ELEMENTARY: the Right Way to Update a Classic Hero

TVWriter™’s LB and munchman were all set to review the first season of CBS’s ELEMENTAR (in fact, they were fighting over who got to actually do it), when Our Muse (AKA Gwen the Beautiful) spotted this sum-up by Genevieve Valentine.

Inasmuch as our two local heroes agree almost completely with Genevieve’s work, posting this is a no-brainer:

elementaryfullsize by Genevieve Valentine

Elementary has gotten some flak for being the “lesser” modern-day Sherlock Holmes. But now that its first season is over, we’re realizing this show understands the Arthur Conan Doyle canon — it’s just not afraid to ask questions. Here’s why Elementary is the Sherlock Holmes we never knew we always needed.

Warning: Spoilers for season one ahead!

“Let us hear the suspicions. I will look after the proofs.”

– Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Three Students

A little Holmes is a dangerous thing.

When Arthur Conan Doyle first published his Baker Street detective in The Strand, demand became so overwhelming he charged ten times more each contract to avoid writing them. When that didn’t work, he literally threw the man off a cliff. Even that didn’t take – people donned mourning armbands and chased his carriage down the street (there’s no fandom like Holmes fandom). Conan Doyle brought him back a decade later: you can’t kill a myth.

Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed literary character in film and television – nearly eighty actors in over two hundred works. The earliest was before the turn of the 20th century; he’s been a dog, a cucumber, and a mouse. And his legend’s so ubiquitous that even when it’s not him, it’s still him: Hercule Poirot, Adrian Monk, Jane Tennison, Shawn Spencer, Robert Goren: all operate under the shadow of 221-b.

When CBS announced Elementary, a contemporary Holmes series, there was a flurry of speculation, including allegations the show was merely aping BBC’s Sherlock, which also brought Holmes to a modern-day metropolis. (Somewhere in the afterlife, Basil Rathbone recalled all those times Sherlock Holmes fought the Nazis, and laughed.)

Two questions were most pressing: In the glut of procedurals, would this be true to Conan Doyle? And, Could it be any good?


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FTR: Two things could have made this article even better:

  1. Better proofreading – there are some puzzling typos here
  2. Giving the names of the show’s writers – at the very least that of the creator/showrunner, Robert Doherty, who we have to assume, is responsible for resisting network pressure to make this show less than it has become