Review: Elementary – Season 1 / Cert: 15 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn, Jon Michael Hall / Release Date: Out Now
When CBS first announced that it was doing a modernisation of Sherlock Holmes, there was a small ruckus caused by those dedicated to the BBC’s own version, Sherlock, concerned that similarities might damage the existing show. As it turns out, despite coming from common origins, the two shows couldn’t be any more different. Whereas the British effort has gone for a low volume of intricately plotted and incredibly tense mini-movies, Elementary is fast, accessible and the first season is made up of twenty-four, forty minute episodes.
That’s not to say that Elementary isn’t good; it’s an extremely slick production, featuring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Doctor Watson. In this modernisation, Holmes is presented as a savvy and brilliant recovering drug addict. Miller lends a constant nervous energy to the role, providing an edgy intensity that is both modern but also in line with the classic character. Watson’s military background has been excised for this show; instead Lucy Liu plays a disgraced surgeon who works as a professional ‘Sober Companion’. The initial set-up for the show is that Watson has been hired to keep an eye on Holmes and ensure that he doesn’t fall back into the arms of seven per cent solution.
The serial format allows Elementary to reveal aspects of both characters at a leisurely pace: we eventually learn why Holmes moved from his home of London to New York, how Watson came to be a sober companion and so on. The cases themselves are almost by the by; this is a character-driven drama with a side order of novel and interesting crime. Of particular note is the way that classic characters Moriarty and Irene Adler are handled in the show; the self-styled ‘M’ is indeed a terror on an equal footing with Holmes, whereas Adler is very much ‘The Woman’ , and both are brilliantly acted. All the key characters are excellently cast, and even the surprise appearance of Vinnie Jones works well.
The box set comes with the usual features; some behind the scenes chats with both Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, a handful of insights from the producers and set designers and a small collection of promos and trailers. Though nice, they’re all designed to promote the show to the hilt and provide little real insight into the production of Elementary. Die-hard fans of the series (or the actors) will probably get a thrill out of them, however. If you need something to keep you going after all the new episodes of Sherlock are gone, or if you like you procedural crime drama loose and serialised, then this is well worth your time.
Extras: See above