Friday, December 11, 2015

Elementary

I don't watch a lot of television dramas. Those I do almost always have a link to something else I've enjoyed. (For instance, all the comic-based shows lately.) Three years ago, I started watching Elementary because of its Sherlock Holmes theme, and I've stayed more or less current with it ever since. I was inspired to mention it here after watching last night's episode, the 77th in the series.
There have been a lot of Holmes-themed shows and movies over the years. Lots of folks have said that the BBC's Sherlock is one of the best, but I've not gone out of my way to seek it out. I'll probably watch it someday when I activate Netflix again. Meanwhile, Elementary is on broadcast TV here in the US, easily available via a simple DVR schedule.

In Elementary, Holmes and Watson have been altered quite a bit from the traditional characters. The two most obvious changes are that Watson is a woman ("Joan" instead of "John"), and the setting is New York city rather than London. Sherlock is also a recovering heroin addict, which often plays into their relationship and his character development.

The casting of Lucy Liu as Watson is one of the things that initially appealed to me, as she's one of my favorite actresses. I didn't know much about Jonny Lee Miller before watching the series, but I think he's done a great job as Sherlock. The two work very well together, which is a major reason why I've kept watching all this time. There are several very good supporting roles as well, most notably the NYPD captain and detective that Watson and Holmes work with regularly.

A large portion of Elementary is a fairly pedestrian crime-of-the-week police drama. Holmes and Watson are "consultants" rather than actual officers, but they work with the police department. The actual crimes are, for the most part, the same sort of thing you might see on one of the various CSI or Law and Order franchises. Sherlock's unorthodox methods make an appearance in nearly every episode, of course, which sets Elementary apart somewhat.

But I don't watch Elementary primarily for the weekly crime solving. Both Holmes and Watson are interesting characters, and the show keeps it that way with various struggles and growth. Addiction struggles, career decisions, family problems - there's plenty of themes beyond whatever criminal is on the run this week. I particularly liked the appearances of Mycroft Holmes and Moriarty; two more traditional characters presented in new light. And there are other interesting recurring aspects, such as the hacker collective "Everyone" or Sherlock's interest in beekeeping, that add a bit of spice to the crime-of-the-week.

You can pick up most any episode of Elementary and follow the weekly story, which is fine in itself as weekly crime dramas go. I find the real draw, though, to be the characters and continuing story themes. I doubt it'll ever be considered the best Sherlock Holmes adaptation, but I enjoy watching.

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