The first trailer for CBS’ modern day, New York set Sherlock Holmes adaptation ‘Elementary’, starring Benedict Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein co-star Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes, and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson.
So…. thoughts everyone?
Breaking down the trailer, and the BTS comments, along with the character/story synopses CBS have released:
So far, they’ve taken anything that makes Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson themselves, and stripped it down to the generic.
I was truly optimistic about the idea of a gender-swapped Dr. Watson, until I saw the shoes in the first production shots. Lucy Liu is wearing gorgeous shoes that make her incapable of walking fast, let alone running in pursuit of a suspect.
They are impractical, but stylish. Form over function. In the first thirty seconds of the trailer, a former surgeon gasps at the sight of a body. “She’s coming from an emotional place,” and Holmes is apologizing for how he speaks to her?
To strip Watson of war-veteran experience, being an army surgeon in fact, was heinous. To then make the dynamic that of a spoiled addict with a hired, “Sober companion,” is beyond my capacity to comprehend.
Holmes and Watson are equals, friends, partners, a symbiotic duo. Holmes may do the heavy lifting intellectually, but Watson is not a shrinking violet. If CBS had applied those dynamics to a male-female partnership, and given a female character that background and experience, it could have had something revolutionary.
Instead, they’ve watered down the core of Doyle’s adventures and made Watson another, “Chick.” This is unacceptable.
The horrible thing, is that the dynamics are reading a bit more like those of Castle, which is a show I enjoy. So I would probably be highly enthusiastic about Elementary if it weren’t being sold as a version of Doyle. Jonny Lee Miller looks fantastic, and I don’t yet see much to compare between his portrayal and Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock. I adore Lucy Liu, she’s one of the few women in film and television that can play perfectly uncompromising strength where it’s needed, and to see a WoC in a major role that has always been played by white men is a stroke of genius.
This would be a quirky, interesting procedural in a line-up dominated by the CSI franchise, if the morass of cribbing from/not cribbing from the BBC/Hartswood/Masterpiece WBGH’s Sherlock weren’t the only thing that we see.
It would be an interesting take on Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson if they hadn’t stripped out character backstory that belongs to the public domain, in what I think is an attempt to distance themselves from Sherlock. If they hadn’t made this a dynamic that probably starts as nursemaid/enfant terrible and which I’m hoping won’t devolve into a romance even though I would be fine with the romance if Joan Watson felt like a Watson at all.
I wanted to be fair, I wanted to give the show a chance to prove me wrong. In some ways, it has. Jonny Lee Miller is a less petulant, more visibly damaged Sherlock Holmes and I think he’s more than capable of bringing a beautiful subtlety to this character. I just wish that Lucy Liu had been given the opportunity to truly be The Watson, and not just in name only.
The drama of CBS’s decision to move forward with a Sherlock Holmes modern adaptation after being rebuffed on licensing a remake of Sherlock (which is a US co-production) is what leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Hartswood, Moffat, and Cumberbatch have been incredibly gracious and circumspect in their comments about the production. Of course there is always room for more Holmes. There always has been. The problem is, in an effort to avoid being sued: has CBS taken Holmes out of Holmes the way they’ve taken Watson out of Watson?
I will wait for broadcast, but I am guarded about this show. My instincts are screaming that this is nothing more than a money grab.
Imagine how fantastic it would be if this Watson were just as BAMF as any Watson that has ever existed. She would be worth watching any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Somebody make that show, and I’ll watch it. Or make Sherlock Holmes as a woman, whether or not Watson is. Do something different, do something that brings another level to the Doyle canon and makes it something brilliant and sparkling like the synapses in Holmes’ brain, and I will watch that.
Don’t ask the audience to forget everything they’ve ever known about who these characters are, let alone forget that Sherlock exists. It’s not going to happen and it shows a lack of respect not just for Moffat, Gatiss and Hartswood, but for every Holmesian and Sherlockian that CBS is hoping to lure in. I think we know what Holmes would think of such obvious behavior.
For now, I just can’t get past the four-inch heels and gasping at a corpse. This is a WATSON, not some bimbo.
^ I think this is an unfair review for a four minute preview, some of which isn’t even footage from the show. However, much it is exactly what I’m afraid will happen in Elementary (in particular, watering down the story to make it more ‘CSI’/taking away Watson’s military experience.) We’ll just have to wait and see.
Something that bothered me though; while wearing impractical shoes and gasping at a corpse isn’t how I picture john watson at all (as either male or female) you’re really going to use the term bimbo to describe someone that does that? Way to be a sexist asshole.
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