the moor, and he had contrived, with that cat-like love of personal cleanliness which was one of his characteristics, that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect as if he were in Baker Street.” [HOUN] Is this an affectation? Corporate killer Donna Kaplan observes, “My bosses use $5000 suits to get attention. You use a scarf and an old t-shirt.” (Ep. 4) Are we seeing Miller at his personal nadir and will he become better dressed and clean-shaven as the series progresses? Or is this just the 21st century Holmes, as sloppy as (or sloppier than) the average person?
Holmes eccentricities do get overblown in these modern adaptations. Doyle gave him a Bohemian nature. He was working the trope that geniuses are different than the bulk of humanity; “Art in the blood” and all that. However, he did not chew coca leaves and follow it up with a formaldehyde chaser. Watson did not record, “Holmes vaulted the settee on the way to the door.” And Holmes did not describe one of his clients as
H: "I should prefer to have clearer proofs before I speak." [SPEC]
a stupid, overweight porn addict with a probable short life span in his presence
. Miller can also be prickly. “He wasn’t asked to consult here because of his charming personality,” says Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn). I find Miller a kinder, gentler Holmes than Cumberbatch’s incredibly (and hilariously) rude take. Miller cares about people and their feelings. Miller had deduced the real reason Liu had become a sober companion but at first gives a more generalized reason: “I knew it would be a sour subject so I made up the bit about your friend to spare your feelings.” He apologizes to the janitor for throwing a pitcher of water on the floor and to Gregson for not telling him sooner about his addiction. In Episode 2, Miller, after pulling a man aside and using as "persuasion" not exposing the man's methamphetamine use to Gregson to elicit information, says to him, "Also, um...when you're ready to get your life back on track...Hemdale Rehabilitation Facility gets my very strongest recommendation. They even have a pool." In Episode 4, at a high-end restaurant on the expense account of the investment firm Canon-Ebersole, Miller orders the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu; not for himself, of course.
M: “You see that couple over there? I observed them while you were in the bathroom. The man’s suit is frayed from dry cleaning. I’d wager it’s the only one he’s got. Therefore, he saved to come here for a special occasion. Also, he keeps touching the inside pocket of his suit coat, like he’s checking to see if something valuable is still there. He’s about to propose. And I’m going to send this wine over as congratulations. Or condolences.”
I can’t image Cumberbatch doing that in a similar situation.
There are many things missing from Liu’s Watson. Gone is the military service in Afghanistan and the war wound. There is, so far, no chronicling of cases. Watson and Liu are both surgeons, of course, but one of the nice things that Doherty has picked up on is Watson athleticism and love of sport. Watson reckoned himself “fleet of foot” [HOUN]; Liu regularly jogs. Watson follows the ponies; Liu the New York Mets. While Watson played rugby for Blackheath in his youth (SUSS); Liu apparently played soccer. We have this exchange in Episode 5 when Liu accompanies
Dr. Carrie Dwyer (Anika Noni Rose) on a medical round:
There may even be a subtle nod to Watson’s inherent honesty. Holmes says of Watson in “The Dying Detective”, “that among your many talents dissimulation finds no place”. In Episode 2, when Miller, Liu, and Detective Bell
Dwyer: “Morgan’s here because she tore her ACL.”
Liu: “Let me guess. Soccer player, right wing?”
Morgan: “Center, actually.”
L: “Heart of the offense—nice.”
(Jon Michael Hill) set a trap for the killers, Liu’s reading of the line “When I couldn’t talk you out of coming, I texted him” is particularly off. As Liu’s acting is exemplary throughout the episode; what we must be seeing is an example of Joan Watson inability to play-act. Kudos, too, to Doherty for giving Hill not a Canonical name but a Doylean one: Dr. Joseph Bell
was one of Doyle’s teachers at Edinburgh University, and, of course, one of the inspirations for Holmes.
Knowledge of Chemistry-Profound [STUD]
There is a very nice chemistry between the two leads and we get to see the evolution of the relationship over the six shows. In Episode 2, Liu catches Miller putting himself in a trance at his first group support meeting (or “addict festival” as he calls it). At the next meeting Liu is ready:
M: “What, would you rather I put myself in another trance?”
In Episode 3, the dynamics of working a case together is explored. Liu wants to help Miller in recovering a kidnapped child, but Miller finds her help intrusive: “Situations like these—cases that require my total concentration—I talk to you, never the other way around.” He later explains:
L: “I already thought of that.” She shows Miller a pushpin in the palm of her hand. “Got it off the board over there. If you even think about zoning out, it goes into the softest part of your thigh. Lots of nerve endings there.”
M: “You wouldn’t dare.” Liu gives Miller a “just try me” look. Miller is convinced.
H: “I found, over the years, that nothing clears up a difficult case so much as stating it to another person. When I talk, they listen and in talking I make connections that I may have otherwise missed. One way street, not two.”
L: “Who did you talk to back in London?”
M: “Oh, lots of people. Waitstaff, cabdrivers. The occasional prostitute. Better listeners than you might think.”
M: “You mustn’t be so sensitive, Watson. The service you’re providing is quite valuable. For a brief stretch in London, I talked only to a phrenology bust I kept in my study. I named him Angus. Wasn’t the same. I realized when it came to listeners, I preferred animate to inanimate. Was quite a breakthrough, really.”
Miller in this episode gives us a glimpse of a lonely Holmes who doesn’t make friends easily and Liu, putting up with a lot of guff from Miller, a long suffering Watson. The show ends in a lovely coda. After being awake for 48 hours, Miller is ready to crack another cold case from his files.
L: “Angus. I’m glad I made it to the animate category.”
M: “Right after you solve a case, you’re flush with success. We should double down on work.”
Naturally, Miller soon falls asleep.
The tart exchanges and witty bon mots that we expect from our modern day Holmes and Watson are present and, I think for the most part, well done. Miller encourages Liu to develop her deductive skills and Liu shows a certain flair for it. But the friendship between the two is evolving. Miller’s “You’ve lived with me a week now, Watson. You know I don’t share” mirrors Holmes’ statement that he “was never a very sociable fellow”. It was only after knowing Watson for seven years that Holmes told him of his brother Mycroft. As late as 1902, Watson says, “I was nearer to him as anyone else and yet I was always conscious of the gap between.” [ILLU] Miller resents Liu’s intrusion into his personal life and retaliates by hacking her email and inviting her ex to the brownstone for dinner, and, in a later episode, accepting a dating request on her behalf. The strain culminates in Episode 6:
M: “You, me, Angus. Some combination of the three. You already know I favor you. Hm?”
L: “I’ve been glued to your side for weeks now, and you have refused to share even the tiniest bit of your personal history. You know what, Sherlock; I don’t trust you, because thanks to you we’re still basically just strangers.”
“Strangest Case I Have Handled." [DEVI]
Of course, people are not tuning in to watch My Dinner with Sherlock
. They want to see difficult cases solved with brilliant deductive reasoning. Certainly, Episode 1 could give Sherlockians watching pause. In the hands, say, of Patricia Highsmith
, the plot of a psychiatrist, as anti-hero, manipulating his unstable patient to be a killer and his wife unwitting victim could make for a taut, suspenseful thriller. On Elementary
, it became a straight-forward and prosaic puzzle.
One must be careful when injecting humor to a Holmes story. It has the potential to diminish the character in the audience’s eyes. When Miller first meets Liu
and are on the way to the crime scene, he says that it was big of Liu's mother to take her father back after the affair. Later, when Liu asks how he knew, Miller says, "Google. Well, not everything is deducible." Mildly humorous, but that means that Miller checked out Liu on the internet before they met. If her dad’s affair is on Google (highly unlikely unless either her dad or the person he had the affair with are newsworthy), then so is her stint as a surgeon and her "sin of malpractice". Miller doesn't need those brilliant deductions about beeswax on hands and parking tickets at cemeteries. It calls in to question the legitimacy of all of Miller’s other deductions during the episode. Surely, that was not what Doherty’s script was going for.
Scott Monty on the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere Episode 46
podcast also brings up Miller’s talking to Liu in full voice at the opera; antithetical to the personality of the music-loving Holmes. I have to say that I missed that. I saw at it only as humorous scene in which Miller needed Liu's help, and Liu, mad at Miller, was using social mores and etiquette to ignore him and Miller chose to break them to embarrass Liu into listening. However, Burt Wolder’s point that the scene was “pointless out-of-character” is well-taken. So is the temper tantrum of Miller crashing Liu's car. It seems to exist only to get Miller out of the way so that Liu can find the vital clue used to trap the killer. Fortunately, such behavior has been dropped in later episodes.
Of course, Sherlock
is occasionally guilty of that as well. In “A Scandal in Belgravia”, Benedict Cumberbatch’s refusal to get dressed and arriving at Buckingham Palace clothed only in a bedsheet makes him seem like a spoiled, petulant adolescent. I know I’m in the minority on that score, as the scene is a fan favorite. But I have no more need to see Cumberbatch’s posterior than I do of seeing Irene Adler’s (Laura Pulver). I have no doubt that if Moffat and Gatiss decide to throw a gratuitous Martin Freeman shower scene into Season 3, they will do it with their usual cleaver aplomb.
Fortunately for Elementary,
each episode since has gotten better, with much better mysteries and deductions, and dialog that works for the character, not against. The plots can seem familiar; the murderer being the person with the perfect alibi, for example. Episode 3’s script would have worked perfectly well on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
, right down to the patented Law and Order
twist. Episode 5’s mystery was ruined by casting. If your killer is the janitor, never
cast a recognizable TV character actor in the role. Janitors are supposed to be invisible, but as soon as you see he’s played by David Costabile--never mind the name, you’ve seen his face on countless commercials and shows and on the big screen in Lincoln
--you know he’s going to have a bigger part than mopping up a pitcher of spilt water. The fact is, with a history 60 plus years of televised mysteries and cop shows, you are not going to see anything new. Even Doyle had that problem. Not only did he reuse the plot for “The Red-Headed League” (Strand
, August 1891) in “The Three Garridebs" (Strand,
October 1926) but also much earlier in “The Stock-Broker’s Clerk” (Strand
, March 1893). It’s how well they are presented that will matter as much as the content. In this respect, Elementary
is a worth successor to The Mentalist
in the Thursday 10:00 pm time slot.
The problem is, Sherlock Holmes and police procedurals are an awkward fit, as Lyndsay Faye points out in her blog review of the pilot
(as well as the Baker Street Babes podcast
). Personally, I would like to see Miller weaned of his "working for the police" addiction. Leave that to Castle
. I'm hoping that eventually Miller opens up his own agency, so that we don't have the police-case-of-the-week and that, like the Canon, not every case of his is a murder. It seems that, on TV, a crime is not really serious unless there is a corpse or two lying around for the protagonist to trip over.
I Had Gradually Weaned Him from That Drug Mania [MISS]
The days when Holmes can be portrayed as only brilliant, as with Basil Rathbone, are past. There needs to be some further hook in the character interpretation. Jeremy Brett’s Holmes emphasized his manic quality, Downey his martial skills, Cumberbatch his differently-wired-ness, and Miller his substance abuse. All were parts of Doyle’s creation.
Holmesian scholars disagree just how much of an effect the detectives’ drug use had on his life and career. In Victorian England cocaine could be purchased at the corner chemist. It was an ingredient in Coca-Cola until 1903 and in Vin Mariani wine, which was advertised as a favorite drink of Pope Leo XIII. Doyle was prescient in having Watson rail against its use in The Sign of Four as its debilitating effects weren’t generally recognized until the turn of the 20th century.
The fear, in viewing the pilot, was that addiction was only a plot devise in getting Miller from London to New York (“I’m finished with drugs. I won’t be using them again.”). However, the showrunners have shown an ongoing sensitivity, and wit, in depicting Miller’s struggles with sobriety. In Episode 4, while investigating an overdose death, there is this exchange:
L: “Earlier, when I asked you about being around heroin again, you wanted to say something? I could tell.”
In Episode 6 we find out his drug use has some connection with his relationship to Irene Adler.
M: “I’d forgotten what it smells like. Cooked heroin. It brought back memories.”
L: “You also said that heroin users want to dull their senses, that they crave oblivion. Is that what you wanted?”
“I Have Made a Small Study of Tattoo Marks” [REDH]
The tattoos that Miller displays are his own. The showrunners have allowed his character to keep them. While aesthetically I prefer my Holmes to be ink free, I am fine with them. It would be nice if the producers work them more into the show (they get a brief mention in Episode 6). Miller has a 26.2 tattoo in his left shoulder blade. He’s a marathon runner in real life. He had an impressive 3:01:40 time in the 2008 London Marathon. It would have been nice if Liu made some mention of it in Episode 3 when she tried to get Miller to go jogging with her. On his right shoulder blade, Miller has a ribbon tat that says “Sister, Mother, Father”. If Holmes’ sibling gets introduced on the show, let’s make Mycroft his older, smarter sister
"You Would Not Call Me a Marrying Man, Watson?" [CHAS]
Two of the most problematic aspects of Elementary
are Miller’s doxy dalliance and his father issues. Holmes remained non-sexual throughout the whole of the Canon, with one exception. No, not with Irene Adler, despite massive speculation to the contrary; nor Mrs. Neville St Clair, who also garners a bit Sherlockian gossip, but with Charles Augustus Milverton’s maid Agatha. Disguised as up-and-coming young plumber Escott, he wooed the maid for a week to get the lowdown on Milverton’s house. Appreciation of feminine charms was not foreign to Holmes’ nature. While he was quoting the ostlers of the Serpentine Mews that Irene was “the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet”, it was Holmes’ own opinion that “she was a lovely woman, with a face that a man might die for.” Even in retirement his eye for the ladies did not dim: “…she possessed strong character as well as great beauty. Maud Bellamy will always remain in my memory as a most complete and remarkable woman.” (LION)
But part of the archetypical nature of Holmes’ appeal is his chasteness. Doyle was raised on tales of chivalry
and at times in the Canon Holmes acts as a knight errand, as in “A Case of Identity” and “The Copper Beeches”, but especially in “A Scandal in Bohemia”, where his regard for Irene Adler by the end of the tale can be seen as that of courtly love.
To have Miller paying for sex, then, strikes Sherlockians wrong on many levels. Especially what one would call “kinky” sex. Miller indicates he was handcuffed during the session in Episode 1. Miller dismisses Polk as a murder suspect, “Polk is a prat, no doubt, but his body language said ‘sub’ not ‘dom’.“ There’s also this exchange:
L: “Hey, I found something in the hall closet the other day.”
Episode 5’s comment “Postmortem bruising experiments are more of a third date activity,” can only charitably be called “icky”.
But consider this;
M: “Was it the zipper mask? I swear I’m just holding that for a friend.”
one of the interesting things about Miller is that we can't trust what he says. When Liu gets the information from Eileen Renfro about her attacker in Episode 1, Miller says "I knew it. I knew if I started a row in there you'd come to her defense, she might very well tell you the truth." Liu’s reply: "You are so full of it." Later he admits, "You were right the other day. About Eileen Renfro. I had no idea that she would respond to you the way she did. I told you I did because I was embarrassed I'd lost my temper. Would I had gotten the truth some other way? Of course, but you got me there faster."
Neither can we trust what he says about his dwelling. Compare Miller's "Well, if you mean his [father’s] threats to evict me from this, the shoddiest and the least renovated of the five--count them, five--properties he owns in New York well, yeah, he made his conditions quite clear," at the beginning of the show to his wistful "I'm going to miss that brownstone," at the end. When Liu finds Miller’s violin, he denies it’s his, even though his name is written under the strings. When interrogating Adam Kemper, Miller says he’ll be the only person today not to lie to him and tells the story of how his father sent him to boarding school at eight and the symbiotic relationship he formed with his tormentor, Anders Larson. Afterwards, Liu asks, “The story about your bully was really moving. Any of it true?” Miller: “I went to boarding school.” The fact is, the viewer doesn’t if Miller was lying to Kemper or Liu.
Liu finds the business of Miller and prostitutes off-putting, and maybe that’s the point. Miller escapes from rehab only a few hours before he was to be released. Why? Was it to stage the scene with the prostitute for Liu’s benefit and if so, what was the reason? We’ll have to see as the series progresses if such speculation bares fruit or if it was something thrown in just to make Miller “edgy”.
"My Ancestors Were Country Squires” [GREE]
Holmes’ parents make no appearance in the Canon. The Holmes we see is a self-made man who struggled in the beginning of his career, even having to get a roommate to help make rent; built a reputation through his genius and was considered the top man in his field; became renowned throughout Europe and retired early and very well off. Miller doesn’t have to work because his father’s rich and provides him with a home. In another country. In the most expensive city in the world to live. His whining that father was a “serial absentee” sound just like that—whining.
It is the thing that most makes Miller not Holmes. But are the producers hinting that Miller’s father doesn’t exist?
M: “Remind me, Watson, how many times have you actually met the man?”
M: “That’s because he secured you services as my sober companion electronically.”
L: “Yeah, but—“
M: “And all you subsequent correspondence has been via email or through one of his legion of personal assistants.” (Ep. 6)
If the man isn’t real, then why complain about him and the emotional scarring he caused? We were teased that Papa Holmes was going to show up in Episode 6, instead we got Allistair, an actor acquaintance of Miller’s who provided Liu with a bit more of Miller’s backstory. No doubt, the showrunners will string us along for as long as they can. We will have to trust that the solution will not diminish further the character of Holmes. I’m afraid that they’ve made the Mycroft figure into Miller’s father, changed sibling rivalry into filial resentment, all in an effort to avoid a lawsuit from Moffat and company. Or worse, daddy dearest will turn out to be Moriarty. Doherty needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat to make this set up work. I truly wish him well.
A Retrospection [HOUN]
I do not understand the vitriol aimed at Elementary
, lighting up the message boards like so many Kitty Winters with jars of acid. It seems more emotional than based on a thoughtful consideration of facts. Elementary
is not an arctic hunter
out to club the cute baby seal with the high cheekbones and clothe itself in the fur of BBC Sherlock
’s brilliance. It is a pilot fish, as is BBC Sherlock
, the Downey movies, the Brett series, the Rathbone/Bruce films, et al, swimming along side a massive Great White; feeding off the genius that is Doyle’s brainchild.
Miller and Liu make as credible a Holmes and Watson as any other pairing of actors one cares to name, even if they don’t live at 221B Baker Street, London. I especially enjoy Liu's underplaying to Miller's frenetic Holmes. She is the perfect yin to Miller's yang, in very much the way Freeman is to Cumberbatch and Law is to Downey. In these 21st century adaptations Watson has a complementary stature to Holmes. Gone, and I hope forever, are the days of the comedy relief sidekick. The humor between the principals are character-based not guffaw-inspired, although in Game of Shadows
there seemed to be more Nigel Bruce than Basil Rathbone in Downey's ability with disguises.
For those who find Elementary
a crass attempt to cash in on Sherlock
’s world-wide popularity, I hate to burst your bubble; there are no virgins in show business. Show biz, and I do not use the term pejoratively, exists at the corner of commerce and art. When Citizen Kane
wakes up in the morning, the money’s there on the bedroom dresser, same as Elementary
; same as Sherlock
. There are unCanonical elements to CBS’s offering, true; as there is with the BBC’s.
Love it or hate it, Elementary
is a permanent presence in the Sherlockian world. To disparage those who enjoy the show, as I do, with the same smug condescension to the natives as those Brits who sat on their veranda sipping gin and tonic while the Mutiny boiled around them
, serves no good purpose. It stifles the good-natured back-and-forth and bonhomie that characterizes Holmesian discourse. And instead of decrying the great unwashed, uninitiated masses for having a taste for network pabulum, say to them, “You like Elementary
—great. Have I got a series of stories for you!”
[For a guide to the abbreviations used above, please see our key.
Editor's note: James is a long-time Sherlockian, proud member of The Speckled Band of Boston (2012) and a huge fan of the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast.