The famed detective, Sherlock Holmes, is stepping up from the pages of the classic book series to the screen alongside his companion, John Watson. With television adaptations such as “BBC’s Sherlock” already airing and the third movie in the Sherlock Holmes movie series being in production, the adventures of the detective are being brought to viewers with new twists.
We’re given intense fight scenes between Holmes and a man twice his size or the awkward moment when in “BBC’s Sherlock”, Watson finds a head in his fridge because of Holmes’s morbid curiosity about saliva congealing. But another show takes it one more step further.
In the most recent adaptation to hit the television screens, “Elementary” takes a new look at the eccentric and often annoyingly intuitive character of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a modern take on the series that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published, where Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock lives in New York and Lucy Liu’s Watson is now an Asian woman, who is not called John but Joan.
While his character still retains the same way of rattling off of facts and clues that no one else seems to notice in rapid sucession, Sherlock now has multiple tattoos and was just recently released from a drug rehabilitation center. Joan Watson is hired to be his sober companion by Sherlock’s father, set to live with Holmes for the six weeks following his release from the center.
“Elementary” faced much criticism for being similar to “BBC’s Sherlock” from faithful fans and critics as both are modern adaptations of the book series. Even the producers of “BBC’s Sherlock” warned CBS, the channel that broadcasts Elementary, that if the show turned out to be too similar, they would would bring them to court under copyright claims. But the two remain different in multiple ways, from production style to the background stories of the characters.
The most obvious difference is that “Elementary” is a procedural crime show, meaning that viewers can expect new episodes often. They create their own crimes to solve and Sherlock solves them, instead of using the scientific machines and standard police work that is employed in regular crime shows.
Because of this, the stylistic elements of the show vary as “Elementary” employs a straight-forward, clear way of telling the viewers what is happening while Sherlock often uses on-screen text and dizzying frame flashes of Sherlock having an epiphany of sorts. It’s a nice contrast between the two as both styles are appealing in different ways, one as a logical take on crime shows and the other a creative.
“BBC’s Sherlock” also maintains a close relationship with the crimes that Doyle wrote about in the books, with episodes adapted from original stories. But this isn’t the only thing that is a bit different between “Elementary” and “BBC’s Sherlock.” The characters themselves, with their attitudes and backgrounds are slightly different than the classics.
Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes is more raw and rugged compared to Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s Sherlock. While Cumberbatch’s Holmes is hyperactive and always excited to be working on a new case like a small child in a candy shop, Miller’s Holmes is darker and has other issues to worry about.
After all, the writers of “Elementary” aren’t afraid to bring up the drug problems that Sherlock Holmes had. They actually use it as part of the plotline to introduce Joan Watson, the female version of John. As she was hired by Holmes’s father to become Holmes’s sober companion, the series employs an expansion on the idea of Watson being a sober companion as well as a moral compass of sorts.
She isn’t afraid to put Holmes in his place when he’s being stupid and rude. When Sherlock is being insensitive to the situation of a woman being attacked, Watson stands up for the woman and tells Sherlock to stand outside without backing down. She serves as a buffer for Sherlock, knowing when to help him in a situation and when to tell him to stop.
It keeps to the classics as Watson is Sherlock’s most valuable companion. However, because Elementary’s Watson is a woman and an ex-surgeon instead of an army doctor, her perspective on cases and toward people is different. She’s more sympathetic to victims and is more accessible to many, compared to an army doctor.
But these points aren’t necessarily bad things. It’s a new take upon the idea of Sherlock Holmes. Viewers are able to connect with Miller’s Sherlock,more than Cumberbatch’s Sherlock because even a mastermind detective likes to Google his problems sometimes.
Only three episodes have aired on CBS but so far, it’s turning out pretty well. With a slightly more modern and unique take on the crime-solving Sherlock Holmes and his cases that the adaptations before it, “Elementary” has the potential to turn out as a must-watch series.