As continues to be the trend, another British inspired show will be debuting this fall on American TV. Building on the success of both the Sherlock Holmes films by Guy Ritchie and the BBC series Sherlock, CBS is producing their own take on an updated Holmes, this one being set in New York in the present day. The way I see it there are both reasons to be excited and reasons to be skeptical about this show, and I’m still really on the fence about this one. Here’s a breakdown of what I think with what I’ve read so far.

Casting

The casting for the show looks very good. I really like the choice of Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers, Trainspotting, and Dexter) for Sherlock Holmes. I think that Miller will be able to embody the erratic genius and  the eccentricities of the title character. And he’s British! When I first heard about the show I was worried that CBS was going to go completely American with the concept and casting of the show. One other bit of casting I’m excited about, but still have reservations about (I’ll explain later on) is Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. I think Lucy Liu will be fantastic, but I’m not sold on the character. Regardless, I’m very curious to see how things will play out between Holmes and Watson.

The biggest problem that I see with the character of Watson being portrayed as a women is the inherent nature of network television to make any male and female characters who work in relatively close proximity to each other fall in love. What would love do to the relationship of Holmes and Watson? One of the best bits of chemistry between the two characters in the books is the complete admiration Watson had for the genius and cunningness of Holmes. There was an amount of love between the characters, a brotherly love, but pushing it to the romantic would be far too much and, in my opinion, sully the relationship. I think there could be several interesting bits that could play out between the two being opposite genders, but my reservations lie purely in the knowledge that at some point in the series, if it were to make it that far, the two would become involved. It could make for good television to see how a one time sexual encounter would alter the working relationship between the two, although I really don’t think it should happen at all. This is one thing that I would very much like to be proven wrong on. I don’t think that Holmes and Watson would have to eventually become involved because they are of the opposite sex, and if you agree, please leave some comments as to why. In my heart-of-hearts I do believe that two people of the opposite sex can have a profoundly strong and enduring platonic relationship. I would absolutely love to see this play out in Elementary. I would really like to see the companionship and relaince that Holmes comes to feel for Watson to come out and for a strong bond to exist between the characters without romance being part of the equation.

Story

As the synopsis goes, Holmes, in the present time, has been sent to live in New York by his father after a stint in rehab. Dr. Joan Watson, a surgeon who lost her license after a malpractice suit, has been given Holmes as her charge to keep him out of trouble. Although CBS has not been clear about why Holmes went through rehab, one can easily imagine that it has to do with some kind of substance abuse which was a staple in the tales of Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One other possibility, and this is complete conjecture on my part, is that Holmes had a fall from grace involving some case, although I have not sorted out exactly what it would have been. I honestly think that the substance abuse is far more likely, but it would be very satisfying to see the series writers take the story in a different direction. To the advantage of Holmes, and I believe for the ease of the series, Captain Gregson, the former inspector from Scotland Yard, has found his way into the NYPD and will act as the go between for Holmes.

I really think that the story has some potential. Placing homes in the present time, as was done in Sherlock, provides ample opportunities to take the stories, or at the very least their premises, and the characters to new limits. The inclusion of Holmes’ father as the reason for the youngers departure to the United States is quite curious, especially considering that his parents were never really directly spoken of in the writings of Doyle. It also makes one wonder to what degree will Holmes be limited in his quasi-exile in New York and how his relationship with his father will play out in the series. I also wonder if at some point Mycroft will make an appearance to check in on his younger brother. Another interesting, but not surprising, bit is the presence of Gregson in New York. In many ways I think that it is better to include Gregson over Lestrade because of Gregson’s superior ability in terms of actually being a detective and much closer to Holmes in his level of intellect and deductive capability.

The thing that I’m truly the most curious about is how much Elementary will play off of the success of the BBC’s Sherlock and how that series modernized Holmes. To a degree Elementary will be, in many respects I imagine, a rip-off of Sherlock. CBS approached the BBC after the first series of Sherlock and tried to work out a deal to remake the show in the US. A deal never materialized, but CBS did not fail to put their own spin on the idea into production. From what I’ve read, though, it does not seem like much will be taken from the BBC series aside from the updated take on the renowned consulting detective. The relationship between Holmes and Watson will be different, for better or worse. The use of technology will probably cross over, but it only makes sense that it would. The use of drugs is one thing I’m curious to see how it plays out. If Holmes is coming out of rehab for drug use, will there be a House like struggle throughout the series? What will Holmes use during the downtime between cases? There is so much to speculate on, but not much to confirm based on the information that CBS has released.

Location

The location of New York, in my eyes, is pretty appealing. For an American audience, it will be easier to see Holmes work in the all familiar streets of NYC. New York also provides an interesting way to play on the existing Holmes stories found in the novels and the compilations of short stories. In some ways I worry that the series creators at CBS will try to simply transplant the BBC rendition of Holmes into New York. Like I mentioned above, there is reason to believe that this won’t happen. I do like the idea of New York, especially because of the size and the suburban area around the city, which could and probably will act as the suburban areas of London did in the books.

Overall, I’m both looking forward to the series and very weird about the outcome. I really believe that it’ll either be wonderful or very lackluster and disappear after a season or two. My final bit of apprehension lies with CBS itself. I love both How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, but I have yet to watch a series on CBS that matches the combination of adventure/crime/drama that will be needed for a successful Sherlock Holmes series. I’m aware of Criminal Minds, CSI, and NCIS, but I don’t know if such shows really set the stage in terms of the ability of the network to put forth the effort and care that is needed to such a series. I honestly hope that I’m wrong and that the series completely blows me away. For better or worse, though, I’m left to wonder until the series premier this fall.

What do you think? Will the series be successful and can CBS pull it off?

CBS’s Sherlock Holmes: Will It Be Elementary?
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