September 28, 2012

The Game is Awry, Watson!

 I have to admit, I take my Sherlock Holmes seriously...but not too seriously. (Just take a look at my various posts for The Baker Street Blog). So I ignored the online criticism, set aside my preference for BBC's Sherlock, and simply decided to check out CBS' Elementary.

In short, this is an unexceptional, by-the-book much so that I wonder if the only reason Holmes was used was to generate publicity.

Admittedly, I like the concept - Holmes-as-recovering-addict - that House MD flirted with, but never really engaged head-on. I'll admit that a more hard boiled Holmes might just be what television needs (in start contrast to the updated Victoriana of Sherlock). I'll even grant you that for network TV, there really can't be too much deviation from formula.

But Elementary's biggest sin is that it's too workman-like, from Rob Doherty's script to Johnny Lee Miller's and Lucy Liu's performances. Nothing about this show crackles, engages, or even demonstrates a willingness to run freely with the source material. In fact, you could easily substitute different names for the main characters, and it wouldn't have any effect.

(Although I can honestly say, given Miller's performance as Holmes, that Elementary has allowed me to slightly appreciate Robert Downey Jr.'s performance more. Downey might be reminiscent of Hugh Laurie, but Miller seems to be superficially channeling Basil Rathbone....but Downey at least tries to make the role his own; Miller never really catches fire. And Lucy Liu's Watson is....just there. None of the performances really engage the viewer, nor is there any intriguing deductions to be made in the entire case. Ironically, the only striking thing about this first episode is the direction, which is visually engaging...but plot wise, it's rather dull).

In short, the game has gone painfully awry for CBS' Elementary - it's biggest sin isn't that it rips off another series (because it doesn't), but that it really doesn't quite stand out in a network full of police procedural shows.

In short, you don't need to be a Holmes - or a Watson - to deduce that there might be better uses of your time.

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