Saturday, January 8, 2022

Revisiting CBS's Elementary almost a decade later

 In fall of this year, it will be ten years since Elementary debuted on CBS, and like everything else since the introduction of pandemic life, we have to go "ONLY TEN YEARS?!?"  It seems like an eternity ago.

The "Theatre-Goers, Homeward Bound," picked the first few episodes of the procedural as their Zoom watchalong this week, and I couldn't resist going back along with them. And let's be completely honest here, if you weren't reading this blog in 2012 -- I hated, hated, HATED Elementary. Hated it so much that I was utterly in disbelief that any Sherlockian actually could enjoy it. But, hey, some people like the traditional American TV procedural format, and some of them also liked Sherlock Holmes.

And this was soooooo American television.

And so much a product of its time. The first episode having a key clue that was a flip-phone being dried out in a bag of rice. The internal bits date it, but externally, it is now free of the immediate comparison with the then-recent success of BBC Sherlock. All the bits of it that were purposefully built to differentiate it from Sherlock now seem a little odd. New York, Gregson, non-military Watson, that brownstone with no address number. One now has to wonder what Elementary would have grown up like, had not its elder sibling been out there to force its path in certain directions.

Or if its creator had been a Holmes fan -- there's a popular story about his pre-debut interview with a crowd of Sherlockians that's a definite reminder he was not. But I'm falling into my old ways here. I was always enamored of the subtle ways Moffat and Gatiss showed their love of the character, and . . . well, I'll just stop there. Elementary fans have a different view.

The Elementary gap was readily apparent as Saturday's watchalong went on. Some folks bailed out early, citing that they still didn't like it. Others professed their ongoing affection for the show as the first break between episodes came along.

Every Sherlock Holmes must be accepted for what they are, not what we might hope they would be, and eventually I came to accept Jonny Lee Miller's character for the alternate universe Holmes that he was. Comparing Sherlocks to our mental version of Holmes will always bring actors playing Holmes up short. Sometimes it take a little effort to get past our little nettle-points, but time and viewing them as a part of the great history helps.

In the end, they all get added to that great list of actors who played Sherlock Holmes. So many varieties, so many stories, so many Holmeses. Don't like one, or the particular show they're in, there are others to watch. And you might even come back to some Holmes with new eyes and fresh joy at some point. Ronald Howard bored me to tears watching a couple of his adapted tales years ago and I wrote him off. Since then, I have learned better. And eventually you might get to a point where you can get past you personal irritations with a Holmes enough to listen to what about that one makes others happy.

The oddest thing I realized while rewatching Elementary this afternoon was that in disliking Elementary as much as I did, I got to know it really, really well. Maybe not as well as I now know Will Ferrell's Holmes and Watson, but . . . well, c'mon. We still have to have favorites.

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