Friday, November 9, 2012

Not So 'Elementary,' My Dear Watson

Elementary, cbs's recent new detective show, purports to be a modernized Sherlock Holmes.  it's not.  or at least, it's no more so than dozens of shows over the years, in which a super-smart sleuth with a less-smart assistant solves crimes, explaining to his chum how he figured it all out.  the problem is that if its title is based on a famous holmes phrase and its characters are named sherlock holmes and doctor watson, you expect more.

i doubt that anyone could really do a modernized holmes [there's a british version, which i haven't seen, set in the 1940s, and maybe it works. i''m skeptical though].  it's so very late victorian/ early edwardian british that other eras and cultures are bound to clash.  if you do try it, it seems that it should have some real relation to the original. arthur conan doyles's holmes is total elegance and intellect; watson total admiration and respect.  but a watson as insecure failure is ludicrous.  even more lludicrous is holmes as scruffy, openly rude, and given to temper tantrums.  the original holmes is a snob, whose rudeness is presented in upper-class wit.  and the gender switch seems pointless, except to add to the reminder that this isn't victorian england.

jonny lee miller is fine for what he does, but what he does isn't holmes.  it's not a bad show for what it is. i think that how much a viewer likes this kind of crime-stopper show will always depend on their response to the main character. i'm not especially drawn to this guy, so it wouldn't be a favorite of mine in any case. but it's certainly watchable, and i can see where others would find him more appealing than i do. it's a good time-slot, 10-11, and when i get back from work thursday nights i like to watch it. if only it wouldn't pretend to be what it isn't.

7 comments:

Bob Lamm said...

I love the show and don't agree with these criticisms. I have no problem with anyone who wants Sherlock Holmes to be as he was in the superb Conan Doyle stories. But the only way to get that is to read Conan Doyle.

Jim Lehmer said...

I'm thinking you probably weren't happy with "They Might Be Giants" starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward either, then. :)

karen lindsey said...

don't know 'they might be giants.' will google.

karen lindsey said...

okay, googled. since i dislike about 90% of rock music, i'm sure i'd dislike it. i have some sentimental affection for some 60s and 50s rock, and can even feel some artistry in a few song or performers [among them, ovbiously, buddy holly, mammas and the papas; roy orbson, patsy cline. but for me overall i feel it pretty much destroyed the quality of pop music from the tin pan alley days to the big bands and the broadway musicals up to the early 50s. or is there a movie as well as a band? i suppose i should google again.

karen lindsey said...

googled again. so now i see about the play. no idea if ii'd like it again, but it doesnt sound like it's pretending to be sherlock holmes; just using the figure as a character's holmsian delusion. not great analogy, but like 'kiss me kate' re 'shrew.' i think those things are fine; they don't call fred 'petrucio', and i would assume in 'they might be giants,' it doesnt pretend to be a real sherlock mystery placed in a different era. sounds like it might be interesting....

Jim Lehmer said...

Yeah, you probably wouldn't like the band TMBG (although I do).

The movie is quirky, and definitely a "period piece," not so much in terms of its own setting but because it is such a *1970s* film. I wouldn't call it a great movie, but I enjoyed watching it with two of my daughters some months ago.

An Again said...

I like the show and do agree with your criticism. BUT, I've lived through so many re-imaginings that I'm prepared to get over it if it's not staring Seth Rogen. Have you watched the BBC's Sherlock? I caught it on Netflix a while ago and adore it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t4pgh