Follow Up – I Did Watch “Elementary” and…
A few months ago I wrote an article about how I would not watch the new series “Elementary,” CBS’s attempt to play on the success of BBC’s “Sherlock” series. Now, I gave several valid reasons for not wanting to waste my time with yet another American attempt to copy a British series, but it seems that people, friends and readers were upset that I wouldn’t even give it a fair shot. Well, after getting quite a bit of backlash I decided I would at least give it a try to make sure not to judge before I saw it, book before cover kind of thing. Admittedly I went it already expecting to not enjoy it, I did my best to clear my mind of all of that prejudices and my final verdict after sitting through three episodes is…
Seriously, I was bored senseless. It isn’t an entirely offensive attempt like the ABC version of “Life on Mars” was, but it just isn’t anything special. I made sure to watch more than the pilot because people always say that a show cannot be defined just by the pilot, well you know what? “Sherlock” pulled in my by its pilot alone and here is why: it was unique.
Why “Sherlock” Works
I could easily just state that the writing and acting are superb, but so are a lot of series that isn’t exactly unique. What makes Moffat’s series unique is that it is a new way of telling us a story, getting us inside thoughts and actions like never before. In that first episode, “A Study in Pink,” we see how Sherlock’s mind works, as he is processing various details of a crime scene, we get to be part of his thought process. When he texts people we get to see the words pop up on-screen, it is new and adds something that makes the series stand out amongst all other shows. Then of course you have Cumberbatch’s approach to the character, he doesn’t falter or step out of character once, you hate him and love him, you want to punch him in the face but are then awed by his brilliance. It is a hard line to walk but Cumberbatch pulls it off brilliantly.
A show cannot live off one character alone, he doesn’t work in a vacuum that is where another key to the show comes in: chemistry. From episode one you can feel the electricity between Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Freeman’s Watson, that is something that cannot be reproduced, cannot be copied, it is either there or it isn’t. When they are in a scene together they just work, everything fits, there is a bond between them which makes you believe from their first case together that they really are comrades, brothers in arms. The final and perhaps most important aspect of “Sherlock” that makes it work is that if you took away the name of the characters, called it something completely different, it would still be a fantastic series. It doesn’t rely on the name “Sherlock” to keep its audience, because it is so much more than a gimmick or adaptation, it is fresh and exciting all on its own.
Why “Elementary” Doesn’t Work
The number one reason I did not enjoy this series and I believe it is doomed to fail is: it is boring. There is nothing fresh about the series, nothing that makes it stand out from the crowd, it is just another bland crime series. The first few episodes could be taken from any other CSI, Law & Order type of show, if you took away the name Sherlock Holmes it would have been canceled already. Now, I will admit that I appreciate Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock, it is an interesting take on the character, not the pompous punch-worthy detective we get from Cumberbatch and not the charismatic sex symbol we get from Downey, it is different. Playing on Sherlock’s addiction is something that has potential but they just don’t take it far enough, a lot of the time it feels like the writers are afraid of making you dislike their protagonist so they shy away from doing anything exciting. And Miller doesn’t feel as committed to the role as he could be, not pushing the boundaries to make his Sherlock an equal peer to the other two, it is just okay, and in the world of millions of shows to watch, just okay doesn’t cut it. Unfortunately what that then leaves us with is a generic cop drama with nothing to make it stand out from the dozens of other cop shows.
The second and most annoying reason this show just doesn’t work for me is: Lucy Liu. I know, people got on me about my dislike for her, but this show proves Bill Murray’s sentiment that she should not be allowed in Hollywood. Her Watson is emotionless, vapid, completely unbelievable and has absolutely no chemistry with Miller’s Sherlock. The woman’s face never emote any kind of feeling, it is like watching a cardboard box, flat and uninteresting.
Now, let’s talk about the writing, something that can save any series if done correctly, the lack of attention to detail that drives me insane. Okay, so I may be nitpicking but this is one of those things that keeps me from enjoying a show, when the writers don’t even attempt to give us believable dialogue and scenarios. Point 1: Why the hell does he say “cell-phone”? In the series Holmes has been in the US for only a few months but still keeps all of his other British slang, from bollocks to prat to lift. So, why does he say cell-phone? If you watch any other series with British dialogue and characters they say “mobile”, and I know I am being really picky but seriously it is one details that angers me. Point 2: Why is it that Lucy Liu can automatically state the size, shape and color of a Xanax pill? Think about it, she is a surgeon who cannot prescribe that kind of medication, she has been out of practice for quite some time. Okay, maybe she could know some other way, but being able to on the spot tell Sherlock exactly what it looks like? Really? Again I know I am being silly, but it is just one of those things. Then there is the dialogue and blasé banter that plagues a lot of crime dramas, needless filler that doesn’t serve any purpose other than the reiterate things for the audience, that if they were paying attention, they wouldn’t need spelled out. Dialogue should enhance a scene, add to the story and not just fill empty space.
Okay, let’s move on from the little things and on to the my final issue: chemistry. Remember how I said that the chemistry between Cumberbatch and Freeman was fantastic from the start and completely believable, well there isn’t any kind of connection or spark between Miller and Liu. I don’t care about the relationship, I don’t believe them as a duo, I just don’t feel anything at all for these two, it is again a boring and bland relationship. I am not saying I want them to make the mistake of having Sherlock and Watson have a sexual connection or anything as silly as that, I just want to believe for a second that these two would continue to be in each other’s company, that Watson wouldn’t quit and Sherlock wouldn’t ignore her. When they are in a scene together it could be two strangers, there is just nothing there.
Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t watch “Elementary” and form your own opinion, or that no one could possibly enjoy watching it, I am just saying that I for one do not enjoy spending my time watching this when I could rewatch episodes of “Sherlock.” There is no reason to watch a boring, bland cop show like this, for me, unless it is in the background while I am writing articles like these. Now, please go watch “Sherlock” so you have something to compare it to.