I’ve been watching and enjoying CBS’s Elementary, the American take on a modern-day Sherlock Holmes story. Enjoying it so much, that my friend Jessica Luther and I decided to do a chat review of the premiere, which aired *mumble mumble* 3 weeks ago. Jess has had our review on her blog for a while, I kind of fell down on the ball on linking it. Since Elementary is back tonight after a week off for the vice-presidential debates, this seemed a good day to share it.

Jess and I will be discussing the second and third episodes in the next few days (assuming there’s enough material for another review), watch this space for a new recap :)

Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in a scene from CBS's "Elementary"

Watson and Sherlock: face off.

Here is our conversation about what we liked (Sherlock has sex! Watson is a woman of color! There’s no sexual tension!), what we hope changes (Watson is the only lady! Voyeuristic killing of women!) and some other random thoughts (the BBC/Moffat’sSherlock in comparison to this one, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Monk).

[Note: SPOILERS on the pilot of Elementary.]

J: Elementary premiered last week and per our conversation on Twitter (T =@graceishuman, J= @scATX), I think we both rather liked it. I will say first off, I thought the casting of Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller was great.

T: Yea, I think they both work well in their roles. I was a little nervous about both of them at first – especially Miller, he seemed to be forcing the weirdness a bit in the first few minutes. But I think they both settled into the roles quickly.

J: I agree. I think my least favorite part of their interaction in the episode was their first meeting when he fed her the pick up line from the TV. I suppose that was to show us how Liu’s Watson would respond to the weirdness of Miller’s Holmes but it seemed too much. But as soon as they got to the crime scene, their chemistry clicked in.

T: Yes, that was a bit strange. I wonder if it was meant to tie back in to what Watson says about him towards the end of the episode – the act he puts on to keep people at a distance, because he’s scared of intimacy.

J: What about Sherlock hooking up?

T: I liked him hooking up! For one thing, it immediately distinguishes Miller’s Sherlock from Benedict Cumberbatch’s asexual Sherlock (which…I’m not sure Moffat really has the best grasp on asexuality, but that’s another discussion).

J: I agree. I felt like there were definitely moments in the pilot that seemed to be responding almost directly to the BBC and Cumberbatch. This was certainly one. There was a strange Girl With the Dragon Tattoo vibe to that scene, right?

T: Yea, that was interesting. I haven’t seen that movie yet (either version) so it’s hard to compare. But both Miller’s tattoos and the tattooed woman also seemed to scream “This isn’t Moffat’s Sherlock.” I dig Miller’s tattoos.

J: I felt like the crucial scene at the end, when Holmes does the final confrontation with the villain and he gives Watson so much credit for figuring out the crucial evidence in the case, we saw MAJOR distance between this Sherlock and the BBC’s. In a way I appreciated.

T: Oooh, good point. I hadn’t thought about that scene in that way – but I was struck by the scene where she visits him in prison, and the fact that he apologizes to her, which is also a big difference for a number of reasons. One, that he’s apologizing at all. And two, that he’s apologizing to a woman of color, which is a rare sight on TV.

J: And when they go to the dead guy’s apartment (house?) and she says something like, “Your disappointed that you didn’t find the body first.” And he tells her he doesn’t do it for the credit. Again, totally different than Cumberbatch. Or, maybe I should say Moffat.

T: LOL, indeed. I wonder how much of it was a conscious attempt to distinguish the two. Obviously some of it was…and I know there was a bit of prickliness on Moffat’s part over the idea of a U.S. adaptation.

J: You’d think they had to be working against it on some level. Either way, I think they did a good job showing how their show is going to bring something new to this re-played trope/storyline/characters.

[Note: from The Independent in February 2012: “Elementary has already been threatened with legal action by the producers of the BBC’s Sherlock, amid concerns that its modern-day scenario appears to borrow elements from the hugely-successful series starring Cumberbatch. Sherlock producer Sue Vertue [stated], “We have been in touch with CBS and informed them that we will be looking at their finished pilot very closely for any infringement of our rights.”” As T.F. wrote, “For goodness’ sake. They don’t own Sherlock Holmes!”]

Check out scATX (Jess’ blog) for the full review!


  1. From what I gathered in the first episode, E!Sherlock only has sex to keep his mental juices flowing at optimum levels (words to that effect). Beyond that, he’s not interested in sex… which pretty much makes him asexual with a sex drive. Also, as you know, the writers have asserted that his relationship with Joan is strictly platonic.

    On the other hand, BBC!Sherlock started off as homoromantic (see “A Study in Pink”; Sherlock tells John he’s not interested much in sex or women (again, words to that effect), that he’s married to his work), but Moffat later said in an interview that his Sherlock is straight and thinks asexuality is boring.

    I think the ones that were most mad about Watson being a woman are Sherlock fans who ship Sherlock with John (which is a pretty good chunk of them). Also: Guardian columnist Victoria Coren wrote a massively offensive diatribe about it in her recent column. (And she’s not even watched the bloody show or done her research. And she calls herself a feminist to boot and completely overlooks the sexism (and racism) within the BBC series.)

    Personally, I love Elementary. (Spoiler: one of the upcoming guest stars is a WOC, a doctor whom Joan used to work with.) I saw one review online that said it was everything BBC’s Sherlock could have, and should have, been. I like the Holmes/Watson dynamic, how Joan is more apt to call Sherlock out on his crap, how that he’s more human than BBC!Sherlock, how Joan is a more active companion/assistant, how they seem to need each other.

    • They kind of revisit the “I only have sex because my brain needs it” scene when Watson goes to see him in prison…she says he says those kinds of things so that he doesn’t appear vulnerable, or something along those lines.

      Oh gosh, I’ll have to track down that Guardian review (what can I say, I’m a masochist).

      Agreed about both Watson being more vocal and Sherlock being more relatable. And yay, definitely looking forward to seeing another WOC on the show.

      Hope you enjoyed the review!

    • BBC Sherlock isn’t inhuman. He’s stereotypically autistic. BIG difference.

  2. Mary Driftwood says:

    Somewhat off topic, but on the subject of TV shows about detectives … I think I remember you mentioning a looooooong time ago that you were planning to watch the British detective show, Luther. Did you ever get around to it? If so, what did you think? Because I ended up having a lot of thoughts about it, and I’d be very interested to compare them with yours, you being the fabulously smart and aware person that you are.