Saturday, May 11, 2013

Post-Elementary blog blog.

The day after a really bad episode of Elementary always makes me a little philosophical.

Questions arise as the comments roll in, such as: "If a TV show is awful, and no one but its fans watch it, is it still awful?"

To some, it seems, the only thing wrong with CBS's fiesta of faux-Sherlock is that I, for some inexplicable reason, decided last August that I would go on a nine-month tirade against it. But the reason I am so hard on Elementary is pretty simple, actually: I watch the show.

A lot of more sensible Sherlockians gave up on that a long time ago. And a lot of more kindly and politic Sherlockians simply keep their thoughts on the matter to themselves.

But if we all quit watching the show, all those folk who say, "It's gotten a lot better" might have their words accepted at face value. While Elementary might have shown some improvement on an episode like "Snow Angels," it also went back to showing its true colors with its latest foray into machina ex machina storytelling on "Risk Management," an episode so obviously co-written by series creator Rob Doherty.

Despite what those curious Elementary fans who continue to read this blog seem to think, I really don't sit in front of my television set every Thursday with an agenda of hate. This particular Thursday, I wasn't even going to comment on the episode at all, as the show came on while I was writing about next season's plan for Mr. Elementary to go to England. But then the show came on, and I reacted.

When I wrote the words, "SPOILER ALERT! I hate Elementary," that wasn't my ongoing state of being. That was me, sitting there, watching the show, and just responding accordingly to what was presented. A very Zen moment of critique. And then I post, and in that marvelous turnabout of life on the net, I become the one getting critiques. I don't suppose anyone goes about hating me on a daily basis, just as I don't hate Elementary every hour of my day. They'd be quite happy if I'd turn into a fan of the show, or even if I'd just turn it off, just as I'd be quite happy if I'd sit down one evening and find a totally engrossing, top-notch episode of Elementary.

But neither of those events seems to be going to happen anytime soon. It's telling when the comments run more about me than the episode I was talking about, and my major points go unaddressed. The fact that Elementary's writers had Moriarty stealing Holmes's lines to brag about himself was particularly gallilng, and, really, just some very un-Moriarty-like characterization. The fact that he had to explain to a fellow who is supposed to be Sherlock Holmes exactly who "Moriarty" is both denigrates the original Moriarty as a criminal mastermind and the original Sherlock Holmes as a detective. I react to things like that, and write them down here. Just doing what comes naturally.

But it would appear that if I didn't point these things out, to some, Elementary might be a better show. Which makes me think of a quote from another non-Moriarty villain, like that prank caller in Thursday's Elementary. It might be familiar to you, and it goes like this:

"And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

To which I can only say, "Rooooby rooby roo!"


  1. I think with Elementary, as with BBC Sherlock, problems in characterisation where Moriarty is concerned come from his being written as a man obsessed with Holmes. Neither BBC nor CBS Holmes is initially aware of him as a criminal mastermind: Sherlock learns of him vaguely as a "fan," and Holmes as the man who possibly killed Irene. His name alone means nothing. He appears to each of them as a puzzle to be solved: someone whose motivations are not clear, whose interest is personal, and who essentially forces Holmes to engage with him. BBC's Moriarty plays with and fools Sherlock in The Great Game, and CBS's Moriarty looks to be doing the same thing. At this point in Elementary, Holmes has only known of Moriarty's possible existence for several months, and all his information has come from Moran, whom he can't trust. He's still in the process of collecting data, just as BBC's Sherlock had to. They both begin in ignorance, and endure Moriarty's bragging and threats. As you say, it's nothing like canon and something of a disservice to the original characters, but necessary when you write Moriarty as someone who puts himself deliberately in Holmes's path and designs games specifically to get his attention, rather than making Holmes a genuine threat to Moriarty's criminal operations. Finding out exactly who Moriarty is and what he wants is the story arc.

  2. Even this article, otherwise full of praise for Elementary, states that Sherlock is superior in every way:

    1. Brad, someone said your critiques of Elementary are sometimes more entertaining than the episodes. If so, that is very high praise for both. I heartily agree but if I’m right you seem to underrate yourself or the show too much, because I see equal praise for both. – In reading your remarks I come to feel that you are fascinated with the show and despite your expostulations, that you watch every word of every show carefully and if you can record them like I do you watch some of them twice because your astute and complicated criticism are so intricate and accurate. – In fact, your fascination with Elementary reminds me of the similar pleasure I take in Stephen Colbert who so enjoys reinforcing the words of the right-wingers he sometimes mimics or defends that it doesn’t take long to see how he’s setting up his interlocutor and pulling his leg almost out of the chair. - Keep it up, dear friend, you are excellent at what you do bring such lethal but complimentary charges against Elementary the show and the man. It and you have earned high praise. ~Gael Stahl