When I first heard about Elementary, CBS' own modern day Sherlock Holmes crime drama, I was, to say the least, rather uninterested. Great, they're jumping on the band wagon and doing their own version... who cares? Then Lucy Liu was cast as JOAN Watson and my disinterest turned to disgust - How dare they cast Watson as a woman?! Despite my best interests, I sat down and watched the pilot whilst in America.
Oh how wrong I was!
Now please, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying either is better and it's difficult to compare two incredibly different shows - and they are very different for reasons we'll cover in a moment - but I find myself far more in touch with Elementary than Sherlock.
Firstly, let's dispel some of the FSB (Frequently Sprouted Bollocks) regarding Elementary and highlight the key difference between the shows.
1: It's a rip off of Sherlock! Bullshit.
If Sherlock is a series of high quality movies with in depth stories, then Elementary is a precinct drama (cop show) charting the wonderful development of two characters rising from despair. The two couldn't be further from each other, their only similarities being the heavily adapted source material.
2: Jonny Lee Miller is nowhere near as good as Cumberbatch's Sherlock.
True. He's absolutely nothing like Cumberbatch's performance or character, but for good reason - they are two vastly different characters. Jonny Lee Millers portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is in fact very different from any version of Holmes, showing us a far more vulnerable and fallible side to the beloved character whilst retaining his razor-sharp wit and perception. More on this later.
3: Making Watson a woman was just so they could be different.
The most annoying comment of all. I admit, I was just as guilty of this when the show was first announced, but unlike so many pathetic Sherlock fanboys (and girls) I gave the show a chance and an happy I did. Joan Watson is not John Watson. Once you get past that simple fact, you're treated to the development of a fantastically written female lead for the modern era.
Jonny Lee Miller's performance brings something so fresh to such a classic character. One moment, we see the arrogant, rude child we're familiar with, verbally attacking whoever he sees fit. The next, we realise, perhaps more than any other Sherlock performance (yes, even Benedict) that Sherlock Holmes is deeply damaged and needs someone. His relationship with Joan is somewhat unique amongst the banality of 'will they/won't they' romances we're bombarded with on TV today. Over the course of the first series, we see the development of a genuine partnership and mutual respect for one another.
As much as Joan is impressed by Sherlock, she knows how vulnerable he is and how much he needs her. For Sherlock, his past has cost him something he dearly craved, an equal (SPOILERS!). With Joan, he's finally found that again, someone he can work with and train in his ways. Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller share a wonderful on screen chemistry that keeps you watching, intrigued. Finally, this version if Sherlock is arguable the most realistic interpretation to date. He's an amazing, maverick detective, making deductions that (nearly) nobody else could. His brain contains knowledge others can only dream of and he's blessed/burdened with talents unique to him. He is, however, weak. He makes mistakes. He's vulnerable, especially where drugs are involved. He doesn't know everything and he's not afraid to call for help when he needs it.
Elementary's Holmes and Watson present to us the most honest, open and original interpretation of Conan-Doyle's masterful characters we've ever seen. It's not better, it's not worse, but you should be watching this. It's Elementary.