Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Justified criticism.

From the start, CBS's Elementary has failed my expectations of a Sherlock-related production with its writers inability to portray intelligence and mastery of one's profession. Pulling random cards out of a Trivial Pursuit game and working them into the plot or having the main character spout them for no reason just does not convert to "Sherlock Holmes" in any mental translation I can make. Your mileage may vary, of course.

And it isn't that Mr. Elementary just fails next to other fellows who have successfully taken the mantle of Sherlock Holmes in the past. He fails next to other investigators currently on television, who definitely aren't Sherlock Holmes, but come closer to the mark than he does.

Take Raylan Givens, for example. The main character of FX's series Justified.

Raylan is a good ol' boy from Kentucky, a deputy U.S. Marshall who returned to his home state after practicing his vocation in Miami until a "justified" quick-draw shooting. Now, to the casual observer, Raylan Givens is definitely not Sherlock Holmes.

But Raylan comes up with some impressively clever ways of dealing with the criminal element on Justified. His powers of observation may be a little more specialized than Sherlock's, but they're there, honed for searching out that right moment to pull his gun from its holster. He has a Moriarty of his own in the equally clever Boyd Crowder, who definitely has the Moriarty forehead. Raylan's Watson is a little harder to pick out, but after this week, I'd go for Constable Bob, who would do Nigel Bruce proud in being both goofy and stalwart.

I'd match Raylan Givens and Constable Bob against Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson in the brains department any day. In fact, I'd love to see Raylan give Mr. Elementary a wry sideways glance and a bemused grin as the delusional Brit tried to show off his idea of smarts. Of course, each of the investigators would get to bring his writers to the duel. Justified appears to have some decent ones.

I often get the question, "Why don't you stop watching Elementary if you dislike it so much?" Well, the answer should be obvious. I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan, and that shows creators decided to associate it with that name. You take a name like Sherlock with a goodly fan base, and you get that fan base for better or worse. Especially if you're going to take up a prominent spot on a network schedule and play the peacock (even though that's another network's mascot).

If anybody asks me why I watch Justified, they might get a different answer.  Because there's still good TV out there. Especially when you line it up beside a certain other hour of melodrama.


  1. "From the start, CBS's Elementary has failed my expectations of a Sherlock-related production with its writers inability to portray intelligence and mastery of one's profession."


    So, I really don't know if it angers, amuses or simply confudaddles me when I have to read things like this:

    "A trans woman will be playing a trans woman on Elementary.
    More and more I feel like Robert Doherty was at some point a hardcore Sherlock fan who became fed up and went “I SHALL MAKE MY OWN SHOW WITH WOMEN AND MINORITIES EXPLORING ADDICTION STIGMA, ALSO MYSTERIES.”
    Bless him."


    No, I'd bet that Robert Doherty was no such fan at all. Neither of Sherlock!BBC nor of Sherlock Holmes as written by ACD. Nor is he interested in the problems of women and/or minorities, addiction or stigma. At least I see no proof of that in any of his other work.

    I'd bet what happened was this: CBS' marketing people had a look at fan reactions to Sherlock!BBC on the internet and found that vocal minority permanently shouting abuse at Moffat accusing him of every -ism known to men.

    "Ha!" they thought. "We can use this. Let's get every -ism these people are complaining about and give them what they want to see. So, let's make Holmes a scruffy addict (see, no elitism!) and Watson a POC woman (no sexism AND no racism!) and get a mixed cast (that's realism, at least for the US) and then let's touch on a lot of subjects (like the one mentioned in above article) and show how very non-ismish we are. Also, let's make the cases simple for those people complaining that Sherlock is far too complex to view while doing something else."

    Of course, they do not *really* go there, so Joan Watson is not a war veteran, just an unsuccessful surgeon and all the non-isms are just for window dressing ("Can't lose our more conservative viewers!"). But they DO succeed in the simple plot line...

    For me this whole thing is political, but not in the vein the white knight social justice bloggers like to think. It's just a marketing strategy thought up by white middle-aged males - the very people they love to rant about.

    Just have a look at the production companies:
    CBS BoD with their nearly all male all white (only two females out of fourteen positions) directors

    and otoh Heartswood Films with an also all white, but mainly female (three out of four) BoD.

    But that's of course a line of thinking those idjits - I mean otherwise perfectly lovely, but in this instance sadly misguided people - do not follow.

    1. "Good old Ketelsen! You are the one fixed point in a changing age."

    2. No racism in Elementary? Let's look at who Joan turns to when she wants to learn how to steal a car.

  2. Yes, dear James, and proud of it!

    Told you it was just window dressing, Brad. It's funny how no one picks up on it in this case.

  3. I've only seen a few episodes of Elementary and haven't been inspired to give it a shot and watch regularly. So, I've got to ask... Why exactly do you watch Elementary? Generally when people in a fan base dislike an element of their fandom, they don't keep watching it. Star Wars fans who hate the prequels don't have marathon viewings so that they can talk about how awful they are. Comic geeks don't watch the third X-men film. Do you sit through an hour of something you know you'll hate just to act as a counter to the people who think the show has some redeeming qualities?

    Switching topics, I love the comparison of Raylan and Holmes. There's definitely some similarity in attitude towards law and justice, at the very least. Boyd certainly has his Moriarty moments, which is what makes their relationship through the series so fascinating.

  4. Here is someone who, like you, has a high opinion of "Justified", and, unlike you, a high opinion of "Elementary". A deprogrammer's work is never done!

    1. Hey, it's his blog, he can write whatever crazy stuff he feels like!

  5. I'm sure you heard the good news: