Television Review: Elementary (2012)

Elementary is a television show airing on CBS based upon Author Conan Doyle’s iconic characters, Holmes and Watson. Set in modern day New York City, Holmes is a recovering drug addict with a sober companion, Watson. Super intelligent and extremely tactless Holmes consults with the NYC Police Department helping to solve the more complex cases under the preview of Captain Gregson. Originally from England, Holmes lives in one of his wealthy father’s many homes (though his father’s least home it far surpasses any actual living space I’ve been in while in NYC) and his super companion is also fostered upon him by his father. Unemphatic and impatient Watson soon becomes Holmes favorite sounding board and someone he relies on to relate to the people in the case he must deal with to solve the puzzle. The first three episodes are available to view on

Elementary is yet another take on Holmes that is both different and similar to many shows on television in recent years. I don’t really think it will compete with Sherlock on BBC because the shows are vastly different. In fact, if there is competition for Elementary it is The Mentalist or reruns of House. There is no dark brooding man in a long trench coat, in fact Jonny Lee Miller spends much of his time walking around his house without his shirt on (THANK YOU!! Robert Doherty and Peter Blake!) speaking with a British accent and rejecting the routine and help of his companion Watson who tries to get Holmes to see outside himself and deal with his issues to prevent a relapse. Holmes just looks at her and says, Oh, I’m never doing drugs again, no need to worry. Much like Jane assures Lisbon he wont go do something and you know he will, or much like how Wilson tried to get House to see outside himself and care about people.

Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons

I’m a sucker for crime shows with smart people, and I immensely enjoy watching this drama unfold. Miller’s Holmes is smart and pays attention to detail, but it doesn’t get distracting. Sometimes during Sherlock all the close-ups and texting was a little distracting to me, Elementary plays Holmes attention to detail more similar to The Mentalist, showing some close ups and later explanation by Holmes what the viewer may have missed. It is a little more subtle and suits this crime drama. I also enjoyed the interplay of a female Watson, played by Lucy Liu, is a Doctor turned sober companion after a medical trauma. I liked that for the moment the relationship is one of that of paid personal aid, but that Watson becomes intrigued and helps with the crimes that Holmes is helping to solve. Their relationship is slowly evolving into a friendship and Watson manages to pry from Holmes what drives him to act the way that he does. Did I mention Holmes has shoulder tattoos and walks around without his shirt on?

I like that the crimes Holmes solves are just not gruesome murders and that paperwork prowling and mental gymnastics are more necessary than high tech gadgets no local government agency could actually afford. Holmes and Watson are both intelligent characters solving complex crimes about complex characters. I have hopes this show will continue to chart its own path in the genre and with these characters that leaves no room for comparison with other contemporary versions of Sherlock Holmes because of the subtle differences in portrayal, writing, and concept. Elementary is a smart crime drama show worth some attention, if only for some smart pretty people who help solve crimes no one else can.


7 thoughts on “Television Review: Elementary (2012)

  1. Sadly I missed the first two eposides, but was impressed with the third. Won’t be missing any more anytime soon. I, too, liked the idea of a female Watson (as Lucy Lui was a good choice for the part). I don’t know if the relationship will become romantic or not. I feel that it won’t (for some strange reason, Hollywood seems to want EVERYTHING to be romantic, probably because that’s what sells). Looking forward to seeing where the series is heading.

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