Our first impressions of ‘Elementary’

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This week US TV network CBS released a preview for its own, NY-based, Sherlock Holmes update Elementary. Our first impressions? It’s Holmes, but it’s not Sherlock.

Of course, it’s unfair to compare it to the magnificent Moffatised incarnation of the Great Detective, just as it’s unfair to call this a US remake of our beloved BBC series. For a start, Elementary looks a very different beast in how fast and loose it appears to play with Holmes lore.

We’re not yet sure about Jonny Lee Miller’s take on Sherlock. Some clips such as the strangling scene and the deduction of the safe room bode well, but at other moments his performance feels generic.

It’s one of the central personality traits that Holmes is arrogant and mercurial, but Miller’s version seems to have a curious vulnerability about him – a lack of the ice cold confidence that’s run through the likes of Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch, and is crucial to the character. Holmes apologising? It’s like Batman rearranging himself in the batsuit; it’s just something you don’t see.

Visually he doesn’t cut a striking figure, although maybe that’s a good thing; a chance to blend in with the crowds and criminals of Manhattan. We’re not sold on the vagabond outfit though – beard, t-shirt and scarf? It’s more hipster than Holmes and it doesn’t feel like the costume of an icon.

Meanwhile, Lucy Liu seems a bit stiff as Dr. Joan Watson, but the gender swap doesn’t appear to have created any noticeable difference in the relationship between them (which makes you wonder why it happened at all). Hopefully the camaraderie that is so vital to the pair is still present, and it’s reassuring that Miller mentions their relationship is “the driving force of the [show]”.

Something you may have missed is maybe the biggest remodelling of all: numerous mentions of Sherlock’s father, who’s apparently alive and has hired Joan to look after his son. That shiver you just felt? It was the fear of seeing a Sherlock Holmes with daddy issues. This drastic change could bring an interesting dimension to a well-known character… or it could fall flat on its face.

Some may find such changes refreshing, some may see it as heresy. It’ll all depend on how well the show manages to pull them off. Change isn’t always a bad thing as long as there is purpose behind it, and the shift in geography is an exciting prospect. The tireless detective solving crimes in the city that never sleeps should give plenty of potential to use the Big Apple’s striking locations to good effect (anyone want to take bets on Holmes and Moriarty falling off the top of the Empire State in the first season’s finale?).

We still have some hope for Elementary, and even if it does emerge a disappointment fans needn’t fear for Sherlock Holmes’ reputation or popularity. If he can survive a plummet off a high precipice, he can certainly survive a sub-par adaptation.

Whatever the case is, we’ll find out when Elementary arrives on US screens in the Autumn.

What’s your first impression of Elementary? Let us know below…

> Buy the Sherlock Series 1-2 boxset on Amazon.