Every now and again, I have a moment . . . just a moment . . . when I entertain the possibility that I might . . . just might . . . have been too hard on CBS's Elementary.
And then something happens like HBO's "Watchathon Week" on the giant cable system.
And after all this time, I finally get to see a little something like True Detective.
"Oh, yes," I go, and remember just how good television can actually be.
Now, "That's not exactly a fair comparison," one might say. It's an HBO show where they get to show actual nudity, not strippers in bikinis like CBS has to do. And they can pay A-list actors like Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson in their lead roles.
They also don't have to slap a "Sherlock Holmes" label on a random detective just to attract viewers.
Rust Cohle and Marty Hart are the names of True Detective's detectives, not Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. But if you want a darker exploration of the Holmes/Watson dynamic, as some might say Elementary is (Though have you seen Sherlock? That show can get dark!), True Detective has more of a Holmes and Watson partnership in it than said CBS show has done on its best night.
Cohle is the troubled intellectual, with drug issues and a greater talent for investigation, as his former partner is the first to admit.
Hart is the more Joe Average family man whose vice is the ladies . . . a definite Watson turned up to eleven.
As they wade into vaguely cultish turf that would be played up for supernatural in a less grounded story, and high government officials wander in (that their Holmes has no respect for, or even recognition of), there is even a sense of a Doylean touch there. Of course, I'm just at the start of the show, and have a feeling this is going to go some very dark places before it's done, but then, Doyle could do dark when he wanted to. He just was more polite in how he wrote about it.
I really wanted to say, "Can you imagine a Sherlock Holmes drama done at this level of quality?" but then I remembered True Detective was nominated for the 2014 Emmys and lost out, while a certain BBC product took home that award in numerous categories . . . except that show was a comedy for about half of its last season.
Whatever the case, as a TV lover and a great fan of the original character named Sherlock Holmes, I think it's going to be a long time before I let Elementary skate by because they used an occasional magic word, like "Mycroft," "Milverton," or "singlestick." Things like True Detective just keep reminding me what can actually be done when a storyteller sets his mind to it.