'Elementary' Review: A Solid Sherlock for CBS
'Elementary' Review: A Solid Sherlock for CBS
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
You can't hate Sherlock Holmes.

This is a good thing, since the world's greatest detective is getting a reboot on Elementary. The CBS drama is about as familiar as you would expect, but it does have a few changes to keep us intrigued. They work -- Elementary is a solid mystery with just enough of the procedural style to work well on CBS.

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Since Elementary is a Sherlock Holmes story, I won't bore you with many details about the basics: Sherlock is brilliant and solves impossible crimes with the aid of his detail-obsessed mind. The important thing about Elementary are the new variations on the old story.

Here are the biggest changes we get:

The crimes take place in present-day New York.

Forget the foggy streets of 19th-century London. This Sherlock Holmes dodges yellow cabs as he solves crime on the mean streets of New York City.

Dr. John Watson is now Dr. Joan Watson.

Yes, Watson is a lady, played by Lucy Liu. Even the doctor part has changed a little bit -- while Watson is indeed a medical doctor by training, she is working as a sort of drug counselor at the time of Elementary.

Sherlock Holmes is a recovering addict.
Sherlock Holmes aficionados probably know that the great detective was a fan of some rather illicit substances in the original stories. In this retelling, Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) has just gotten out of rehab, and his wealthy (although absent) father has hired Watson to help with the transition.

Other than these big three differences, however, this is definitely the Sherlock Holmes we all know and love. Sherlock's misanthropy, edginess and brilliance all remain intact, tempered only slightly by the norms required of a man who actually exists in real society.

So is Elementary a good adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story?

The short answer is yes. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu have an excellent "partners" chemistry -- Watson is not meant as a love interest for Holmes, at least not at this time. The case in the pilot episode is worthy of Sherlock Holmes in its intricacy, and the detective's method for solving it works. While Elementary does have the feel of a crime-of-the-week procedural, there is enough character study to hope for a show of true substance.

Honestly, I only have one criticism of Elementary: It comes too soon after the arrival of the British series, Sherlock. The two shows are similar in the extreme. Both are set in the present-day and feature a very classic Sherlock Holmes detective solving impossible crimes. This isn't even accidental, considering that the original plan for CBS' detective series was a straight reboot of the British version.

The similarities between the two projects make it a little difficult for a Sherlock fan to accept Elementary. The difference in tone and other small changes mean that a viewer of both shows will be forced to constantly compare the two. This is distracting and an occasional disadvantage for the newer CBS show.

On the other hand, if you've never watched Sherlock (you should, by the way -- it's excellent) but love solid detective stories, you will probably love Elementary. As you should. It is, after all, a solid and entertaining adaptation of one of the greatest mystery stories of all time.


Elementary premieres on Thursday, September 27 at 10pm on CBS.

(Images courtesy of CBS)


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