ELEMENTARY: Putting the Show Under the Magnifying Glass (2012)

There is perhaps no greater fictional detective than Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. His legend has grown to epic proportions in the past century and the latest incarnation ELEMENTARY endeavors to create a modernized American version for television viewers.

Starring British actor Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes, this story takes place in the hub of American culture: New York City. Throwing in the twist of making Watson a female sober-companion, the show invites viewers to get to know these new versions of the classic characters, where Holmes and Watson investigate crimes, solve mysteries, and strive to help Holmes conquer his nasty drug addiction.

To help illuminate the appeal of this new series, here is an interview with the stars Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, who share their perspective on what ELEMENTARY is all about:

As can be seen, Lucy Liu felt that ELEMENTARY wonderfully pioneers this iconic role through a new lens, which allows them to reinvent it while keeping its essence. Though she admitted that the show has darker edge, with main character addicted to drugs. But she also noted it was a condition that is true to the original stories of Sherlock Holmes.

When asked about why it felt like a good time to bring the American version to life, Jonny said he thought the CBS version was different enough to be worth doing as it feels so widely different. Plus, that when there are great stories and characters, there is room for different versions. He also thought the CBS take on the classic character was interesting. Further, because Doyle created such brilliant characters, it is great to mine that material to thread throughout the show. Doyle’s stories were so engaging and thrilling, and his love of detail shone in each, it is what makes those stories so rich to draw from.

Lucy added that, in creating ELEMENTARY, Rob Doherty managed to maintain the intelligence and curiosity of the characters, as well as the sense of levity. The show does not “dumb it down” and viewers will appreciate that. Jonny also noted in the books Watson took such pleasure from learning from Holmes, so it is much more interesting that they are more equal in the show and less like a sidekick.

It is, however, emphasized that there is no intention for there to be a romantic tension between the characters. It would not be true to the Holmes/Watson relationship, and it is not necessary in the world that ELEMENTARY brings to life. Rather Holmes and Watson are destined to be comrades in adventure and investigation, sharing an appreciation of mystery and the hunt to ferret out criminals.

Adding to Lucy and Jonny’s observations, executive producers Robert Doherty and Carl Beverly were happy to share that to reward the loyal Sherlock Holmes fans that they have incorporated Easter eggs and nods to the original tales. While the show will not lean heavily on the classic villains and other popular characters of the Sherlock Holmes tales, they will eventually make an appearance. For what would Sherlock Holmes be without Moriarty, Irene Adler, and Mycroft? So those are nuggets that will be parsed out slowly as the series unfolds.

But for now, the story is all about establishing the professional relationship between Holmes and Watson as they learn to trust each other and appreciate the perspectives they each bring in analyzing crimes and discovering the guilty culprits. They also want to explore the source of the demons raging inside Holmes. What drove him to his addictions? They want to delve deeper into the man himself and learn how Holmes got to be Sherlock Holmes. As they noted, something terrible must have happened to Holmes at some point and he broke down, which opens the door for Joan Watson to enter his life as a sober companion.

So while they are borrowing heavily on the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, they have added their own spin to the story. They are not looking to simply contemporize the classic tales, but rather come up with their own mysteries to solve – with little nods to the source material.

Acknowledging that there will be comparisons to the British series SHERLOCK, Rob and Carl are confident that the American viewers will embrace ELEMENTARY as well. Fans of the characters have enjoyed a multitude of variations over the past century as they are always curious to see a new take on the classic story. Plus, as they happily noted, Sherlock Holmes has broad shoulders and can carry all the different variations across television and film. He is just that popular and intriguing a hero.

ELEMENTARY will be a mystery tale following Sherlock and Watson’s evolution of their relationship from addict and sober-companion to a genuine partnership. Both have mysteries about their characters and peeling away layer after layer to find out what drives both of them and the secrets they hide will be a big part of their journey. It is also essential to the overall mystery that shall hopefully engage viewers and keep them tuning in each week. The mystery should not be just the case of the week, but also: who is Sherlock Holmes? Now that is a mystery worth unraveling!

ELEMENTARY premieres Thursdays at 10PM on CBS (GlobalTV in Canada).

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