Sherlock vs Sherlock….(Elementary actually)


A while back the I purchased the first season of Elementary.  Elementary stars Jonny Lee Miller as a recovering addict and consulting detective named Sherlock Holmes, living in present day New York City and solving crimes alongside the NYPD with the help of his “sober companion”, former surgeon Dr. Joan Watson played by Lucy Liu.  I was quite leery about watching it, so the DVD sat idle on my shelf for several months.  I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan so I had been biding my time waiting for series three of the BBC’s Sherlock to air.  Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a “high functioning sociopath” and consulting detective named Sherlock Holmes living in present day London and solving crimes alongside Scotland Yard with the help of his friend, former army surgeon Dr. John Watson played by Martin Freeman.

I couldn’t wait any longer for Sherlock Series 3 and needed a Holmes fix so I finally decided to watch Elementary.  Of course being the fan that I am, I took great interest in the complete contrast between the two series.  I suppose the first thing I should get out of the way is that while I enjoyed both, but that I vastly prefer Sherlock.  I enjoyed Elementary, but there were just some things about it….

I suppose neither show is really that faithful to the original books, but in a way Sherlock does a better job with that.  The obvious differences arising in Elementary are that first, Watson is a woman and second they aren’t in London.  Actually a female Watson works well in their series and with Miller’s Holmes.  I haven’t seen the second season yet (which I believe is airing right now on television) but I have read a few episode summaries quickly and see that they do go back to London for a few episodes, I’ll touch on this more in a few minutes.  Sherlock references the original tales a lot, and while the stories are original they lovingly include links to the source material.  I think that picking up on these clever nods is part of the fun (did anyone else pick up on the Giant Rat of Sumatra and Sumatra Station mentions in Sherlock’s The Empty Hearse?)

As I watched Elementary, it slowly started to feel like just another cop show set in New York, with characters that just happened to be named Holmes and Watson.  The “magic” that is Sherlock Holmes was missing.  Some episodes really reminded me of Castle, as the cases were nothing really out of the ordinary and Holmes was just a consultant with the NYPD.  Cumberbatch’s Holmes is tall, clean shaven and well dressed svelte while Miller’s Holmes is covered in tattoos, and wears jeans and t-shirts, and just looked scruffier.  That is at he did at first.  Somewhere in the middle of season one, Elementary started referencing a bit more of the Holmes’ lore, even bringing in a Miss Hudson to clean Holmes and Watson’s brownstone.  Holmes started dressing up a little bit, though the character did still come off like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory at times.  Those moments made me cringe by the way.  Either this was done intentionally from the beginning showing Holmes’ progression as a recovering addict, or (and I think this more likely) the producers realized they were in danger of no longer being a Sherlock Holmes show and had to right the ship, as it were.

In Elementary, Watson begins as Holmes’ sober companion with a set contract, so we are to assume she will leave him and move on to her next client, but as she gets to know him and his work, Joan stays on with Sherlock after her contract is up to continue her training to become an investigator, so we really get to see both characters growing.  In Sherlock, Sherlock and John meet through a mutual acquaintance who suggest the two share rent and become flatmates (as was their introduction in A Study in Scarlet).  They become best friends, and we see their relationship develop much the way it did in Conan Doyle’s stories.

The best thing about Elementary is that it is American.  That means there are full seasons, so for twenty-odd weeks there are new forty-five minute episodes all the time.  Sherlock has had nine ninety minute episodes since 2010.  As great as Sherlock is, it’s nice to have Elementary to fill in the gaps.

Sherlock Series Three has finished airing in the UK, and is just making it’s way to North American airwaves….though I suppose they’re not really using airwaves these days…  The BBC does seem to take care of their fans, even though it has been an incredibly long wait between series two and three, I appreciate the time and quality they put into the little things like this mini-episode that helps bridge the gap:

Bottom Line: both shows have their own merits and you can safely watch both….
Bottom Line 2: Of course, my favourite Holmes is still Jeremy Brett….though this guy looked pretty good at Hallowe’en last year….and yes that was me.
Bottom Line 3: When Sherlock is all said and done, I’d love to see Cumberbatch and Freeman do a one-off period/historical episode.  Set them in 1890’s London, I think they’d make an amazing job of it.
Bottom Line 4: It’s nice that Cumberbatch’s Holmes wears a hat once in a while….



Posted on 14-01-23, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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