Elementary: US Sherlock Series on CBS

by JoHarrington

Jonny Lee Miller stars as Sherlock Holmes, with Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson, for a show set in 21st Century New York City.

The elements are all there. Sherlock Holmes is a genius detective working alongside law enforcement.

His brilliance is tempered with certain flaws - drug addiction and a lack of emotional empathy being at the fore. His companion Dr Watson helps him interact with the rest of the world.

What is different here is that the whole story is located in modern day Brooklyn; and Watson, unlike in the classic tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is female.

It would all be a stunningly original take on the famous Holmes stories, but for the fact that the makers of BBC's Sherlock got there first.

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The Lowdown on CBS Television's Elementary

This fast-paced detective drama takes its cues from the canon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories.

Sherlock Holmes, played by Jonny Lee Miller, was a consultant for the FBI and Scotland Yard. He became a drug addict and therefore unable to fulfill his role.

After a stint in rehabilitation ended with his escape on the day of his release (he was bored), Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is sent to be his 'sober companion'. Her job is to keep him on the straight and narrow, as he solves his cases with his usual brilliance.

And Holmes is brilliant. He can gather clues from the flimsiest of sources. His mental capacity for deduction is legendary. He is rarely wrong.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories have been thrilling readers since the Victorian era. In fact, he's credited with kick-starting the whole idea of a fandom!  While the original Holmes was located firmly in 19th century London, this one is based in Brooklyn.

This is Holmes brought right up to date. These are 21st century cases with all of the modern technology and transport at his disposal. 

But he's still recognizably Sherlock Holmes with all his faults and genius.

Elementary Season One Trailer

Isn't Elementary Just an American Version of BBC's Sherlock?

Not officially, no; and the team behind Sherlock are watching this one very, very closely.

The premise behind Elementary makes it an obvious rival to the existing show Sherlock.

Both shows have up-dated Conan Doyle's setting, to bring the famous detective into the modern day. But Sherlock had already aired its second season before Elementary was even conceived.

The blatant copy-cat tactic will not be lost on fans. It has downright annoyed the team behind the BBC show.

Sherlock's producer Sue Vertue has already had to correct one newspaper story, which erroneously stated that her people have created Elementary too.  That was very nearly the case.

Vertue and writer Steven Moffat have both stated that CBS Television approached them to make an American version of Sherlock. They responded with interest, but it couldn't happen just yet. Moffat was tied up with the next season of Dr Who

CBS Television promptly cut them out of all further negotiations. The company brought in Rob Doherty to write and produce Elementary instead.

That concerns Moffat beyond the fact of the slight. With the two shows being so similar there is the danger of them becoming confused. They are competing for the same audience, which might cause a great divide.

Plus, if Elementary turns out to be a flop, then that impacts upon the selling power of Sherlock too. New viewers will just assume that the latter is more of the same. He's already warned that, if the CBS show has infringed on his copyright, then he will be taking action. 

The choice of lead actor has also raised eyebrows.  The star of Sherlock is Benedict Cumberbatch. He and Elementary star Jonny Lee Miller played interchangeable roles in the National Theatre's 2011 production of Frankenstein. On alternate nights, the two actors would swop the parts of the doctor and the creature. They shared the Best Actor win in the Evening Standard's Theatre Awards. Now they could be seen as interchangeable Sherlocks too.

Naturally, executives at CBS have played down the whole furor.  They told The Independent that only those elements in the public domain, penned by Conan Doyle, have been co-opted in their show. The BBC production's copyright remains intact.

Elementary will air on CBS Television in September 2012.

Are You Looking Forward to the Premiere of Elementary?

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Discover the Canon Sherlock Holmes

If you've never read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, then you are in for a treat now. Buy them to revel in the inspiration for Elementary.

Articles About BBC's Sherlock

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A spoiler free review of Sherlock 2; with links to buy the DVDs in Europe, if you're American and can't wait!
In both literature and television, Sherlock had an apparently fatal clash with Moriarty. Fans of the BBC series are working out if history will repeat.
A spoiler-free review of the entire first series of BBC's Sherlock. Buy the DVD box sets in North America, Europe or Asia.
Updated: 07/30/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 07/28/2012

If this show is anything like Sherlock, then it'll be great. I'm going to watch it.

Reality shows can get a bit ubiquitous at times. I like the history ones though. I've just been watching 'Turn Back Time', where modern families live as historical families would. That was excellent! But the Big Brother type ones have been done to death.

BrendaReeves on 07/28/2012

I love crime shows also. Anything but those reality shows!

JoHarrington on 07/11/2012

I can see what you're saying, but Sherlock (BBC one) works just as well. It's still London, but now in the 21st century.

Like you, I will watch Elementary, but I also fear it will be just another crime show.

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