Friday, February 15, 2013

The non-silent critic.

Frequent commenter Silke Ketelsen has pointed out a new piece on Den of Geeks headlined, "How Elementary silenced the critics." 

In the piece, the writer goes on, like so many pro-Elementary writers do, to point out all the shows fail-points, with lines like "Instead of playing Conan Doyle’s esoteric game, if you like, Elementary borrows its playing pieces for use on a more familiar, generic board." But in the end, the Den Geek joins the masses responsible for the show's just-successful-enough ratings and admits to liking it anyway.

The comments section below the piece does as most comment sections do, tearing the article apart, with a few defenders popping in to say they like the show, without giving much detail as to why. They just know they like it.

But one of the very last comments was particularly apropos  to my mind, as someone named Jo wrote:

"How Elementary silenced its critics" is a misleading title, is more like : "How Elementary is just another procedural, assisted by persons of the age of my grandmother, who is just OK, and the more of the same, or so the critics and 'diehard sherlock fans "simply gotten bored and forgot all about the show" - would be a better title.

All typical comment thread punctuation and grammar quibbles aside, I think Jo hit the nail on the head. The critics of Elementary haven't been silenced. Most of them have wandered off, having found better ways to spend a Thursday night. 

Those who have found Elementary entertaining enough to stick with it will tell you that the episodes have gotten better. They have. But "better" does not necessarily mean that something has reached "good," just that it is better than its previous edition. When even a "fan" of Elementary like the Den Geek can't write a blog about the show without including flaw after flaw, who needs critics?

While Elementary does continue to work its way toward being more watchable, calling its main character "Sherlock Holmes" is still a fraud perpetrated upon its audiences, and will do nothing to bolster the legend of the master detective long term. In the latest episode (one getting decent marks from the show's fans), Mr. Elementary still does such supposedly clever things as throw a criminal's basketball away like a pouty schoolboy instead of making the shot he claimed he could -- a move not far evolved from spray-painting a TV camera lens early on to get his way. He's still mean and petty where charming and truly clever should be.

Like a soda pop formulated to be the least offensive sugary taste for the most people, Elementary will have those who enjoy it, yes. But to actually say it has silenced its critics through mere ratings numbers or because one or two folks on the fence succumbed to its routine? No. Its true critics have moved on, except for a few of us manning the watch-towers in case it tries to come over the wall at us.

And when the need for something other than silence is called for, the critics will return.

Oh, yes. They shall return.


  1. The real fun is in the comments where someone cleverly pointed ut that the ratings are not even as great as CBS tries to make them sound. MagC posited that "The Mentalist" got better ratings in its fourth season than "Elementary" in its first. I answered to that that CBS could as well just pack it in as everyone could see through their spin - and was deleted.

  2. This is how my reaction to Elementary evolved...

    1. Announcement: Shock, revulsion, irate (albeit internal) shrieks. I may have posted intemperate things on Twitter.

    2. Pre-Show Interval: Calm regained. Desire to be mature and fair surfaced.

    3. 1st Show: Um. This seems forced and vaguely boring. The shot of the rice was a tell. Lucy Liu has no expression. Aidan Quinn is under-used. JLM, you're not doing it for me, dear. Although the whole plastic surgery bit was interesting.

    4. 2-4th shows. Ok, as a Sherlockian, it's kind of my job to watch this stuff. And talk about it on Twitter. And apparently miss whole swathes of the show because I am talking abt it on Twitter, as it is more interesting than the show itself. Contrast this with S2 E3 of Sherlock, in which I (rightly) earned the wrath of my husband for shushing him during the jump scene (which I had already seen online, like, 3 times).

    5. After Elementary failed to use the promising AA sponsor character (which Twitter immediately latched onto with affection), it lost me. I kind of sat through maybe another episode, but then I simply forgot about it. Even snarking about it was enough of an inducement to turn it on.

    To me, Elementary seems full of wasted opportunity, and is just dull. That commenter is right. The people CBS would have wanted for their show--the people who would have adored it and anticipated it and talked about it ad nauseam the next day, rather than simply using it for something to do at 10 pm--turned it off. And I do think it's a cop-out for someone to point out that the reason BBC Sherlock is as good as it is, is that it's only 3 episodes per 1 1/2 years, and that those episodes are longer. Sure, there's a point in that, but honestly, there have been quite a few episodes of, say Law and Order (whichever variant you prefer) which have been riveting and emotionally devastating...and those story lines aren't any longer than Elementary's. Heck, there have been more powerful Ally Mc Beal's. The writing just isn't there. Did I go in with a bias? Of course. But I don't mind being proven wrong. In fact, I feel guilty about not liking something that I know people have worked hard on, so I was kind of hoping for the best. I'm happy, in that regard, that many people like it. But it's just not for me.

    Leah Guinn (I can never comment correctly on Blogspot)

  3. See two new Sherlock vs. Elementary articles here: