Elementary (pilot) – review

Here’s the thing about Elementary – there is literally no way to discuss this show without it being colored by comparisons to the BBC’s exemplary Sherlock. In fact, this is what was running through my mind as I watched the Elementary pilot:


So, a female Watson… Oh god, you’re going to fall in love with her, aren’t you?


At least my Watson knows better than to start a blog… Surely you could have helped your sidekick comprehend the meaning of the word “private,” as in private consulting Detective? 


Your Watson? You mean the one being paid to babysit you? At least my Watson doesn’t bag my urine for testing… 


Maybe he should. 


Excuse me? I‘m not the one who went to rehab… 


Yes, you’re the very picture of mental health – all you did was JUMP off a BUILDING!

In the end, I’m of two minds about Elementary – on the one hand, it’s a perfectly enjoyable CBS procedural, another cut from their loaf of bread-and-butter success, with a pair of absolutely lovely actors as the leading duo. All around it’s a pleasing, well-made crime drama.

On the other hand, well, Elementary is a CBS procedural – which is to say, it is what it is. Which means, to be brutally frank, Elementary is just not playing in the same league as Sherlock. This show is meant to be a comfortable, long-running series that will churn out 22 episodes every year for the next eight years – and so there is a certain sameness, a certain by-the-numbers quality that comes from that expectation of mass production. Now I don’t mean that as a knock against the acting quality, by any means – I don’t doubt for a second that Jonny Lee Miller can go toe to toe with Benedict Cumberbatch (as all who saw them together in Frankenstein can attest), and similarly I think Lucy Liu  has proven herself to be just as versatile as Martin Freeman, with the proof apparent in Ally McBeal, Southland and Kill Bill (and incidentally, I have no doubt Lucy could totally take Martin in a fight), but the problem, and the major reason these two shows just won’t compare, is simply this: Sherlock is making one-offs, TV movies essentially, while Elementary is coming off a production line. And as a result, Elementary‘s two very talented actors are just not going to be given nearly as much meaty, original goodness to play with as Cumberbatch and Freeman. Elementary is simply a CBS crime procedural – a good one, to be sure, but it is what it is. It’s just the nature of the beast.

Or let me put it another way – no matter how many times I watch The Reichenbach Fall (the last ep of Sherlock‘s series 2), the tears always start swimming, because that ending gets me every single time. Somehow I don’t think Elementary is going to be making me cry any time soon – either in a good or bad way.

But in the end, Elementary does get a season pass on my Tivo – hey, we all need something to watch during the long, interminable wait between Sherlock series, and Elementary makes for a perfectly pleasant way to while away the time.

Elementary airs Thursdays at 10 PM on CBS.