In Defense of Elementary

I like what I’ve seen of Elementary so far. *Gasp* Blasphemy! How can a true fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless work even consider uttering a positive remark about the American monstrosity that simply exists to cash in on the success of the BBC Sherlock… and the Guy Ritchie movies… and the Jeremy Brett series… and the Sheldon Reynolds series (that was also an American Sherlock Holmes series, filmed in France no less) and the Nigel Bruce films…

You know what? I hesitate to remind the hardcore fans of Sherlock Holmes that Doyle’s biggest inspiration for his own detective was the work of an American author by the name of Edgar Allen Poe. Ever heard of him? Yeah, he was the guy who wrote that story you remember from the Tree House of Horror episode of the Simpsons. He also wrote a little three part ditty called The Purloined Letter, in which someone steals a compromising letter to blackmail a member of the royal family.

Read The Purloined Letter and A Scandal in Bohemia one after the other sometime. You could make a great drinking game from pointing out the plot similarities. But that’s fine, because Doyle and Poe were giants in their own rights and aside from one instance of an author borrowing heavily from another, the two men are still literary credits to the respective nations they called home.

The only argument I have heard against Elementary that I partially agree with is that if you took Sherlock, Watson and any of the characters out of the equation and replaced them, you would still have a fairly decent “Consultant to the Cops” show and not actually lose anything. Although it was nice to see a show in the “Consultant” genre where the consultant doesn’t immediately walk into the crime scene and render the entire police force, forensics team and anyone else with a degree of experience that would be realistically expected to be at the scene of a crime completely superfluous.

Johnny Miller’s Sherlock is fiercely intelligent, quick witted and bombastic, but he’s respectful and he recognizes his place as a citizen helping the police force. Although he does have a direct and sometimes abrasive approach to dealing with people, we can see that his social skills are better developed than the Cumberbatch portrayal. Even when he steps out of line, he doesn’t do anything you or I wouldn’t do in the same circumstance and with the same set of skills.

Again, this is not a debate over who is better than the other. The writers and Miller respectively have made Sherlock Holmes their own, just as Cumberbatch, Downy Jr, Jeremy Brett and Ronald Howard have all done in their turn.

Similarly, I remember being one of the few people who didn’t have a problem with turning Watson into a woman and though I can’t remember all of the arguments against this decision, I have to say that the ones that stand out in my mind are pretty superficial. What a shock that a fresh look at Sherlock Holmes comes with a slight character change that keeps our beloved detective from being a total boy’s club. I didn’t hear too many arguments against turning Starbuck and Boomer from Battlestar Galactica into female characters, but when they announced Lucy Lu would be playing Watson, you could practically hear the 1950’s calling and asking how she was going to find time to solve crimes between cleaning the house and cooking for her husband.

Since the CBC series did air so closely on the curtails of the BBC version, I would be equally as blind to say that this wasn’t a blatant attempt to cash in on the 21st century revival of of Sherlock Holmes. But who cares? People act like this is the first time competing networks have done twelve different versions of the same concept. How quickly we forget the various Amy Fisher movies, as well as any other major television network’s TV-movie version of the current summer blockbuster of the time. And does anyone remember Scrubs and Gray’s Anatomy?

I seem to remember Scrubs even putting a lampshade on that in one episode. 

For my money, I’m glad I’ve been given the chance to give Elementary a closer inspection.


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