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'Elementary': Is it a fresh take on Sherlock or a tired retread?

'Elementary' swaps in a female Watson (Lucy Liu) and updates the story to the present day. Does it work?

By The TV Addict / September 12, 2012

'Elementary' stars Jonny Lee Miller (l.) as Sherlock and Lucy Liu (r.) as a female Watson.

Phil McCarten/Reuters


You’ve seen the commercials. You’ve heard the hype. Now there’s only one thing you want to know: Which of the new fall shows are worth watching and which should be avoided at all costs? In this continuing series, we give you the scoop on some of the most highly-anticipated shows of the season, with today’s subject being CBS'Elementary'.

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Started in February of 2006 as an outlet for Daniel Malen (The TV Addict) to share his love of television with anyone who would listen, has quietly grown into one of the Internet’s premiere destinations for television news, interviews and opinion.

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The Boilerplate: Since these pilot presentations may go through numerous rewrites and casting changes prior to premiere, this by no means should be considered an official review. Rather a preview of what one can expect come Fall.  

The Plot: After an alcohol-infused fall from grace in London and a stint in rehab, Sherlock Holmes is forced to start a new life in Manhattan under the watchful eye of sober companion Dr. Watson at the behest of his wealthy father.

The Cast: 'Elementary' stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson and Aidan Quinn as Captain Tobias Gregson.

The Snap Judgment: Since Hollywood has made a mint off characters whose social shortcomings are often overlooked as a result of their proficiency in their profession (See: 'House,' 'The Mentalist,' 'The Big Bang Theory,' 'Bones,' among many, many others), we’re going to eschew the obvious question as whether or not there is a need for yet another version of Sherlock Holmes and simply say this: There is a very good reason this quirky character trope has been carbon copied throughout the television landscape for the better part of two decades now: It works. And while 'Elementary' may not quite live up to the one-two combo of the BBC’s brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson), a tattoo-covered Jonny Lee Miller and the always watchable Lucy Lui do an admirable job of putting their own stamp on the iconic literary duo. Unfortunately, what doesn’t work — at least in the eyes of this Addict whose TV tastes tend to run towards the slightly more serialized variety of say 'The Good Wife' — is the very thing that will surely transform this Americanized version of the classic British tale into a Mentalist-sized hit. Much like the NCIS and CSI franchises, 'Elementary' suffers from a serious case of procedural-itis, a rare, albeit curable disease whose victims are more often than not writers under the employ of CBS. Which is why…

The Conclusion: Has all evidence pointing to 'Elementary' being the Fall’s most popular new drama… despite the procedural-heavy nature of the somewhat predictable pilot.

The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.

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