Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mr.Elementary meets Shonda Rhimes.

With CBS's incarnation of a Sherlock Holmes character and its third season of Elementary starting so late this fall, it was bound to have an upstart rival or two coveting its time slot. But who would have expected that one such rival's very title would be practically be a glove-slap-across-the-face challenge to the show?

How To Get Away With Murder, which started at 9 P.M. Central this past Thursday, is the latest creation from Shonda Rhimes, a TV powerhouse responsible for such addicting dramas as Gray's Anatomy and Scandal. The latter show has, in a few short weeks of binge watching, beaten out the latest season of Dr. Who on my what-to-watch-first list. So I had to check it out, just to see what Mr. Elementary's new competition looked like.

Well, as is usually the case when a Sherlock is involved, the big challenge this time is going to be a professor: Professor Annalise Keating. The show's law school backdrop and Keating's tough way with the student might remind an older viewer of John Houseman's The Paper Chase back in the 1970s. Her relationship with the students, however, might remind a modern viewer a little bit of House. Add in the multiple tracks of interwoven secrets, agendas, and shocking dramatic turns that has served shows like Scandal so well, and you get TV that uses all of the current level of modern drama techniques to their best advantage.

Why couldn't somebody have hired Shondra Rhimes to do the first modern American TV attempt at Sherlock? Well, she was undoubtedly busy with her own projects, but had she taken the job, I'd bet we wouldn't have dallied with a female Watson and gone straight for a Sherlock Holmes with XX chromosomes, as her leads are typically strong, professional woman with a command presence -- just the sort of thing we'd look for in a lady Sherlock.

As How To Get Away With Murder now has a well-promoted head start on Elementary, we'll see if it can dent the show's junior year ratings. Professors have tried to push Sherlocks over the falls before and failed, but occasionally they do pull it off. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out this time around.

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