sat 20/07/2024

Elementary, Sky Living | reviews, news & interviews

Elementary, Sky Living

Elementary, Sky Living

Is there room in your house for another Holmes?

Alimentary: Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes analyses his 'sober companion' Joan Watson (Lucy Liu)

Last year at the National Theatre, Jonny Lee Miller appeared in Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch ("two excellent performances", according to theartsdesk's Sam Marlowe). Maybe something rubbed off, because now here's Miller following in Cumberbatch's footsteps as another 21st-century Sherlock Holmes, in this new series from CBS in the States.

There were murmurings of disquiet from the team behind the BBC Sherlock when news of the American Holmes became known, but stylistically the two products are poles apart. Apart from anything else, Elementary has to abide by the stringent conventions of mainstream American network TV, which means it's 45 minutes long when you take out the adverts and is unlikely to stray far into the outré and outlandish. Judging by this debut episode, it will follow the familiar CSI-esque format of opening with a crime in progress, then depicting its detection by the protagonist while filling in some background about his life and personality on the way.

Thus, we irised in on a glamorous redheaded woman being chased round her apartment by a barely glimpsed killer. Then we cut away, and learned that Holmes was previously a consultant for Scotland Yard in London, but has been undergoing rehab in New York for a drugs problem. Lurking in the background is his powerful and domineering father, who has installed Sherlock in one of his several New York properties (in Brooklyn in fact) and has hired Joan Watson - yes, the big twist is Watson is a lady - to be his "sober companion". Joan (an immaculately chiselled Lucy Liu) announces that she will be staying with Holmes for six weeks, and "I will be available to you 24/7." Wa-hey! Well no actually, because the blueprint evidently stipulates a platonic Holmes-Watson relationship.

But we'll see. In fact we've already seen that Holmes is far from immune to sexual urges, because although he claims that "I find sex repellant, all those fluids and odd sounds", he also deems it necessary to keep his mind and body functioning at peak efficiency. Look out, Ms Watson.

One neat trick was to get Holmes to use his razor-sharp skills to tell us about his new partner (or valet, as he introduced her at one point). He notes that Watson obviously hates her job as an "addict-sitter" because she needs two alarm clocks to wake herself up in the morning, he detects from her hands that she has been a surgeon, he works out from the parking ticket in her handbag that she has been to visit somebody in a pauper's grave, and triumphantly concludes that she quit being a surgeon in mortification at having killed a patient (Jonny and Lucy face the press, pictured below).

Miller is pretty good as Holmes. He does the fanatical-sociopath thing with conviction, throwing social graces to the winds once he get a sniff of a clue, even crashing boorishly into the opera house where Watson is trying to savour a bit of culture to pester her with questions and make loud phone calls. The bit that didn't ring true was the way the rest of the audience just sat there and didn't beat him to death with handbags and umbrellas.

There are hints of bipolar disorder in the way Holmes veers from boastful triumphalism when he gets something right to pouty resentment when he misses a trick. Clearly he's going to have difficulty accepting that Ms Watson is a bright girl who supplies the empathy he so glaringly lacks. And obviously they're destined to form a winning combination (ratings permitting), having successfully hunted down this week's murderous mastermind. But, in the wake of not only Cumberbatch's Sherlock but also such Holmesian telly-heroes as Patrick Jane in The Mentalist, Dr Cal Lightman in Lie To Me, Dr Gregory House and even good old Gil Grissom in CSI, will viewers give this Holmes a home?

Follow Adam Sweeting on Twitter

There are hints of bipolar disorder in the way Holmes veers from boastful triumphalism when he gets something right to pouty resentment when he misses a trick

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