Monday, February 4, 2013


There has been talk of a debate over the worthiness of CBS's Elementary, but after watching last night's  big post-Super Bowl episode (at least until I couldn't take it any more), I'm less concerned about anyone putting forth a reasonable argument that this lazy knock-off is Sherlock Holmes and more interested in something I have yet to see: why they actually like it.

I've seen a number of people, Sherlockians included, say "But I enjoy Elementary!" But I have yet to see anyone explain just why, other than some cuteness factor involving any of the three leads. All TV shows have cute actors and actresses on them. That's the nature of television. But having enjoyed a lot of good television over the years, and having seen what makes a good show (continuity, sympathetic attachment to even the most unlikable characters, whip-smart plotting, etc.), I would not even recommend this show if the faux-Sherlock factor wasn't so annoying.

Because that isn't the only annoying thing about the show. How many times can they bring in promising characters with potential for development whose interplay might even develop Jonny Lee Miller's character or make him more sympathetic . . . and then drop then after a few moments in one episode. The AA sponsor Watson recruited was especially memorable as he drew Mr. Elementary out with his car and displayed a charming ability to work with the show's main character. There at the end of one episode, and never to be seen again.

Last night we got a criminal profiler whom Mr. Elementary had once taken as an apprentice, who then betrayed him and used what he taught her to further her own career. The concept was actually interesting and had some potential, but when she was murdered by the serial killer's sister (Yes, serial killer's sisters are apparently someone to watch out for as well.) she quickly became another dead end plot device.

One could have seen this coming when they made Irene Adler a corpse from the start, foolishly wasting the potential of that great character by making her a cheap excuse for Mr. Elementary's drug use. It was such a waste.

And that it probably the biggest thing that annoys me about Elementary. The waste.

All that money being thrown at a character pretending to be Sherlock Holmes. All those eyeballs watching someone who will never be Sherlock Holmes no matter how many references like "Oh, look a singlestick!" get tossed in by people who don't seem to have read the sixty stories, just an encyclopedia article about the sixty stories. One could even have titled the series Wasted Potential instead of Elementary.

So someone please sit down and explain to me exactly why you enjoy this show. I am just not getting it.


  1. I don't even get the "cuteness factor", when Sherlie looks like Rainman on Skid Row, and Joanie looks like she smelled something bad and is depressed about it. How many episodes are we into this show already, and have yet to have any real friendship between the two main characters?

    Throwaway character-of-the-week, sloppily-constructed plots, and Sherlie doesn't even get to the level of Gregory House, who was delightfully wicked. Sherlie is just annoying. One wonders why it took Gregson so long to punch him in the stomach.

    But enough about what I think. I'm with you, Brad. I really don't understand how anyone can like the show. People whose opinions I value like "Elementary," and I can't fathom what it is that draws them to it. I don't judge them for liking the show, but I wish I understood. Is there something about the show that I'm missing? I ask that with all due respect; not as a challenge. I hope someone can give my poor, cynical self a reason to keep giving this show any more of my time.

  2. FYI, the profiler did not die. Dialogue indicates that doctors operated on her and that she will survive.

  3. I watched "Elementary" for the second time last night. A friend at a Super Bowl party I attended likes the show, and she knows I'm a devoted Sherlockian. I tried to be kind when she asked my opinion, but then I got to thinking that maybe I hadn't given the show enough of a chance. After all, I'd only seen one episode. So I watched it. All of it. Ugh. It was worse than the first time. You are right, Brad, the writers waste so many character and plot opportunities, that, as a writer myself, it makes me ill. They did save the profiler in the end, though. She pulled through surgery after all. So, maybe they'll use her in another episode... but I won't be watching it.

  4. The profiler didn't die! Well, I'm glad for that much, even though I am still happy I didn't waste any extra sleep I got by staying up for that bit of dialogue. Still am betting she probably goes the way of Clyde the turtle, last week's one-episode wonder.

  5. From what I gather on twitter, tumblr and TwoP it seems to me that they like exactly the qualities that make me think Mr Scruffy has nothing whatsoever to do with SH. That he's vulnerable, that he's often wrong, that he's immature - apparently that makes him more human and easier to befriend.

    Also there's a whole lot of feminists who think that LL is the best Watson ever just because she's female.

    A whole lot are Moffat/Sherlock-haters because SM is thought to be racist (TBB), sexist (ASiB) and didn't pick up on their criticisms when they tweeted him.

    That the Sherlock-fandom's general reaction to the announcement of Elementary was "MEH!!!" didn't help either.

  6. You write that there is "something I have yet to see: why they actually like" "Elementary". As I have mentioned before, your November 7 post "Loving things that suck" left the reader a challenge, explain why one likes "Elementary", and I took that challenge. It resulted in my December 14 Baker Street Blog post "Six Cases Which I Have Added to my Notes". Either you haven't read it or you have and my poor rhetorical skills have failed to explain to your satisfaction why I like it. If you read it, you'll see that there are points about the show we agree upon: Miller's unHolmesian slovenliness, his rich father, his affinity for prostitutes, the police procedural setup and, yes, plotting. I find that Miller and Liu make a very credible Holmes and Watson. I enjoy the interplay the two actors have, the chemistry they have, and the evolving relationship. In fact, I see the opposite of what Jacquelynn sees. To her, I would say that there is no reason to keep giving this show any more of your time. Neither one of us has blinkered vision, just different tastes. To Melissa Anderson, I would say that the post-Super Bowl show was not "Elementary's" best effort. It was designed to capture the post-Bowl crowd with loud rock music, two scantily clad hookers and a shirtless Miller in handcuffs. Add seven or eight on screen murders and lots of blood and what you have is *not* the typical "Elementary" outing.

    Now Brad, corrected me if I'm wrong, but you've shown a dislike for "Elementary" even before it aired, calling the September 27 date for the premiere the "Sherlockalypse". So I'm not surprised that it would have to meet a higher standard to pass muster. We both enjoy the Downey movies, I believe. You've said, "Despite it being as much Downey as Holmes, it was still a feather in the great detective’s deerstalker cap." I find the movie series less Sherlock Holmes than "Elementary" is. I'll still go see "SH3". We both like BBC's "Sherlock". I certainly don't let the myriad flaws of the show get in the way of my enjoyment of it. Like you with Miller's looks, Cumberbatch doesn't look like Paget or Steele's Holmes. In fact, the famous profile silhouette of Cumberbatch I see everywhere, looks less like Holmes and more like a member of One Direction. But if I can accept Downey and Miller as Holmes, I can accept Cumberbatch. I can't wait for series three, even though I find that out of six episodes, two were brilliant ("A Study in Pink", "A Scandal in Belgravia"), two average ("The Hounds of Baskerville", "The Great Game"), and two sub-par ("The Blind Baker", "The Reichenbach Fall"). If "Sherlock" had to do 24 episodes a year, would it still be "scary smart", or just scary?

    So we both see flaws in "Elementary". I like Miller and Liu; they work for me as Holmes and Watson. They don't work for you and they don't work for Jacquelynn. Sometimes it comes down to intangibles. That's not a cop-out, just a realization people are individuals and sometimes there is no accounting for taste. "We like what we like." Jacquelynn says, "I really don't understand how anyone can like the show." Use the 1994 "Car 54 Where Are You?" analogy, Brad. It worked for me.

    1. I do find the complaint that some actor doesn't physically resemble the Paget illustrations rather dumb. Especially as BC's Sherlock does resemble ACD's SH far better than JLM's in his general appearence, being of that "quiet sort of primness" ACD mentioned. Also his not being interested in sex is far closer to canon than JLM's dalliances as well as his not being dependant on his rich father etc.

      I don't get how someone can list up all the things that simply don't measure up and still argue that this is a true SH adaptation.

  7. Life is short. I haven't bothered with Elementary & thank you for making the effort.

    But I, too, have noticed that some folks became Elementary fans as an anti-Moffat gesture. They complain about Moffat's sexism, racism & homophobia (which I have never noticed) & hope that the new show will rescue them. So far, it hasn't....

    As a feminist, I don't think there's anything wrong with a female Watson. But a woman could be a veteran & a successful physician--which Joan Watson is not.

    They also consider Sherlock "too clever." Alas, I like clever!

  8. I like Elementary. It has the three iconic elements, adventure, observations and deductions. It follow the formula set out by Ronald Knox:Cozy at home, client or case presents, gathering the evidence, deduction, resolution and epilogue back at home. It is strange with female Watson, but I'm willing to see friendship develop. I read a lot of pastiches under the belief that bad Holmes is better than no Holmes. I'd rather watch Elementary that any other network show at this time.
    Richard Sveum, MD, BSI

  9. Are you still interested in knowing why people like Elementary? If so, here are three meta-posts that detail pretty much what I see E-fandom write about all the time:

  10. Aaand another try at promoting Elementary through some online magazine that got thwarted by Sherlock fans:

    As ever the comment section is the most interesting.

    I don't know if you had the time and inclination to look at the links I sent you, but to me it seems as if the reasons for liking E have nothing whatsoever to do with Conan-Doyle's work, but everything with furthering some wild and wooshy feminist agenda.

    1. I wouldn't insult feminists by suggesting they would do anything as idiotic as that article. Yikes, that's a warped view of the world!