Saturday, February 13, 2016

Elementary's latest topic du jour.

Part of my problem with CBS's Elementary has always been the way it dabbles in Sherlock Holmes. At its core, it's not really a TV show about Sherlock Holmes -- it's a TV show about standard TV procedurals of the current style. Any trappings of Sherlock Holmes are merely slapped on like stickers on a NASCAR racer.

The same thing happens when Elementary deals with addiction. Slap on some addiction stickers, keep the procedural form at the core of it all. Any issues of addiction dealt with come on as "addiction lite." The show's main character is only an addict when the latest season needs a different color to paint its procedural base.

So this week, Elementary decided to bring in neurodiversity again, by giving its main character a love interest who is autistic and playing up the on-the-spectrum side of its lead, just as it plays up the addiction when the deus needs some ex machina. Given the way love interests come and go on Elementary, one really hates to become invested in the new character, who will appear as sporadically and disappear just as completely as Alfredo, the addiction sponsor.

If you're not Mr. Elementary, Joan, the Captain, Bell, or the procedural format, you're really not anything Elementary is going to deal with on an ongoing basis.

A topic as wide-ranging and controversial as neurodiversity isn't something Elementary is going to do anything more than get its "awareness" badge for. Should we expect more of broadcast network television? Perhaps not. It's end-of-the-day, shut-down-the-brain-and-relax TV. Perhaps awareness is enough for an entertainment at this level.

I just really hate when they bring up a character with so much potential, like Ms. Hudson, Alfredo, or now Fiona, use them for color, then have them disappear again until one of the writers needs something different again. I suppose that's just the way of the network procedural, but it's a horrible method of storytelling, much worse than the no-continuity-at-all shows of the sixties in some ways. At least then when you loved a character in an episode, there was no expectation or hope that they might become a regular. And when the topic is addiction or autism or something actually serious, it becomes even more "icky" feeling to see them used and tossed away.

But as with Sherlock Holmes, the argument is that any light on the subject is good light on the subject, even if it's tossed in to fill the content gaps in an hour-long procedural mystery.

Is it satisfying, though?

You may have a different thought on that than I.


  1. At least we'll always have Clyde the turtle for character potential... oh, wait, what is that soup Sherlock is cooking up?

  2. No sorry, I don't have a different thought than you on "Elementary". Just wondering whether or not we should volunteer to be on the "Elementary" panel at 221B Con :-)

    1. Interesting criticism. Given the constants of network television I think lite is ok. If you want to be an originalist what topic ot character did ACD use as an ongoing addition to the serial?