The new Sherlock: An ‘Elementary’ preview

Photo by Craig Blankenhorn – © 2012 CBS BROADCASTING INC. All Rights Reserved

Having previously posted about Lucy Liu as the new TV Watson, I thought there might be some interest in a slightly more detailed look at the modernised take on Sherlock Holmes being prepped by CBS for broadcast this Autumn. The broadcaster has now released the first official image (right) and the first official video too (see below).

Johnny Lee Miller plays Sherlock, who appears here sporting a grungy mane and a very large tattoo over his left shoulder (hmm, not too sure what I think of that). He is established here as having acted previously as an unpaid Scotland Yard ‘consultant’, but is now living in New York. The big departure of course is Liu being cast as ‘Joan Watson’, who we discover has been hired by Holmes’ father (!) to take care of the great detective after what appears to have been a bout in rehab (or maybe prison given that tattoo …).

Aiden Quinn is playing the senior detective, Captain Gregson, while Manny Perez is presumably playing the ‘Lestrade’ role (sic), or maybe Quinn is – not too clear so far frankly.

So, Sherlock as rock star detective with substance abuse problems maybe in his past, with more than a touch of Asperger’s style lack of social skills. Sounds like it could work quite well on the box actually. But have we seen this approach too many times of late?

For those who don’t think it all sounds a bit sacrilegious, there is now a preview video about the show that has just been made available online. On first inspection, the best thing about it is probably is that it doesn’t look anything like the current BBC Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, which is a relief. Let’s see what happens …

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28 Responses to The new Sherlock: An ‘Elementary’ preview

  1. Mike says:

    I probably should be screaming Sacrilege! but I think it actually looks rather good. Perhaps this is evidence that, just like Shakespeare’s plays, the Holmes legend is endlessly flexible and can be adapted to all sorts of fresh translations and perspectives. That said, I’m just not sure about ‘Sick Boy’ as Holmes – hopefully this wasn’t just a case of picking yet another British actor who was available and ‘sounded right.’

    • Well, I must admit I didn’t hear Miller’s name and immediately think, “what a terrific casting coup” either, but you never know. Who would have thought that Begbie would star in a Stargate spinof and Renton would be the young Obi-Wan… for the moment Liu is getting most of the media coverage, which is understandable given the gender switch and the relative fame. I am intrigued because, as you say, it will test the endurance of the original creation and there is always the possibility, as with the Moffat / Gatiss re-do, that it will add somethign genuinely new without breaking the back of the Doyle canon. Well, one can hope …

      • Mike says:

        Perhaps they’ll get it just right and Lucy Liu can add an extra dimension as Watson not just following Holmes around with that slight sense of trying to keep up, but bringing a feminist perspective. Could work, and she can do coquettish and kick ass, which might be really interesting. Still, there’s always that whiff of stunt casting about it, and this is from someone who thought Martin Freeman in the Moffat/Gatiss gig was the laziest example of casting, and look at how that turned out.

        • Definitely too early to tell but like you say, Sherlock could have been rubbish and thanfully it turned out great. The US pilot for Elementary is being handled by Michael Cuesta who is considered to be particularly good with getting shows off the ground (if you believe the trades) so Meerschaum pipes crossed … Of course, you could argue that the best, recent example of using the Holmes mythos for a modern TV is the Hugh Laurie series House, which managed to get lots of nice references in over the years but I stopped watching after it switched to Sky (yet another reason to hate the Murdochs, part 42!).

  2. michael says:

    I find it very fitting Elementary will take the time slot of CBS’ Holmes knockoff series, The Mentalist.

    How soon in the pilot will the question “Will they or won’t they?” be brought up as Holmes and Watson deal with their romantic attraction to each other?

    • It’s such a depressing thought Michael but it’s just that kind of plausible outcome that makes my inner groan louder – well, look, they’ve managed to not let Jane and Lisbon get all hot and heavy so maybe there’s hope. On the other hand … they did that with my other favourite Shelrockian wannabe, House and I don’t think the romance with Cuddy was such a good move really was it … Let’s hope Watson get a nice boyfriend (or girlfriend even)

  3. Patrick says:

    Oh, this isn’t an attempt to cash in on the BBC’s success *at all*… I’m sure the only motive behind this adaptation is artistic integrity and respect for the Holmes stories…

    But honestly, this Holmes actually seems pretty good. Can’t say I cared for the rest of the cast we saw (with the possible exception of the guy with the accent whose name I didn’t catch) but this Holmes looks like he might be able to save the show.

    • Hiya Patrick – I’m sure you’re right and it’s all about artistic credibility! It will also be interesting to see if this really can sustain itself as a weekly show. We all love the new BBC Sherlock, but these are really short runs (two seasons of 3 x 90-minutes feature length movies) so my curiosity is really piqued just to see if it can make it on a more regular basis.

  4. michael says:

    I understand the comparison of Elementary to BBC’s Sherlock, but I don’t think TV’s Sherlock’s ratings would interest CBS. I think they are looking at the box office of Warner Brothers Sherlock Holmes films. Fox loves to attract cult audiences such as TV’s Sherlock, but CBS is in it for the masses.

    • I’m sure you’re right that’s it’s the success of the Downey Jr movies that they have in their sights. Having sad that, in the UK it got in excess of 10 million viewers (i.e. 3 times the best ratings ever for an episode of Mad Men on AMC) or 65% of what The Mentalist currently gets in the USA, a market five times larger than the UK …

  5. Miller certainly seems more Downey Jr than Cumberbatch – I’ll give it a go, if it makes it to Freeview over here, but I’m wary about a Holmes-Watson attraction – just seems wrong.

    • Hiya Steve – couldn’t agree more. Hopefully they’ll be smart enough to deflect romantic elements between the two leads just to keep it different from every other male-female cop show on the box! The one bit on the clips I really don;t like is Miller saying “Sometimes, I hate it when I’m right”, which is the exact opposite of what the character would say, surely!

  6. michael says:

    There is a CBS crime series coming this fall that is being unfairly overlooked because of Elementary. Vegas is the story of Ralph Lamb, the real sheriff who faced down the mob in Vegas during the 60s. Stars Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis and written by Nicholos Pileggi (Goodfellas, Casino).

    Check out the clip at YouTube.

    • Looks like great fun and certainly has an impressive cast. Sounds like across between Casino and Justified, but hopefully distinctive enough to rise beyond the comparison. Thanks for the link Michael.

  7. iluvcinema says:

    Interesting for them to put a twist on it, not sure I will catch it though – maybe onDemand since I cannot stand commercials. I am also still in BBC Sherlock mode :) Not that there is a direct comparison anyways; I suspect they are apples and oranges in terms of scope at least.

    • You do get the impression that a lot of shows really are not watched live anymore as that can be such an awful experience in American network DVD – at least in the UK there are far fewer adverts and very few on-screen interruptions. Watching TV in the States the tmes I have been there made me despair – thanks good ness for catch-up and good quality DVDs!

  8. curtis evans says:

    I just can’t see any rationale, except for trying to catch the success of the BBC series, for calling these characters Holmes and Watson. It’s Sherlock Holmes filtered through The Mentalist and other modern tec shows, so that there’s not really much resembling the Holmes canon left anymore. Seems like a cheap ploy, like giving Miss Marple a sex life.

    • The odds on catching lightning in a bottle twice are poor of course. Having said that, letting Miss Marple be disappointed in love at an early age didn’t have to be a cheap idea if they’d done it properly and maybe this new version will manage to bring something new without actually dispensing with the glory of the original. I agree, it just doesn’t seem very likely …

  9. curtis evans says:

    Well, there’s no point in reliving the Marple wars, but the character they created, while perhaps interesting in her own right, just didn’t work for me as Miss Marple. One of the great things about the Sherlock series is how they update the characters without fundamentally changing their natures.

    • Precisely – Sherlock is a really stirring example of what you can do if you’re smart and creative enough. The latest Marple series is about what happens when your own commercial agenda vitiates the essential integrity of your subject. And I say this as someone who actually likes the version of The ABC Murders starring Tony Randall as Poirot!

  10. Corey says:

    Um, I’m not sure what to think of this one, it could be decent or really awful. The whole Joan Watson thing isn’t really hitting it for me, in fact, it’s pushing me further away. I can see why they want the ‘strong, badass female lead who changes the guy’ but I think John Watson tends to have enough BAMF factor to make up for the lack of that in the other versions. It just seems like a cash-in gig to me but we’ll see what they do with it.

    • Thanks for that Corey – ultimately it will live or die by the strength of the personalities – frankly, I think we would have to be very, very lucky to get two good mordernised adaptations of Sherlock Holmes in the same decade …

  11. TracyK says:

    I am curious. Have you seen this show, and did you like it? (We have watched all of them so far, and I am enjoying them. I am not that much of a Holmes fan anyway, but I love the two recent movies and Sherlock on BBC.)

    • Not yet I’m afraid as it is on a channel I don’t get (well, I don’t subscribe to any pay TV so …) but I will track it down on DVD probably – I really love the BBC Sherlock series – I quite like the Robert Downey Jr movies but to me they are not in the same league as the TV series.

      • TracyK says:

        Thanks, I would love to know what you think when you do see Elementary. Not as good as the Sherlock series, but interesting.

        • Thanks for that – I really am intrigued. I am not too ‘by-the-book’ about Holmes (I love the Rathbone-Bruce films for the most part) as long as the performances are good and some of the mystique is preserved I’m pretty happy. On the other hand, there is nothing worse than a bad Holmes adaptation, is there ..?

          • TracyK says:

            I like all of the performances including Aidan Quinn as the police captain. Which is probably why I like it. I can agree with a lot of the comments here and elsewhere that this did not have to be a Holmes pastiche, it is similar to the formats of other TV shows… but whatever, I am enjoying it.

            Now, in Sherlock, I love, love, love Martin Freeman as Watson.

          • I think the BBC Sherlock will genuinely go down as being something a bit rare and special even among Doyle aficionados. I’m with you though, if the chareacterisation works and the plots are sound you can forgive almost anything. Or anyway, lie back and enjoy it as long as you don;t think about Doyle too much. I like Quinn too, bit sorry i;m going to have to wait to see it really …

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