Noah Berlatsky recently posted an essay at Splice Today called “Elementary is Better than Sherlock”. He argues that the CBS series is better than the BBC series. In the end, he makes the bold assertion that “it is in fact the best Sherlock show.”
Being something of a nitpicker myself, I find some of his claims a bit specious, and his focus seems to center on proving why BBC Sherlock is worse than Elementary, rather than why the latter is better than the former. He echoes some of the complaints heard elsewhere about the fourth season (and especially the final episode) of Sherlock.
Still, the head-to-head comparison of Sherlock Holmes as written for CBS and portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller and Sherlock Holmes as written for the BBC and portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch is interesting to chew on. Their respective Watsons come under examination, too. Berlatsky favors the way Liu’s “Watson not infrequently catches details in a case that Sherlock misses” over the way “Freeman’s John Watson really is as far beneath Sherlock mentally as Sherlock says he is.”
I know we have BBC and CBS fans among our members. Elise Eliot (JHWS “Lucy”) contributed a thoughtful essay on “Why Joan Watson is Exceptional” to the Fall 2016 issue of The Watsonian. In the Spring 2015 issue, Michael J Quigley (JHWS “Roy”) and Christopher Zordan (JHWS “Flash”) compiled a list of eight key Watsonian traits. They measured several Watson portrayals against this rubric: Freeman’s John matched 8/8, and Liu’s Joan made a good showing with 6/8. (One of the two missing traits is patriotism as evidenced by military service. Joan as a former Army doctor would have been really cool. I wish the folks behind Elementary had made that a part of her story.)
Personally, I’m a fan of both shows. If you love one or both of the shows, I’d love to hear why in the comments.
[This should go without saying, but, well, it is the Internet, so…. We at the Watson Society firmly believe that we can have different opinions and discuss them without attacking one another. Be excellent to each other.]
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31 Replies to “Is Elementary Better Than Sherlock?”
Personally I find Elementary unwatchable. I have heard others describe it as a perfectly acceptable detective show that has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes. Of course, I have my own boundaries on what I will watch/read. Basically, I demand that both Holmes and Watson be present and that they both be men. Anything else I have no interest in. I suppose that makes me a bit closed minded. But that has been my view for about 60 years, so it seems unlikely I will change now. Oh, and just an aside, I loved season 4, including the the last episode.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We’ve all got opinions, and I really appreciate the note that the show falls outside the boundaries of what you enjoy, which is totally reasonable. Personally, I’m open to all kinds of twists and turns – a female Watson doesn’t bother me, but she has to be otherwise recognizably a Watson, and I love explorations how that might work.
As for BBC Sherlock Episode 4, I also thoroughly enjoyed that.
For me, Canon Holmes & Watson, BBC Sherlock & John, and Elementary Sherlock & Joan are all separate things, and while I like examining how the second relates to the first, and how the third relates to the first, I don’t really think a lot about how the second compares to the third. But I thought the original essay was interesting (maybe *because* it’s not something I think about a lot, come to think of it…).
I do hope I did not step outside the boundaries of polite discourse! That is never my intention. But sometimes I do express myself…forcefully. If I offended, I sincerely apologise.
I mean, we all know where I stand… 🙂
But actually, I would argue that the shows are too different to truly compare. And not in the sense of “one is Sherlock Holmes, and one is a procedural using the names” like some people argue. But I personally feel that they focus on different aspects of who Holmes is, who Watson is, what is central to the partnership (beyond friendship), and also just format.
Elementary focuses on the compassionate, quirky Holmes, while Beeblock looks at the hyper-rational philosopher-king Holmes. Elementary focuses on Watson-as-medico while Beeblock focuses on Watson-as-soldier. Elementary focuses on Watson becoming a detective in the partnership, while Beeblock looks at Watson becoming a biographer in the partnership.
I’ve also always felt that Elementary’s format makes it more comparable to a short story, while Beeblock’s longer format makes it more like a novel.
None of these are hard analogues- of course, both stray from these generalities in their pursuit of a story. But in that same pursuit, it makes them incredibly different, and hardly worth saying one is better than another. I’ve always felt which you like better depends a lot on which styling of Holmes, Watson, and the partnership you prefer. Canon, in my opinion, provides room for both to exist and still be connected to the source.
There is *so* much room in Canon to go in lots of directions, isn’t there? I think that’s part of the “secret” of its enduring popularity, really.
The idea that Elementary is more like a series of short stories, while BBC is more like a set of novels, is an excellent way of putting it, too. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but that’s rather astute.
At some point, when I’m not pulled in so many different directions, I want to sit down and write a longer essay on the connections to Canon that Elementary has. I used to do a vlog series, during the first season of Elementary, explaining a number of connections, so I have a bunch of notes already prepared. Now I just need to transform it into an essay!
I think this would be fantastic!
“Elementary” is nothing more than a CBS police procedural, using the same formula for success that they used many times before, but using monikers from the Canon. They are simply making $$$ off of the current popularity surge, which can be credited to the Downey Jr. films and the BBC “Sherlock” series. I attempted for 2 seasons to watch it but couldn’t stand it. I can’t associate Holmes with Brooklyn, prostitutes, and a serious drug problem. I find no problem with Watson being a women, but not having a military background is totally taboo. Mycroft screwing Watson and owning restaurants, Irene Adler is Moriarty, Mrs. Hudson a cross-gender who only makes one or two appearances, I simply couldn’t watch anymore. “Sherlock” meanwhile is the second coming of the Canon. A new canon written for a modern generation. I absolutely love the show, it is ground breaking, and it’s worldwide appeal is proof that it is phenomenal. So NO, NO, NO, “Elementary” is not better than “Sherlock”.
Well said. And I agree. (Well, except for the bit about Watson being a woman, which is also a no no for me.). But your thoughts on Elementary mirror mine.
Sherlock is, indeed, the new coming of the canon.
Having watched a good number of police procedurals (I used to be a big Law & Order fan), I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. I find it to be much cleverer and more interesting than a mere crime-of-the-week serial.
As for the other facets, I think they’re interesting ways to play with the concepts, and well within a long tradition in pastiche of twisting things this way and that. After reading _The Last Sherlock Holmes Story_, the whole Elementary Moriarty/Adler storyline wasn’t shocking per se.
I’m not a big fan of Elementary’s Mycroft, I’ll admit. A subject for another post, perhaps!
I like your statement that BBC Sherlock is “a new canon written for a new generation”, because I think that gets to the heart of things in an interesting way. Elementary is not Sherlock is not Conan Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. All adaptations make changes. Whether one likes those changes is a reflection of personal tastes.
Just so you know, Ms. Hudson is a trans woman. Calling her “a cross-gender” is really offensive to trans people, and I would hope that isn’t what you intended! Thanks!
Thank you, Elise.
My bad, of course there was no intention to be offensive to trans people, just an error in memory. My only point with Mrs. Hudson was the character popped in one episode and seemed to disappear after that. Remember I quit watching in season two, so if the character ever returned I would not know. And I don’t hate people for watching the show, I hope they enjoy it. Simply the characters don’t fit my guidelines for a Holmes & Watson other than in name. In “Elementary” the crime always seemed to be a murder, and the murdered always seemed to be the guest star. Least we forget the original Conan Doyle stories were called ‘Adventures’.
“‘Elementary’ is nothing more than a CBS police procedural, using the same formula for success that they used many times before, but using monikers from the Canon. They are simply making $$$ off of the current popularity surge…” These two facile points are always thrown up by the dislikers of “Elementary”, points which have nothing to do with the quality of the show, but somehow taint it, in the arguer’s eyes, as inferior. The Canon, as mysteries in general, are procedural in nature; in fact Msgr Knox listed the procedural aspects of the Canon before the Canon itself was complete. The argument that CBS is out to make money off of Sherlock Holmes, implies an altruism on the BBC’s part, which is utterly ridiculous. The BBC has made about $100 million more from 13 episodes that CBS’ $80 million from more than 100 episodes. Let us also remember that Doyle’s primary reason to produce most of the Canon was for “$$$”. To criticize a television network for making money is to forget that they are in show BUSINESS. So, to call a show with a high-functioning sociopath with a serious drug problem, a rescue-prone single father doctor, a lesbian dominatrix Irene Adler, ninja assassin Mary Morstan, a gay-bating Moriarty–whose only a puppet of Sherlock’s mentally unstable mass-killing sister “the second coming of the Canon”, is, in my humble opinion, a stretch. Popularity does not equal greatness. To each his own, as the old saying goes, but anything other than the original sixty stories is a pale imitation, to be enjoyed, or not, for its own merits.
Until the latest season of “Sherlock” I’d have said it was a tossup, but season four felt, for the most part, like a noisy Hollywood action film with dark conspiracies, super villains, and even people running (or jumping) away from fireballs. Holmes and Watson and Batman and Robin, Euros Holmes as the Joker. Pfui, as Nero Wolfe would have said. The season redeemed itself a bit in the final moments of the last episode, but it was still a disappointment.
The current season of “Elementary” is getting a bit formulaic (the guilty party is always the first person they interview) but this show have never annoyed me, while “Sherlock” certainly did that this time around.
Well, Sherlock Holmes was the original caped crusader, right? 😉
It will be interesting to see if BBC Sherlock comes back for a fourth series, and where they go from here. The end of “The Final Problem” felt pretty, well, *final* to me.
I am a fan of both. I think BBC Sherlock has had higher highs and lower lows, while Elementary has been much closer to consistently good throughout.
It is one thing for people to not like Elementary, but I am confused by the people who hate Elementary. Like, foaming at the mouth, rending of garments HATE Elementary. The people who feel the need to carpet bomb any positive mention of Elementary online with no content spite comments. I even know and respect some of them in other contexts, but they lose all reason and self-control at the very mention of Elementary.
I also feel like people who don’t like BBC Sherlock can usually give concrete reasons while Elementary haters just fall back on visceral ejaculations of contempt.
It is those visceral expressions of contempt I’m hoping to avoid! I don’t understand the *anger* that seems to arise, either. Here’s hoping folks here can keep it civil, since I’ve seen some good points brought up already.
I’m sorry, but not surprised, that some responses to this post are focusing on the linked article’s divisive title rather than the topic posed at the end: “If you love one or both of the shows, I’d love to hear why in the comments.”
As many Elementary fans know all too well, any opportunity to compare the two shows will result in a pile-on of Sherlock fans hating Elementary. (The BBC Sherlock fandom is much larger than Elementary’s – e.g. consider one measure, # of completed works on AO3: 82,000 vs 1,800 – so the vitriol felt by even a small percentage easily overpowers any sincere commentary discussing the two adaptations. After four and a half years of constant scorn, some of us have no more tolerance for nonconstructive criticism.)
I’m new to JHWS and joined to support some friends who were recently published in The Watsonian. Although I’d read a few of the original stories and seen a smattering of recent film/tv adaptations, Elementary is what pulled me into becoming a Holmes & Watson fan who studies ACD canon, seeks out new adaptations, and is inspired to create my own. I’ve been lucky to meet other Elementary fans with more Holmesian experience who have introduced me to some of those other adaptations, shared thoughtful analysis about them, and encouraged my creative engagement.
As an Elementary fan, I really don’t enjoy reading the reasons why other people hate it: such comments are LEGION and I’m so so tired of them. Even with (much appreciated) comment moderation, there are already a few of them in the comments to this post. (Over on Tumblr, I have blocked literally hundreds of accounts to avoid hateful commentary about Joan Watson specifically and Elementary in general in the #Elementary tag.) If anyone is wondering why there aren’t more Elementary fans participating in Holmesian fanspaces, this is why *I* stay away. And if anyone is wondering why I’m here at JHWS in that case, well, I’m wondering that too. I had hoped that maybe JHWS members would welcome all Watsons. I’m glad some seem to, at least.
But I’m done reading why other people dislike the adaptation that brought me to Holmes & Watson.
I think it’s fabulous that Elementary brought you into the wider fandom, and I am sorry to hit a sensitive spot. I truly do want to hear from people who, like you and Elise, love Elementary and can share with others why you love it and how it *is* an exploration of Holmes and Watson that deserves serious consideration and not be rejected out-of-hand.
We do welcome and celebrate all Watsons here at the Watson Society, though individual members, of course, have different opinions. (And not everyone who contributes to the comments is a member.)
Sorry, I am one of those who missed the trees for the forest. I like BBC Sherlock because, at least early on, it is very clever, both in utilizing and referring to elements of the Canon, and in its own right. The London it presents is a compelling playground for the characters and the style of it made Sherlock Holmes cool again, which I think has had a lot of positive secondary effects for the Sherlockian world. The first few seasons make me genuinely feel smarter for watching them. I like interpretations of Holmes and Watson and I love Molly Hooper, this Irene Adler, and Mycroft. I think BBC Sherlock made Moriarty interesting in a way that I’m not sure the character always is in other adaptations.
I like Elementary because, to me, they got Holmes right. (I also like the RDJ version better than most.) I love Joan Watson and think they have done great things with the character. I think Detective Bell is an improvement upon Lestrade in the Canon and I like Captain Gregson just fine. I think there is a genuine warmth between the various characters that is unique to this show, and if you argue that the Canon is about friendship I think Elementary is a great exemplar of this. I think Everybody is one of the better interpretations of the Irregulars. Clyde, obviously. Elementary is consistently pretty good, and it has pulled off some really good Sherlockian mysteries on occasion. Even when the mysteries are a little too CBS the character work appeals to me.
Yay for both, says I.
fwiw, that’s why I, too, am chary about participating in the larger Holmesian fandom: it is exhausting to constantly be put in the position of having to defend Elementary’s existence. Exhausting, frustrating, repetitive, and frankly boring.
I think all who love the characters should be welcome and I enjoy reading different opinions. As I already said, there was no intent to offend anyone in my comments. I was just expressing my own personal opinions. I have been a fan of SH and JW for 60 years and that is why I am so thrilled that new people are discovering the canon. I love the BBC interpretation as it seems, in spirit, so very close to canon. Others like different interpretations and I think that is great. But I know what I love and I like to talk about that.
I’ve been thinking about it most of the day, and so I hope no one minds yet ANOTHER comment from me…
Why do I love Elementary?
First, and I think this is important to say, I appreciate the responsible way they handle drug addiction. It’s a popular thing, to mention drug addiction in the past, or to portray it irresponsibly, but I feel like Elementary has worked very hard to make sure they give a sensitive portrayal of addiction as a mental illness. Furthermore, while I know the fact that Holmes is an addict really bothers folks who don’t like Elementary, I’ve always found it to be a great “what-if” question from Canon: in MISS, Watson narrates “For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable career.” Elementary participates in The Game here by taking one line and extrapolating it further, just as we all do. Except this time it asks, “what if Holmes had a real problem with addiction?” It’s a worthy question, and I think it’s a great jump off point for a series.
I love that Watson doesn’t let Holmes walk all over her. When he makes an insulting comment towards her, she makes it clear that it’s not all right, no matter how smart he is. When he’s disparaging towards others, she also makes a point of telling him it’s not okay. At the same time, she has her own ambitions and interests, so it’s not like her entire role is just say “no, Holmes, bad.” I found her growth from sober companion to detective to be well handled, and I thought it was great to finally give Watson a real detective title and make it clear that Watson isn’t a sidekick. Of course, in Canon, Watson’s detective skills are written about rather unevenly; in some stories he can’t figure out how Holmes came up with his deductions, in others he follows along easily, in some he can’t observe anything, while in others he points out vital clues that Holmes may have missed. The same is true in Elementary- Watson contributes meaningfully to their investigations, sometimes solving them, sometimes a step behind, but never completely in the dark. There is no “Good Lord, Holmes, how amazing!” with Joan Watson. I also, personally, love that she’s a middle-aged woman who is only now finding a job she’s passionate about, because I think it’s important for people to know that they may not find their passion until later in life. I also think it’s a nice Canon nod, because Watson begins as a doctor and a soldier, but he doesn’t pick up his medical practice again until years after meeting Holmes.
And while I know the role of sober companion is a dividing one, I thought it was an interesting choice. Because in Canon, it isn’t as though Holmes and Watson were bosom buddies when they first moved in together; it was a decision made out of necessity, because they needed to split the rent. The friendship comes a little later. Being able to see that friendship evolve on Elementary, from necessity to a deliberate choice, was amazing. There tends to be a rush, in a lot of adaptations, to get from introduction to best friends immediately. Because of Elementary’s format, it was able to take its time and show why these two people might become the most important person in the other’s life.
Also, Holmes values Watson for who she is, and Watson values Holmes, and really, I do just love their friendship.
I like that Elementary isn’t afraid to try new things. We have over 100 years of Holmesian screen adaptations, and so it’s easy to fall into familiar patterns. I have always appreciated that they want to do something new. Sometimes that turns out great, and sometimes it’s a bit of a miss, but they do try. I appreciate the way it talks back to Canon, too, sometimes pointing out things in the original stories that aren’t ideal and twisting it around to make a point. It also interacts with Holmesian history in really interesting ways that I’ve only ever seen the 2013 Russian adaptation do.
I love that Holmes learns. The phrase “he’s more human” or “becoming more human” is super ableist, and so I want to make clear that I’m not referring to it in that manner, but Elementary shows us a Holmes who is not always great at connecting, but tries, and fails, and then tries again. Elementary’s Holmes is willing to apologize (much as Canon Holmes was) when he hurts someone with his words, and wants to be a good friend, even if his idea of friendship looks a little different than what others might think. I love that Holmes cares so much about people, that he wants to help people, that it isn’t JUST about the puzzle, but about the people. That’s the Holmes I fell in love with when I was a kid; the one who wanted to help people, and yes, the puzzles were cool and important, but ultimately, it was about helping people.
I like the secondary characters. I think Elementary attempts (and sometimes fails, admittedly) to give them their own stories and personalities, that even if they’re on the screen for a short while, you get to know something important about them. I like that no one on this show is a fool that is just there to be mocked by Holmes; the police Holmes and Watson consult with are good at their jobs, and very competent, they just sometimes want some extra assistance. I think that’s very true to Canon—after all, Holmes did come to appreciate Lestrade, and he thought Gregson had brains. It’s nice to see an adaptation take that as truth and let the police officers be good at their work.
I like that Elementary tries to reflect the modern world, in terms of its casting choices. There are POC characters, queer characters, disabled characters, etc. and none of them are part of Very Special Episodes. They’re just… there. Woven into the fabric of NYC.
I don’t agree with all of Elementary’s choices, but man, do I think it is an excellent addition to the fabric of Holmesiana, and an oddly unique one, too.
You wish to know why I love Elementary? This is a topic I can do!
I love that Elementary went all the way back to canon for the best personality traits of the original Holmes: his compassion and his willingness to correct injustice as he saw and understood it, within the law where he can, and outside the law if that’s required. (ACD’s Holmes always had very specific reasons for compounding a felony, after all, and similarly for being rude and abrasive!)
I love that they gave us a competent Watson, and freely acknowledge that anyone fit to run with Sherlock Holmes must be exceptional in their own right. I wish they did more with her — oh, how I wish it! — but she does get her own story lines from time to time, and they use her to explore questions of exactly what it means to partner to a Holmes.
I also loved their Kitty Winter (although she took a long while to grow on me), a canon character with great potential who is massively underutilized in adaptations. Similarly, I loved their willingness to question the ethics and benevolence of canon Mycroft’s shadow government via their development of their parallel character, Morland Holmes.
I further love that Elementary is in constant conversation with canon and with the adaptive traditions that came after. For example, Sherlock Holmes has come to mean many things in society, with some revering him as a philosopher-king of sorts, or as a celebration of logic and “rationality” to the complete exclusion of emotion or desire. I love Elementary’s willingness to wrestle with these themes, and to likewise question their truth, implications, and desirability.
And I also love that instead of adapting the stories straight — because we KNOW these stories, many of us, and there are already adaptations that endeavor to simply be re-enactments of what ACD wrote — they play with them in the same way that many fan-authors do, asking what themes or questions are interesting about a story, and then centering their explorations there. The first time Elementary tackled “Thor Bridge,” for example, they delivered a fix-it for the story of the beleaguered wife who received unjust treatment in ACD’s version. The second time they tackled “Thor Bridge,” they had Holmes immediately solve the case and reveal the frame-up and then spend the REST of the episode exploring the question of whether the frame-up SHOULD have been revealed, and what should best be done now that it has. (For those unfamiliar with the Elementary episode but familiar with the canon case, they changed the target of the frame-up so that the woman who gave her life to execute the frame-up was well-justified in her actions.) These are far more interesting things to do than simply re-telling us ACD’s version of Thor Bridge. After all, if I want to know ACD’s version, I already have ACD and Granada and the Merrison/Williams BBC Radio production to turn to.
…and that will do for starters, I think? 🙂
Why I love Elementary
Elementary’s initial conception of Holmes and Watson and the fantastic chemistry between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu brought these people to life in my imagination in a way I hadn’t experienced since The X-Files.
I love the idea that they’re both dealing with unhealed traumas in their pasts and somehow complement each other through their respective recoveries. (although Sherlock’s development has gotten more narrative attention than Watson’s, which is a never-ending source of frustration for me as a fan. I think not only Watson but Sherlock and the entire show would be better served if they spent a bit more time on Watson and a bit less on Sherlock. And a LOT less on the cases of the week, which should be the B-plot to the characters’ stories, not the other way around. But I digress.)
I’m especially impressed by the seriousness with which they address addiction and recovery, at least through the first three seasons (it’s dropped off a bit since then). They do a really great job at creating fully realized secondary characters who never come back as often as I would like. Season one’s slow-build long-form narrative sucked me in by episode 4 and continued to reward close review (ok, fannish obsessiveness) all the way to the very end of its last episode.
The actors and writers all frequently refer to the original stories to find inspiration and examples of character beats and plot elements to shape the performances and the stories. Their interviews about this and some of the fan commentary I found sparked my interest in learning more about ACD as a result. At the same time, the show, especially in the remarkable first season, is also interested in questioning and revising some of the related assumptions and motifs, like the lone genius stereotype and Holmes’ various interactions with women. I love the compassion Elementary’s Sherlock often shows to victims and other vulnerable people, his recognition that he’s not an expert in all things and it’s therefore entirely practical to make use of others for what he doesn’t know, and his deep affection for and arguable co-dependency on Watson.
I love that Watson is a single woman in her late 40s for whom marital status is a non-issue, not only for her but for everyone. She’s never been sexualized; in fact there are only a handful of times when the show has veered into any sort of prurient portrayal of women at all. (Notable for a mainstream network crime show with over 100 episodes.) She’s stubborn and not particularly good at taking care of herself emotionally: she hides in work, much like Sherlock does. She’s curious and mostly fearless, and she is not ever cowed by Sherlock’s arrogance, anger, or attitude. She wants to learn, and she wants to be useful. She wants what she does to have an impact on the world. I wish the show did more to demonstrate her affection for Sherlock; there’s a bit too much assumption that of course she cares without letting her show the nuances in those feelings they way he does. I admit I wish the show did more with Joan Watson’s character, period.
I joined this group because I like and admire John H. Watson, soldier and doctor and companion to Sherlock Holmes. He is a good man, curious and brave and loyal.
Surely that is why we all are here?
Tahnk you Selena. My feelings too.
I can wholly understand all the opinions here and align with some more than others.
Rather than go over points that have already been made I hope to be able to add another angle to this.
I have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes from childhood and loved the Basil Rathbone films, the Grenada series and of course the books. The after a time along came Robert Downey Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller in quick succession. The drought was over.
I am impressed with the adaptions that have been made, but maybe I am less critical as a fan.
Sherlock, brought clever writing,combined with a new outlook in a TV series on how to keep a plot moving in the current world (I am still impressed with the the text messages displayed on screen), and some fine acting and writing. I am afraid it’s the final episode of the last series that disappointed me here, as I felt a lot of ideas were thrown into the episode and it became a bit too fantastical for my tastes.
Elementary has also brought new angles, and sometimes these can be steps too far away from the orignial depictions for some, but I for one appreciate these greatly. The acting is good, the chemistry among the cast is apparent, and there is humour and character development.I agree that sometimes the murder is less significant to what is going on and this could happen more often. It also can feel rushed at times but there is a lot to cram into a 40 minute episode.
I used to hold Sherlock in extremely high regard but was left disappointed in the last series and so far Elementary has never done this yet. Admittedly the highs and lows of Sherlock were much greater but the long term developments of characters over time in Elementary has given it the edge for me.
I hope the forum won’t mind a ‘drive-by’ comment from someone who chanced upon this fascinating conversation accidentally. But with apologies for rehashing any older arguments, I find Elementary to be far better than Sherlock for three reasons: First, Elementary gives women and PoCs far more respect and equal stature, while Sherlock mystifyingly, despite being set in what is now the most multicultural city in the world, exists in a whitewashed world that is even strange by Hollywood’s retrograde standards. Refreshingly, Dr Joan Watson possesses an intellect that is capable of growth, as does Marcus Bell. One would imagine that being around Sherlock daily and watching his deductive powers in full force regularly would necessitate this capacity to learn, but on Sherlock, Freeman’s Watson shows only minimal intellectual growth. Second, Elementary’s Sherlock is still the smartest person around, but he is human, is capable of empathy, and has very human faults; whilst the BBC’s Sherlock and Mycroft are portrayed from a vantage point such distance and height that that one finds it difficult to empathise with characters that are both so antisocial whilst psychopathically brilliant. I was at first mystified by Miller’s portrayal of Sherlock, but it has grown on me to the point that I think he is utterly brilliant. Third, whilst both shows require the viewer to suspend belief regularly, as would be expected in any Sherlock Holmes adaptation, Elementary’s suspension of it is far more muted, and therefore believable. Sherlock’s fantastical jumps are so farfetched–as it was when he rescues Irene Adler who was about to be beheaded or when he faked his suicide–that it at times makes Star Wars look like a reality show by comparison. I could not watch BBC’s Sherlock past series 3 as it seemed to ‘jump the shark’a bit too much, and although Elementary has declined from its highs in Seasons 2 and 3, it is still very watchable.
Coincidentally, as a side note, I went to the same high school in NYC as did Lucy Liu, and I trained at the same drama school as Martin Freeman did in London, and am currently enrolled in a doctoral programme at King’s College London, where Sherlock’s fictional Watson supposedly attended medical school–which I guess makes me rather inclined to appreciate the many different Watsons and the two cities from which they live!
I believe that either show has some good form of entertainment. But to me they are attempts to update to future my world of 1895.That world does not need updating. Just continued attempts to extend the world as it is. Which so far to me have been nobly tried.
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