In 1887, readers of the popular periodical Beeton’s Christmas Annual were to receive quite a special treat. There wasn’t much fanfare or hype to the event. Inside the pages of the magazine was a story called A Study In Scarlet. It was a detective story, perhaps like many published before, except for the detective himself, a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Together with his faithful companion and chronicler Dr. Watson, Holmes would win the hearts of those holiday readers. It might have been an ordinary day, but the world was about to change. Sherlock Holmes would become the most famous detective in the world. His stories would remain in print nearly 130 years later. Over 100 films would be made featuring the character. There would be television shows and cartoon spoofs. No other character has appeared in more productions. When his creator dared to kill the beloved detective in order to move on to newer stories, his very life was threatened. It would seem that Doyle was on the verge of becoming a victim much like those in his stories. There was only one man who could save him from such a grim fate, and he did just that. It was Sherlock Holmes himself.
Modernizing Sherlock Holmes has been a popular trend in film and television lately. We have seen two slick action film adaptations courtesy of Guy Ritchie, a contemporary BBC adaptation (Sherlock), and now there is Elementary, which transplants Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion Watson from Victorian Era England to modern New York.
Jonny Lee Miller’s portrayal of Holmes makes me want to start drawing comparisons to the title character in the medical drama House. Both shows surround an eccentric, drug-addicted savant who blazes beyond socially acceptable behavior to a series of “aha!” moments. Granted, said “aha!” moments are much less contrived and formulaic than they are in House. It takes a little while for the show to get its legs, but it does. The creators are clearly hoping the eccentric charm of Holmes can shoulder the burden of maintaining audience interest. Said eccentricity can come off a bit aimless at first. Sherlock has the ability examine people almost perfectly, yet the writers do not seem to have the character fully figured out, and there are too many moments where Holmes’ odd behavior seems a bit tacked on, such as when he hypnotizes himself to get through an addiction support group meeting.
Each episode features a mildly captivating crime puzzle for Holmes to solve. Lucy Liu plays Watson. This incarnation of the classic character is a disgraced former surgeon who is assigned to keep Holmes from falling back into his heroin addiction. Very soon she begins assisting him in his investigations as she demonstrates a great aptitude for it. The platonic chemistry between Holmes and Watson is a bit of an issue for this show. Watson is more babysitter than partner, but they do start to grow closer as the series progresses. There is no real hint of romantic connection between them, which I enjoy. This show avoids the laziest possible device for character tension, and I applaud it for that. For you non-bookworms out there, Holmes’ drug use is actually taken from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There are numerous references to Holmes’ use of various drugs and stimulants, many coming from Watson’s perspective, which means that this adaptations method of having Watson be a caretaker of Holmes is more closely related to the original than one might assume.
This season is all about Holmes returning. He brings with him a new protégée in the form of Kitty Winter, played by Ophelia Lovibond. Don’t both actress and character names sound like a Bond girl name? Holmes also finally gets a more friendly relationship with Detective Bell, played by John Michael Hill.
You get all 24 episodes on six discs with a pretty solid list of extras that include the usual CBS season summary, a profile on the evolution of the Watson character, and profiles of Kitty Winters, Bell, and Holmes himself. There’s a gag reel and a couple of short behind-the-scenes features. It’s another pretty solid release.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani