is cbs’ elementary worth watching?

A few weeks ago, Elementary found itself on the list of shows we at TVDM couldn’t wait to see in the Fall 2012 season, as well as among those we’re sure will be cancelled. Unlike some of the other new shows, Elementary isn’t a sure bet for quick cancellation (*cough* Animal Practice *cough*) or a second season pick-up. It was guaranteed views by people who wanted to compare/contrast to other Sherlock Holmes adaptions (as of recently, Robert Downey Jr. and BBC’s Sherlock) and those that know CBS handles the crime procedural genre almost as well as The CW runs the popular teen drama game. So, low ratings may not be an immediate issue, but is the show any good?

Well, I don’t usually feel the need to check out shows that involve oddly-paired duos running around solving crimes, unless they’re Shawn and Gus (Psych), so I’d planned to let this show quietly slip under my radar like most of CBS’ programming. Then I remembered how much I loved Lucy Lui in Ally McBeal and Kill Bill,and I promised I’d at least check out the pilot. I can’t definitely say if I loved or hated the pilot episode, but here’s what stood out:

  • Sherlock Holmes is played by Johnny Lee Miller (who I will always remember as the annoying Jordan Chase on Dexter). It’s unfair to compare him to any of the other actors who’ve played the Holmes role, so instead I’ll think of him as an incarnation of the Hugh Laurie’s House, which is to say he’s brilliant beyond measure,  incredibly flawed and the dysfunctional protagonist network television needs. Holmes is a recovering alcoholic and Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Lui) is his ‘sober companion’, hired to make sure he doesn’t fall off the wagon. He’s a rich boy who loves what he does so much, that he works for free and she’s a former surgeon who clearly hates her new job. Together, they’re an interlocking puzzle that solve crimes while trying to figure each other out. Their dynamic wasn’t immediately annoying, so that goes in the plus column.
  • Fans of Sherlock Holmes will appreciate Elementary‘s subtle nods to the legacy, such as him keeping bees on the roof of his home in the city or use of drugs, as well as noting that Watson is a former surgeon. I simply respect any adaptation that recognizes its roots, either in major or minor ways. It says that the writers are considerate of the fans and did the smallest bit of research. Something that tends to bode well if you’re interested in quality television, which I am from time to time. Another plus for this show.
  • Although Holmes is pure genius, Watson isn’t intimated by him in the least. This is illustrated in their interaction when she notes that he doesn’t keep any mirrors in his home because he “knows a lost cause when he sees one.” Watson is Holmes’ balance and it’s good to see that they went with that tone in the pilot instead of feeling the need to make her character continually clash with Holmes in some alpha male pissing contest just to prove her strength as a woman. I’m sure the fact that Watson as a girl instead of a guy will play a part eventually, I just didn’t want it continuously emphasized throughout the first episode.
  • There wasn’t a surprise twist-ending in the vein of the Law and Order franchise. Holmes solved the crime with 15 minutes left in the episode, so I was really scared it would get hokey and lame just to get a “gasp” out of the audience, but it didn’t. Instead, we watched (mostly) Watson get the proof they needed by making tiny connections and Holmes presenting it in a nice pretty package for the detectives. In that respect, it was the lack of twist that surprised me. I’m torn between respecting the show for not stealing a storytelling technique and annoyed that there wasn’t more “pow” in the episode.

I don’t think it will be the connect-the-dots format that will make this show a hit, unless they get a little more inventive with their crimes and how Holmes solves them. Instead, I believe the true potential lies in how amazingly screwed-up they can make Holmes and how he interacts with Watson. Elementary isn’t mind blowing, but it’s solid enough that I’d at least recommend checking out the pilot. Overall: 6/10 will probably watch next week.


Nicole is a TV junkie and TVDM helps her feed a lifelong addiction. She can be found here, providing biased commentary (sprinkled with a few Pop Up Video-esque insights) on her favorite shows, every week.

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