Friday, December 14, 2012

Another week of Mr. Elementary

Loud pop music. High-tech jewel thieves. Twin blonde beauties in shirts that barely cover a certain body part that Watson seems to be checking out as one walks away. This week’s episode of Elementary began as the best episode to date. Or at least the most attractive.

Oddly, as out-of-character as it seems, a Sherlock Holmes who likes three-ways has been done before . . . but not in anything anyone respects . . . and here it is again. Where BBC’s Sherlock purposefully pays tribute to movie Sherlocks past, Elementary seems to stumble into references to really bad made-for-TV Holmes films.

It’s still not Sherlock Holmes. The character Jonny Lee Miller plays is still a punk who likes to spout facts constantly, rather than saving his discoveries for the best dramatic effect. (Amazing that a television show that should seek out drama doesn’t use that.)

And it’s still not Dr. Watson. Lucy Liu playing the every(wo)man at Holmes’s side is like a halogen headlight being subdued enough to use as a household flashlight. The power she’s wielded on screens big and small for so many years is something a fan of hers just wants to see come blasting out -- I still contend she’s a better Sherlock Holmes actor than her partner. Allowed to go for it, she could turn Miller’s character into a petulant Watson in seconds.

But Elementary is evolving. This week, Mr. Elementary quit hanging around those dingy NYPD precinct houses quite so much, which was a marked improvement. (Not to mention those twin blondes in the opening.) Night-time outdoors scenes were prettier. 
Mr. Elementary keeping a recovered valuable smacks of the real Sherlock Holmes for one second, then Watson’s brother shows up, non-drunken, the next, as the show flirts with Canon then ditches it again. But is this show's evolution going to cause a full-fledged Sherlock Holmes to eventually emerge, months or years from now? Or is it going to continue to dog-paddle around the hack end of the pool?

"The rabbit is a . . . ma . . . zing," says Mr. Elementary, and he's still not being written as the quotable clever detective we're supposed to take him to be. Of course, it's hard to be quotable when you just won't quit talking. The crimes on Elementary have the same diarrhea-stream overabundance. A lovely, big-time jewel robbery isn't enough crime to carry a whole episode. The corpse of a decaying murder victim has to turn up, of course. 

The basic mandate of writing for Elementary seems to be "just keep things moving as fast as possible so no one has time to actually think about what is happening." Too fast for character development. Too fast for any depth of emotional engagement. And then, all at once, the latest episode is over. That horn that blares to mark the end of a football game should sound, just to rouse its viewers when the show is over.

And once Watson's mom speaks wisely of how happy Mr. Elementary makes her, this week's episode faded out, heading full-cheese-ahead in that direction that seemed inevitably there from day one. 

Sad to see so many production dollars wasted on something so not Sherlock Holmes at a time when the character is at a peak. To think we actually could have gotten a trifecta of Sherlocks out of all this would have been . . . well, beyond belief.

Sadly, it still seems to be.

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