TV MADNESS #6: ELEMENTARY

The BBC has had a huge success with its reinvention of Sherlock Holmes starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Each season of the critically praised show is only three 90-minute episodes but each are a modern day retelling of a famous Holmes case. The series has also launched Cumberbatch and Freeman into the Hollywood stratosphere with each of them joining a huge Hollywood franchise.

Across the pond, US networks have often tried reinventing British programs for North American audiences.

“Doctor Who”, “Cracker”, “Coupling”, “Red Dwarf”, “In-Betweeners”, “Skins” and “Prime Suspect” have all had either been a moderate success or a certified bomb.

Only reality shows like “Big Brother” & “American Idol” and NBC’s hit series “The Office” have really survived the transformation.

“Elementary” is the first time that Sherlock Holmes has been on a US Network in almost 30 years. An on-going series has always been shown on PBS imported from the BBC.

The last two American network appearances of Sherlock Holmes were in 1986 and 1976 as TV movies.

Uncannily both were modern updates with a female Watson and were comedic tellings.

The 1976 version starred Larry Hagman as Holmes, three years before he would don a stetson for the juggernaut soap “Dallas”.

The 1986 version had a cryogenically thawed Holmes being brought back by an ancestor of James Watson (Margaret Colin) to solve a mystery.

“Elementary” stars Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock and Watson. This time Sherlock is in New York after an unexplained incident resulted in him leaving Scotland Yard and developing a drug addiction. Now clean, Sherlock is trying to get his life in order. His estranged father has assigned a live-in companion Joan Watson to monitor his recovery. Their first mystery involves a successful woman being killed and left in her apartment’s safe room.

Miller is really good at playing weird, jarring characters and he relishes in this Holmes character. He is constantly on edge and makes everyone around him nervous. His deductions and the way he reveals them are there except with a digital age twist. He evens jokes about using Google on occasion.

It is nowhere near as clever as the BBC version but it does have a lot of what CBS audiences love about their episodic detective shows. Holmes is an interesting character. His own mystery is kind of interesting and will make Sherlock fans wonder if they are eluding to Irene Adler or Moriarty as the one that drove Holmes into giving up and addiction.

Give it a chance and if it does develop Sherlock’s own mystery some more this could become more than just a standard episodic. It needs to work on its big picture and single itself out to why we need another Holmes.

GIVE IT: 4 episodes

WATCH OR DVR: DVR

PILOT RATING:  3.5 out of 5

“ELEMENTARY” BEGINS SEPTEMBER 27 ON CBS.

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