Friday, September 07, 2012

TV REVIEW: Elementary (2012)

Let's the get the obvious question out of the way right from the start: Elementary isn't as good as the BBC's Sherlock. Because NOTHING is. Period. It would be completely unfair to compare the two, seeing the amount of talent and money pooled into the Cumberbach/Freeman version which benefits a 90-minute, 3-outings-a-season formula that easily outshines any 26-episodes US Network show current or past. That being said, it IS nevertheless an interesting show that deserves a chance to prove itself.

Admittedly I was of two minds when reading the initial announcement; a modernized, junky Sherlock roaming the streets of New York sounds great on paper but the choice of Johnny Lee Miller seemed a little too fast-tracked (especially since his last US TV gig gave him the thankless task of succeeding the amazing John Lightgow as Dexter's villain-of-the-season) while other tried-and-tested shows already explored the concept of a 21st Century Holmes; Hugh Laurie's House  and Simon Baker's Mentalist pop to mind. After viewing the recently released Pilot episode, I can't say I'm entirely sold but my former opinion prevailed: a tattooed, 12-stepping lunatic is indeed an excellent transposition of the character into modern times, and given some clever writing could prove to be a serious hit, if not a cult one.

Purists probably won't agree however, since the first major change other than the country is the gender of loyal sidekick Watson. Jane, as she's now known, could only be unfavorably compared to her predecessors had she not been made a lady, here in the guise of TV already-vet Lucy Liu. So far the clich├ęs and pitfalls have been avoided; Liu brings a broken, sensible and surprisingly smart ex-surgeon who now serves as a hired nanny for the recovering sleuth. Thankfully there's no trace of a possible will-they/won't-they rapport, and Liu genuinely brings something fresh to a character that's been portrayed every-which way for decades. Rounding out the cast is one Aidan Quinn, who's in his 12th year of seeking his second wind on TV, playing a generic cop who plot-devices Holmes into investigating cases for the NYPD.

If the pilot's storyline is any indication, Elementary will be following its own independent plots with little to no reference in the general direction of the source material's supporting characters and lieux. The gamble would be promising as a cable-show format of 10-to-12 episodes a season, but here might prove to quickly run out of steam and originality in the hands of a broadcast network. Hopefully the emphasis will be to study the characters and their interrelations as opposed to trying for a new and clever Shyama-twist every week.  The one thing that can help make or break a new show, a recognizable score and title sequence, is so far unaccounted for, which adds to my desire to find out more. Not a hit in any sense as it is right now, but with the right touch could definitely become the welcome winner of an otherwise-bland vista of fall-TV start-ups.

Overall decent intro for a new show, but a long way to go before it gets the bona-fide thumbs up.





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