So, it’s that time of year again – one of reflection and looking forward. Also TV, food and alcohol. Someone on Facebook said that there’s something cleansing and focusing about these blog posts. I’m not sure how much there is in that, but it’s worth a try. Mother Superior is singing ‘Climb Every Mountain’ on my Nanan’s TV as I type this post. I’ll upload when I get back to Mexico, where I have the Internet.
For anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with me or any of my social networks, it will be fairly obvious why I’m interested in regeneration right now. Nonetheless, I’m not going to talk about that right now, except to say that I’m excited by everything that has been broadcast so far1 and am looking forward to what is coming next2.
No, what I want to talk about is Elementary and Sherlock. Putting aside the relative successes of the shows and the actors involved, it occurred to me today while watching Joan Watson solve the final puzzle in a case she was working on with Sherlock that Elementary has much more potential for longevity and originality than Sherlock.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Sherlock. It’s a stylish modern adaptation of the original Doyle stories, and Elementary certainly is not that. What Elementary is is much more original, taking only inspiration from the original texts. It also includes a method of deduction which can be taught and is currently being taught to Watson. This means that should Miller (Holmes) move on to other things, the show still has a detective protagonist who can continue to solve cases in the same environment with the same supporting cast and the same title. I’m not saying it’d be good, but it’s possible.
I’ve been watching a lot of House M.D. recently, too. “Rewatching” is probably more accurate, since I’ve seen all but the last season at the time of posting. Regardless of my shaky memory of later seasons, it occurred to me that there’s no possible way to continue House M.D. without, well, House. I wouldn’t watch Cuddy M.D. or Wilson M.D., despite the fact that I love both those characters. House is very much centred around house.
Sherlock has the same issue. It’s all about the interaction between Cumberbatch‘s Holmes and Freeman’s Watson. Despite an excellent supporting cast, the show could not exist without them, although it could probably limp along for a season or two without Watson.
On the other hand, Elementary is developing the world where Holmes is not a genius-savant with no equal. Watson is already proving that with time and training she could become his equal. The show could regenerate with Lucy Liu as the main character, and taking on her own apprentice. Just as a woman could be the next Doctor (and should be, in my opinion), Liu’s Watson could easily be the new Sherlock Holmes. There is precedent for this.
Honestly, I’d continue to watch the show even without Miller. I think there’s enough there to create some interesting drama. On the other hand, so much of Sherlock and House M.D are based around their main characters that they couldn’t possibly survive without Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Laurie respectively.
What’s the point of this blog? I suppose it’s that not only Time Lords regenerate, and that maybe that’s not all bad.
1The Night of the Doctor (OMG, 8!), The Last Day (OMG Arcadia), and And Adventure in Space and Time (OMG Hartnell).
2 The Day of the Doctor and the unnamed Xmas special with Peter Capaldi as the 12th (non-War) Doctor.
I just watched the penultimate episode of Elementary before its triumphant renewal after the Super Bowl. With that in mind, I wanted to respond a little to my earlier comments on the subject. As in the post cited, I’ll be comparing the show to BBC’s Sherlock, as I feel the two are indelibly linked – particularly to those who consider themselves “hardcore fans” of one or the other.
I am a huge fan of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat and Sherlock. That said, Elementary has been renewed for another season, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it. I don’t think it’s impossible to like both programmes at the same time. In fact, I know it isn’t, because I do.
On the one hand, Sherlock has a more cinematic feel, as each episode is a self-enclosed TV movie. Although more pleasure can be garnered by watching them all in sequence, it stays so close to the source that’s it’s really no trouble to pick up anywhere.
That leads me to my second point; it’s closeness to the source material. Sherlock Holmes is an eccentric, brilliant detective who has a close and unlikely relationship with a retired army Doctor who has an eye for the ladies. Moriarty, Baker Street and everything else you would expect from any other Holmes adaptation is present and correct.
What Moffat and crew add to this adaptation is not only a real love for the original, but also a charm, style and attention to detail which really makes Sherlock stand out from anything else on TV, even the genetically-linked Doctor Who, which must strive to vary its style every week to keep things varied.
On the other hand, we have Elementary. Not quite so slick or stylish, it comes across to begin with as a relatively normal police procedural drama with the mandatory atypical lead. After a few episodes, though, I found that Johnny Lee Miller’s Holmes really began to grow on me. I even stopped noticing his oddly migratory accent.
His relationship with Lucy Liu’s Watson is as interesting as that of Cumberbatch and Freeman, I think, only with less sexual tension. While fans of Sherlock enjoy the potential subtexts of Holmes and Watson’s relationship in the BBC show, it is unthinkable that they should be anything but platonic in a male-female interaction. Although it is kind of illogical, I have to say that I agree, if for no other reason than that it would be nice to see an entirely platonic male-female relationship on TV. It rarely happens unfortunately.
The mysteries in Elementary are all gloriously unconnected to either Moriarty or each other, and in that way are a little closer to Doyle’s original, where the Napoleon of crime only appeared on two occasions. That said, the episode guide on Wikipedia does rather suggest that that might be about to change.
The drug addiction angle they’ve taken with Holmes is very interesting. It makes sense in terms of his addictive personality in the books, but on it’s own merits it give Watson a reason to stay with this awful man until she can see through that to the man he really is. It also give Watson something to do other than be confused with Sherlock is being brilliant. In a very acute way in many episodes, she carries the heart and finds the happy endings where Holmes’ nihilistic logic might let it too often lie on a dark note.
So, yes. For fans of cop shows, Sherlock or just good telly, I’d definitely recommend giving Elementary the time of day. And if you don’t like it, I think Sherlock will be back again in six months or so…
The way I see it, there are three main questions with regard to this new incarnation. Four if you really want to discuss Downy Jr.’s outings. I don’t. I prefer Iron Man. Anyway, my three questions are this (in order of importance to me personally):
- How does it compare to the BBC’s slash-tastic1 Sherlock?
- How does it compare to the source material?
- Is it any good?
Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start2.
So, how does it compare to Sherlock? Well, this does feel very well into question 2, too. It… doesn’t compare to Sherlock. Not at all really. Nor the source material. Beyond being about a surly private investigator with a British accent, there isn’t much to connect the two.
As an astute fellow Sherlockian pointed out on Tumblr, I’m not sure why they used Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character names in this new piece. There’s no London, no Lestrade, no… Sherlock. It’s just a dick with a funny name and a sidekick solving crimes. It’s not like this paradigm hasn’t been plumbed before without using the Great Detective’s name. So why tack it on to this unique piece of drama? I’m not gonna go into it here. Ask Mrs. Moff.
Regardless, beyond getting people to watch the thing, the name adds nothing to the series. It has charms of its own – the guilt-ridden ex-surgeon taking care of the manic, poorly-accented addict who solves crimes because he’s bored. The police are predictably contrary during the pilot whilst being non-characters in the background of Jonny Lee Miller’s mania and Lucy Liu’s straight-woman.
So – is it worth watching? I’d say ‘yes’. At least test it out for a few episodes after the pilot as I will. It’s a very American product – I’d put it closer to Dexter than the BBC’s Sherlock. It has all the nasty murder stuff without the witty interplay or textual-subtextual homoerotic but it has a certain… something that I’ll keep trying. The ending of the pilot was lovely.
Anyway, yeah. How is it possible that JLM – a British actor – has such an appalling British accent? He sounds like Daphne from Frasier!
I’ll leave you on that note and I’ll try to construct something a little more coherent for my next post.
* Yes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson”. That doesn’t make it any less real than how much excellent and often angry sex goes on in the TARDIS. Case in point behind this link (take a lesson in context before you click that).
1 If you don’t know what I mean, follow the link then do your own research.
2 Okay, that was too British even for me. I apologise. I also blame Genevieve Charnaux.
As I write this in my Rosetta Stone notebook1, I am sitting in a house… somewhere near Mexico City. I’m accompanying my lady friend to a rehersal of her band. I am surrounded by so much equipment that I don’t know whether they’re going to make music or launch this lovely antique-filled home on a mission to Mars.
I love music. I do. I enjoy rock, pop, country, jazz, ska, soul, Motown and more. My regular playlists are so eclectic and varied that no two songs played back-to-back seem to gel at all. From Deep Purple through the Supremes via Dolly Parton, I love all kinds of music2. It seems, however, that I l love music less than almost everyone else I meet. This rules goes double for anyone I happen to sleep with.
I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but I never give a correct answer when it comes to favourite bands; I can’t name a guitarist from a single riff3, and I don’t know which band started which monumental movement that should have changed my life.
They guys I’m listening to now are great. Really, they are. I won’t have to put on my boyfriend-wow face and fake enthusiasm. It’s good stuff. I’m even pretty sure I can name all the instruments. After I finished this bit of scribbling, I also helped with the tambourine (badly) and some English grammar in the lyrics! I’m quite proud.
That said, I’m not really sure what genre their music is, nor which bands might have inspired it. I feel like Knives Chau being mesmerized by something I know nothing about4. I just don’t have the language to discuss music, just like a non-linguist wouldn’t have the words to talk about phonemics, the Proto-Indo-European language or diphthongs. In the broadest possible strokes, I can say if I enjoy some vocals, a guitar solo or lyrics. I kind of know that Bowie was a New Romantic and Marvin Gaye was Motown. Regardless of any of my other traits or interests, this seems to make me a lesser person; I’m less cool and less interesting.
Case in point: on my journey to Mexico City last week, I was flicking through the poorly catalogued music collection on the bus. I came across a song I really enjoyed, with a lead singer whose accent really appealed to me4. I was berated by lover and ex alike for never having heard of the Cranberries. It was a name that I sort of recognised, and when their hits were yelled at me, I did recognise some. Nonetheless, they weren’t a band that was ever really on my rader until I accidentally listened to a mislabelled song on a Mexican bus.
The song in question:
Right now, I’m surrounded by people who are enjoying making great music. I’m enjoying listening to it while I write. Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t that be enough?
I have no issue with musical culture or how much it means to some people. I just don’t really understand it. It is, I suppose, the same way that other people don’t understand my passion for Doctor Who, the BBC’s Sherlock or Supernatural6, for example. What does bother me, however, is the ‘indie elitism’ that one sees far too often. The “my music is better than you music” mentality is what put me off looking outside the mainstream for the majority of my teenage years (another girl’s influence, as it happens).
I like music, but I know nothing about it. What’s wrong with that?
Please comment if you’ve had the same experience. Maybe you’ve got your own story of non-musicista prejudice? Let me know. Tell me I’m not alone.
1 The British Museum’s finest.
2 I know, I know. I’m sure you’re already rolling your eyes at my examples.
3 Except Queen’s Brian May.
4 If you don’t get the reference, do yourself a favour.
5 My weakness for accents is a whole topic in and of itself. The next time I do something stupid for a pretty accent, I’ll let you know. Refer to this post for reference to my summer spent chasing Belarussian crush I had entirely thanks to the pretty, atypical way she spoke.
6 If you don’t know them, look them up. Seriously.