September 27, 2012 8:00pm PT by Candace Chen
'Elementary': How Does CBS' Sherlock Holmes Measure Up?
There's a new Sherlock Holmes in town.
The high level of anticipation -- and skepticism -- for Elementary, CBS' modern-day reboot of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective stories, can be easily deduced. Elementary deviates quite a bit from the source material, transplanting Holmes (Dexter's Jonny Lee Miller) to New York, and most notably, turning Dr. Watson (Southland's Lucy Liu) into a woman, much to the chagrin of some diehard Sherlock fans.
With the recent flood of other high-profile Holmes adaptations, including BBC's Emmy-nominated Sherlock, comparisons will be inevitable. While Elementary's Thursday series premiere follows the crime-of-the-week format favored by CBS' successful procedurals, it also establishes more compelling mysteries in the characters' back stories.
So how did the new Holmes and Watson stack up against its predecessors? Here are three takeaways from Elementary's premiere.
1. Watson's gender switch is not the only change to the character. The former surgeon moves in with Holmes after being hired by his father to be Holmes' "sober companion." Unlike previous adaptations, this Watson can more than hold her own against Holmes. After her ill-timed invitation to go to the opera escalated into a shouting match between the new roommates, Holmes wound up begging -- and even apologizing! -- for his behavior during the performance to get Watson to drive him to interrogate a suspect. Watson also proved to have investigative skills of her own when uncovers the evidence needed to prove that the doctor was behind his wife's murder when Holmes was locked up for ramming her car into the suspect's. Holmes seems to recognize Watson's fascination with his job as well, telling her, "I happen to think there's some hope for you as an investigator." Case closed.
2. Is Holmes a tough guy? While Elementary still finds Holmes to be as brilliant and condescending as ever, as well as a man of many quirks (reciting soap opera lines and beekeeping, for example), Miller's Holmes does lack one quality (so far) that recent adaptations had: physical fighting skills. Robert Downey Jr.'s more recent take portrayed the detective as an athletic fighter. Perhaps this Holmes as some secret knife skills as well? Time will tell with CBS' incarnation.
3. Dark pasts. Holmes and Watson share more than their investigative talents. Both have a dark past, not to mention tense relationships with their respective parents. Although Holmes deduced that Watson quit practicing medicine after a patient died in her operating room, there seems to be more to the story. Holmes, on the other hand, broke out of rehab where he was serving a stint for drug addiction, which Watson believes was triggered by a woman. It remains to be seen whether any of their theories about each other are correct.
What did you think about Elementary's series premiere? What do you think about the female Watson? Are you glad that the show has no plans (yet) to go the romantic route with its male and female leads like other crime procedurals? Hit the comments with your thoughts.
Elementary airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.