Man, that Lucy Liu sure is pretty.
Really! That was the first thing I noticed about CBS’s new Sherlock Holmes procedural, Elementary, other than that the opening sequence sure was stylized in a way as to be reminiscent of another, superior Sherlock Holmes series.
The second thing I noticed was that however pretty Lucy Liu is, she sure jogs ugly.
And then we met Sickboy!
I mean: Sherlock Holmes! Now, one of my many complaints about the current crop of Holmeses is that Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. are just much too handsome for the character, but I forgive them because I love beautiful people. However, that won’t be a complaint with Sickboy. (And, yes, I will be calling the actor by his character’s name from Trainspotting throughout, because I just don’t care what his real name is.)
So boom! The first thing we learn about Sickboy Holmes is that he enjoys sex with tattooed women who are most likely prostitutes. Coincidentally enough, America already has a Holmes archetype who enjoys sex with prostitutes, and that is Gregory House. So Elementary is culling influences from all over the place.
This Sherlock Holmes, like pretty much all the Sherlock Holmeses ever, is a recovering drug addict. However, this one is being supported by his mysterious father while he lives in New York City, because God knows Americans wouldn’t want to watch a Sherlock Holmes in his native environment, except for the millions of us who enjoy that BBC show.
And that, I think, is going to be the main problem with this little drama. Everything has been Americanized. Watson is not only a lady, she’s an American lady. Sickboy Holmes is living in NYC, helping NYC cops, and he seems mysterious because he sniffs murder victims’ carpets and has an accent. Also, he seems a little short to be a Sherlock, but whatever.
Anyway, on to the mystery. A redheaded woman is brutally murdered in the opening sequence, and then Holmes and his babysitter-to-the-addicts Watson join the police at the scene and figure things out from there. Sadly, the mystery is not only a bit pedestrian, it’s a bit … well … senseless. I mean, even more senseless than murder usually is. First off, Holmes figures out it’s the work of a serial killer because a trophy was taken. And then he finds the serial killer’s first victim, a lady who isn’t dead at all and who appears to be the serial killer’s only prior victim, making him not a serial killer at all.
Then there’s this bit where it turns out the murder victim’s husband actually tricked the “serial” killer into murdering the wife because he wanted all the moneys (and he even gives Holmes a hypothetical where he basically admits this), but why did he want his wife killed? He never says he hated her, or was having an affair, or whatever. And considering he was able to talk this woman into getting plastic surgery so she fit the profile of the “serial” killer’s standard victim (you know, that one lady from before), she was clearly enough in love with him to get plastic surgery so he’d like her better. So this guy has his wife murdered, but the audience never gets the satisfaction of understanding why.
In the meantime, Sickboy Holmes raises bees (His Last Bow reference alert!), wrecks Lady Watson’s car and annoys people at the opera, just so we can see that Holmes is a grating personality type.
And we do see it. Boy, do we see it. But, where a stronger show demonstrates the immediate bond between Holmes and Watson, this one just kind of leaves you wondering if maybe Sickboy Holmes’s dad gave Lady Watson a huge bonus to keep her hanging around, because there is really nothing redeeming about this guy at all.
On the bright side, though, Lady Watson is a disgraced surgeon who can remember things like somebody had a bag of rice in their cupboard. So there’s that.
So, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting and wondering: “When is Lokifire going to complain about the upcoming CBS series, Elementary, which takes Sherlock Holmes and puts him in modern times?”
Yes, I know, it sounds really familiar, doesn’t it?
Like, someone at CBS saw that the BBC’S Sherlock was big and successful and wonderful and thought, “Hey! I can ruin that!”
And, you know? I can’t fault them for that. I mean, Sherlock Holmes and Watson and all their acquaintances (I was going to say friends, but Holmes only has one friend and Watson … well … also seems to have only one friend) are trapped in public domain hell, so it’s not like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can come back from the dead as some sort of malevolent zombie (is there any other kind?) and say: “Get your hands off my property! Also, braaaaains.”
So, anybody and everybody is free to do whatever they want with Sherlock Holmes. (See: Ritchie, Guy.) And if they want to set the action in the modern day, well, fine. It’s not like the BBC has a copyright on the present or anything.
And they’ve cast Sickboy as Sherlock Holmes! I totally forgot Sickboy existed after Trainspotting. (Coincidentally enough, my obsession with Irvine Welsh ended shortly thereafter as well. [I could only take so much Scottish dialect, people.]) Apparently, he was on Dexter or something, but I can’t bring myself to watch a show about a serial killer and his friends who swear a lot, so I didn’t know that. (And you don’t need to tell me how awesome and wonderful Dexter is, and how I would love it. People have told me already, and I believe them, but it’s just not for me. Thanks for the recommendation, though!) So, yeah, it’s nice that Sickboy is getting (more) work, even if I don’t really care that he is.
And what’s this? Watson’s a lady? How terribly clever, CBS. And modern! Because ladies can be sidekicks nowadays! Huzzah! Sadly, though, as awesome as Lucy Liu is (and she is awesome), you’ve just opened yourself up to a whole world of no gay couple jokes. People are just going to think they’re a regular couple, and that isn’t clever at all.
In fact, CBS, that sounds exactly like every other procedural drama you’ve got going on.
Which is why I hate you.
Because, yes, a brilliant detective solving crimes from week to week does sound like the perfect recipe for a procedural drama, and I’m sure it will be exactly that — a perfect procedural drama — which is why it’s going to suck. Because Holmes is much more than that.
He’s a damned icon. He’s the epitome of all detectives, anywhere, ever, and he deserves better than a weekly procedural on CBS.
Also, I just want you to know I’m not going to complain about the title, because, although Holmes never once did say “Elementary, my dear Watson,” in any Sherlock Holmes story, he did proclaim things were “elementary,” and besides, what else were they going to call it?