[WATCHED: November-December 2012] Sherlock & Elementary
This has been the year of Sherlock Holmes for us. We loved the first Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movie. Sarah loved the second one (I fell asleep, but I don’t blame the film). And then U.S. TV began airing Elementary this year. It’s a contemporary version of Sherlock Holmes in which Watson is played by Lucy Liu–she is his “sober companion” trying to keep him off drugs and alcohol. I kind of like this conceit–it’s a fun twist on Watson, and yet it loses some of the interplay that is fabulous between Watson and Holmes, especially since Holmes (played by Johnny Lee Miller) seems to be trying to get away from Watson. Nonetheless, the show is quite enjoyable and is quintessentially Holmesian.
A back story note: Sarah and I do not like police procedurals. We don’t watch anything with any of the initials: SVUL&ONCISCSIER5-o, none of it. Even if t he show is supposed to be awesome, as soon as I hear “police” I refuse to watch it. And yet here we are hooked on Holmes. So what is it about these shows? Well, they focus on little clues (impossible clues, frankly). They rely on being really smart. And, this may be the key, they don’t rely on guns, police, judges, or any other tropes of police shows. They’re like puzzles…puzzles that you don’t mind not being able to figure out yourself because Holmes is so damned smart. I guess these are technically mysteries rather than cop shows, and that’s pretty cool.
Especially Sherlock. Sherlock is new to us, although the first season aired back in 2010. Sherlock is a BBC production. To me, this means two things–it’s going to be well done and it’s going to be short-lived (typical two is why one is true). And lo, each season of Sherlock is merely three episodes THREE. True, each episode is 90 minutes, but…three? Okay, really it’s more like a movie each time, which is pretty awesome. We saw a preview for it in the Sherlock Holmes 2 movie. We recognized that–saw that Tim from the Office, Martin Freeman, is in it and he is excellent in everything he does. He is a master at the reaction shot and that reaction shot really humanizes the show. That may even be why Elementary isn’t as successful. In Sherlock, Watson is amazed by what Holmes does, while in Elementary, Watson just seems to accept it when he does something amazing, which is much less fun.
In Sherlock, Holmes is played by the improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch. A name out of fiction itself. He and Miller in Elementary have the manic intensity, the fast, robotic talking, the deadpan jitters, the smug intelligence thing down perfectly. You want to hate Holmes, but he’s always right. It’s hard to say who I like more of these two, but there’s something slightly less desperate (and more peculiar looking) about Cumberbatch that lets him eke out a win.
In Elementary, Holmes (and no one knows the name Sherlock Holmes in either show–the name is not meaningful when they start) has been sent to the U.S. to work with the NYPD. There’s some interesting back story and of course, the police don’t like him–he’s fine with that. In Sherlock, he is a consulting detective. In both shows, they help out the police in an unpaid fashion. It’s kind of funny that we have watched two seasons of Sherlock and it has fewer episodes of Elementary which just started airing and seems to be figuring out what it’s going to be doing exactly.
The first season of Sherlock is s stunning in its setup–I love that it is contemporary, that they use cell phones (and project what the phones say on the screen for us to read). I love how they had Watson and Holmes meet (and how everyone assumes they are gay), and I love their landlady (all taking place at 221B Baker St of course). We meet Holmes’ brother Mycroft–a similarly wonderfully awkward person who has a position in the government and calls on Sherlock for help from time to time. And we meet Moriarty–Holmes’ archenemy (Watson: people don’t really have archenemies these days, do they?).
I love that Holmes doesn’t know anything about Moriarty and yet Moriarty knows about Holmes (Holmes has a web site. He shows off but it’s quite boring and he has very few hits, ha). But now Watson is blogging about him, which is getting him noticed (a great twist). The final episode of the first series ends on an amazing cliffhanger. Yes, amazing!
If you watched it when it came out, you had to have waited two years for the next episode–that must have been insane! We got to watch it the next night, and it was wonderful payoff. Season Two is a bit more high-tech feeling–a bit more, dare I say it–American. Indeed, the second episode which was set outside of London and was called “Hound of Baskerville” (a nice play there), felt like an episode of Grimm. Which is to say I enjoyed it a lot, but feel it lost a bit of the Sherlock magic. I was all set to say that Season Two was less cool than Season One when we watched the finale. And that silenced any criticisms I may have had.
The ending was utterly staggering.
I have heard that Cumberbatch is making a movie which means that Season Three (and we know there will be a Season Three) will be delayed some. Now I get to feel what that waiting game is all about. I’m so excited of for the show’s return, whenever that will be. But in the meantime, we still have Elementary. It has taken a bit of a drubbing since Sherlock is so awesome, but it still holds up very well, and it keeps us in that spirit of Holmes.
As part of our Sherlock love, I took out a collection of Holmes short stories from the library. Sarah has been reading them and she says that most of the episodes in Sherlock are taken from the original stories (which must be what makes them so good). Obviously they are spruced up and modernized, they are not reproduction of the stories at all, but there are characters and situations that are based on those original stories. And that makes it all the cooler to me. I’m looking forward to reading them myself.