Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Justice for Elementary, part one.

I have decided that I really haven't done justice to CBS's Elementary.

And by "justice," I mean carefully scrutinizing the evidence and setting out the Sherlockian state's case for the charges of fraud that have been so rightfully laid against it. We fans of the true Sherlock really should pay attention to Elementary, as counter-intuitive as that may seem, just to prepare ourselves.

Prepare, my friends, because if the rabble who think Elementary has anything to do with the character of Sherlock Holmes aren't surrounding you already, one day they will. And you don't want to be caught unawares.

So tonight, I watched what I've been told is one of the show's "better" episodes, "Child Predator," which I first turned off after five minutes or so. That spray-painting the camera business seemed too over-the-top . . . the true Sherlock at least had enough respect for his official brethren not to commit his crimes in front of them. When the spray paint came out in BBC Sherlock, he even dashed from the scene, as would be appropriate.

But that's a minor quibble. Let's hit a couple of key points from this particular episode.

Mr. Elementary, as I have to call him, finds his Watson distracting and tells her never to talk. Then when he does decide she can talk, he compares her "chatter" to "white noise." Real Sherlock found John Watson's input to be a whetstone for sharpening his own analysis. Of course, John Watson was Sherlock's friend.

Mr. Elementary, while spending the evening focusing on an old serial-killer case, listens to a police scanner blaring NYC police chatter. Real Sherlock was always careful to focus all his attentions on the one thing he was working on. Mr. Elementary wasn't just using it for background noise, as later he refers to specific parts of it. Obviously, a mere child serial killer didn't rate his full attention.

Mr. Elementary says, "I don't care how I look. I don't care how I smell." That might work if he was attempting to emulate Robert Downey, Jr. And as John H. Watson (the one who writes about his friend Holmes) once put it, "He had contrived, with that cat-like love of personal cleanliness which was one of his characteristics, that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect as if he were in Baker Street." Real Sherlock was neat, clean, and . . . gasp . . . shaved, even when camping in a stone hut on a moor in the 1800s.

There was the detail of his phrenology bust named "Angus" that I liked, but probably because it reminded me of Harry Dresden and his pet skull Bob. Or maybe Tom Hanks and that volleyball, Wilson. Of course, neither of those fellows was Sherlock Holmes either.

Another bit: Mr. Elementary enjoys the poet E.E. Cummings, who was conceived during the original Sherlock's great hiatus much like Nero Wolfe. E.E. Cummings wears a scarf like Mr. Elementary in the picture on his Wikipedia page and had a certain obnoxious love of lower case that probably appeals to an obnoxious sort like Mr. E. This fact does nothing to show the non-Sherlock-ness of Mr. Elementary, but just seems to be a random fact inserted into his character, as so many were.

It's really a pity that Elementary tends to lavish so much of its attention on Mr. Elementary, because Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn came off a dull, but pretty window dressing in this particular episode, as if any personality showing on their part might lessen the brightness of the show's central egomaniac. At times it wasn't like he was smarter than them, it was like they were pretending to be stupid just to let him rattle off his latest string of facts. As much as I hate to bring up the competition, even the side characters I'm not fond of in BBC Sherlock have interesting personalities of their own. 

But I'm letting myself get carried away here . . . this was just one episode. The Sherlockian state has much more evidence to add  to its case.

And watching Elementary is going to be a long, long trial, to be sure. 


  1. Thank you for that! I personally find this show to be an atrocity and feel personally offended by its very existence.

  2. The double entendre of the title "Child Predator" was so painfully obvious that I guessed the entire plot before I even watched the episode... so if the point of Elementary was to give its average-brained audience the satisfaction of making Sherlockian deductions, then I guess they scored a point here... If not, then it's really just too bad.