Impressed by the critical and artistic success of Sherlock in the United States, Robert Doherty developed his own version of a modern times Sherlock Holmes series titled Elementary. Eager to avoid any unflattering comparisons and/or copyright infringement problems, Doherty added two elements to the series which would make it stand apart from any other version of Sherlock Holmes. First, he set in New York City, though Holmes himself remains very much a Brit. Secondly, he made Dr. Watson a woman. We could even add a third element in making Holmes a recovering drug addict working through his recovery by helping the NYPD with particular tricky murder cases.
I think Sherlock is a brilliant show and Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman rank highly in the pantheon of great Holmes and Watsons. Elementary cannot hope to attain the heights of Sherlock and, in truth, does not attempt to. Elementary merely attempts to present a good mystery each week while slowly and methodically showing the growth of the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joan Watson. Personal anecdotal evidence points to the suggestion that some people find Jonny Lee Miller's jittery portrayal of Holmes to be a bit off-putting, but I grew used to it after a handful of episodes. As I said, Holmes, in this series, is a recovering drug addict, and Miller's performance captures the hell Holmes must be going through. I have no problem with Watson being a woman this time around, especially when played by the marvelous Lucy Liu. With the luxury of having 24 episodes per season, as opposed to Sherlock's three episodes each series, Elementary can more realistically portray the growing relationship between Holmes and Watson, as Holmes learns to respect Watson so much, he makes her an apprentice detective. Having to create 24 separate mysteries each season also inevitably means that some stories will be more obvious than others, but the series does have a pretty good batting average for originality, and even when you may have guessed who the murderer is by the halfway point, Miller and Liu's by-play is still entertaining.
One caveat is that the show would probably work just as well had CBS simply created yet another fictional male and female crime-solving partnership series, the likes of which are all over TV these days (Bones, Castle). It is nice that they decided to bring back Holmes and Watson, and I love Miller and Liu, but the show might have worked just as well without the Holmes-hook. That aside, Elementary is one of my few "must-see" television shows these days. ½ - JB