CBS’ ‘Elementary’ Casts Eli Stone as Sherlock; Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:28 pm,

CBS Casts Lucy Liu as Jane Watson in Elementary CBS Elementary Casts Eli Stone as Sherlock; Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson

BBC’s modern take on Sherlock Holmes – simply titled Sherlock – has so far been a really smart, really successful modern adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective tales. This time two years ago, Benedict Cumberbatch was just a really lanky English guy. Now he’s the main villain in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek 2. Coincidence? Doubtful.

In fact, Sherlock was so successful that CBS began developing a modern Sherlock Holmes to call its own, Elementary. Two weeks ago, Johnny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) was cast as Sherlock himself. Today, not only do we have plot details, but we also have our John (or should we say Joan?) Watson — and her name is Lucy Liu.

The news initially came from TV Line, which simply announced that Liu (currently on Southland)  would be taking on the role of the female Watson. Later, more details emerged from Deadline, TV Line‘s sister site. Apparently, Elementary will see Johnny Lee Miller’s Holmes – breathe easy, everybody, he’s still English – as a former consultant to Scotland Yard whose drug addiction brings him to a rehabilitation center in NYC. Post-rehab, Holmes moves in with a “sober companion” in Brooklyn, Joan Watson, a “former surgeon who lost her medical license after a patient died while consulting with the NYPD.”

Lucy Liu is Jane Watson on CBS Modern Day Sherlock Holmes CBS Elementary Casts Eli Stone as Sherlock; Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson

There’s nothing inherently wrong with casting Watson as a woman. While previous attempts have yielded lackluster results, it certainly has the potential to be an extremely interesting development. However, the problem could lie with Lucy Liu herself. She carries a lot of baggage as, well, Lucy Liu – from Ally McBeal to Charlie’s Angels to Kill Bill and so on. When viewers sit down to watch Elementary for the very first time, will they see the female version of John Watson, or the Charlie’s Angel who hated Bill Murray?

Elementary, of course, refers to the most famous line ever attributed to Sherlock Holmes: “Elementary, my dear Watson!” A line that was never written by Arthur Conan Doyle, but was, in fact, popularized sometime later – either in a nineteenth century play or in the 1929 film The Return of Sherlock Holmes (it’s actually unclear to this day).

The Return of Sherlock Holmes 1929 Film CBS Elementary Casts Eli Stone as Sherlock; Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson

Rob Doherty (Medium) wrote the script for Elementary‘s pilot and Michael Cuesta (Homeland) directed it.

What say you, Screen Ranters? Is this semi-Americanized Sherlock Holmes reboot something you can get behind, or is Lucy Liu as John Jane Watson too ridiculous for anybody to get behind? Let us know in the comments.

Stay tuned as more Elementary news becomes available.


Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

Sources: TV Line, Deadline [via Bleeding Cool]

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  1. I don’t have much hope, but I’ll give it a try.
    Personally, I have no problem with a theoretical female Watson, but in execution, the idea has some major issues.
    Watson’s character, even in the books (not just the BBC), has a sort of fawning obsession with Holmes – he writes novels about his work, after all. He’s awestruck, it’s a bromance; that’s his connection to Holmes.
    With a female, American writers are most likely going to add in romantic/sexual tension, and that m/f aspect is going to change the motif considerably. The biggest problem is that creating a strong female character who is also fawning and lovestruck confuses society’s gender shcemas, and so in order to avoid accusations of sexism, writers would probably replace that yandere-ish trait with hostile friction full of subtext (I’d especially assume this with Lucy Liu). But that isn’t Watson. He’s a bro. According to Conan Doyle, that friendship is why there were books in the first place. But I gather from the title of the show that they aren’t very concerned with the books…?
    Like I said, I’ll watch it, but I won’t be hoping for half of what BBC did with Sherlock. *sigh*

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’m not upset because she is a woman, I am upset because Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are the central focus of anything Sherlock related. For crissakes, they are 90% of the reason we even enjoy the stories in the first place!

  2. I’m not a native english spoken, so forgive me for my errors of writing, but i want to say one thing. If characters like Sherlock holmes, Nero Wolfe, Maigret are still read after so many years from the first publication,there will be a reason: because they are perfect, self contained, still fresh, untouched by time.
    So, a prayer for all the tv network that made a reboot without respet for the spirit of the character: PLEASE STOP!

    • You said it exactly right Pier…these characters were created perfect & that’s why the survive the test of time.

      I fell in love with BBC productions via PBS many years ago-Python, Masterpiece Theater, Blackadder, Bean, Yes Minister, I could go on and on.

      Look, American TV just can not “translate” British drama/comedy. There are things about the language, the humor, the euphemisms, even the accents….(imagine Jim Carey in a pet shop, trying to return his deceased parrot….agwww the horror..)

      The most recent examples I can think of… Coupling, & Life on Mars-tragic. They tried to replicate the shows, just plug in American actors. Whereas for example the TBS drama The Closer is “based” on Prime Suspect…and I must admit I didn’t want to watch it at first because I love Prime Suspect. Finally gave it a chance & fell in love with the US show-”thank yeww”, but it was because they only used the premise, they built a really different show around that….love it, great characters, great acting… great show-on its own.

      & Don’t think there hasn’t been hushed conversation in a conference room or some back bathroom at a hollywood party about the sucess of Downton Abbey..& what about that “weird show” Dr.Who?, & how the bandwagon could be jumped on…shudder….gag..

      Isn’t the Patrick Jane character on Mentalist kind of the American version of a “Holmes” type character-his use of observation, disdain for most of law enforcement, Lisbon is his “Watson”, etc. I like the show, it works…

      Bottom line…LOVE “Sherlock”, Stephen Moffat, Ben Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman.
      What is it? “Elementary”? I’m rolling my eyes in contempt already…

  3. My problem is that Watson seems like he/she’s no longer former military. That gave the character a lot of bearing in the series, and made a solid foundation for the connection between Sherlock and John. Sure, the Americans are probably going to replace it with ‘a patient died’ angst, but it doesn’t have the same oomph. Doctors deal with patients dying all the time – it’s part of their job. John went through a war – and came out of it damaged, which was part of why he connected with Sherlock. It makes Joan seem weaker in comparison to John – which has unfortunate gender role implications.

    • On the other hand, it will no longer be as difficult to
      whitewash the unspoken racism & patronizing sexism in the original Holmes,
      including the atrocities the British army committed in India against civilians, the ever fawning female clients who always pleaded Holmes to save them & their honor because they couldn’t even wear pants, let alone fight for their fair rights.

      • I think this is one of the most ridicules statements I’v ever read.

  4. This show is going to be a disaster. Bbcs Sherlock is good because it is really well thought out and logical while maintaining loyalty to the original. This project should swiftly end before it becomes an embarrassment and yet another blight on television.

  5. I agree. The character that is John Watson is the way he is because of his struggles with PTSD and other war-related struggles. Removing this part of his or her character could change everything. I also heard rumors that she is no longer a practicing doctor because of some event that caused her to lose her license which worries me. Are they going to play her off as a person who was never a good doctor? Not sure where that is headed.

  6. As a big Sherlock Holmes fan, I like all things Sherlock.
    I prefer the armchair Holmes such as Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett far more than the Robert Downey Holmes, but you cannot argue with success. The two movies made about $200 million dollars in this country.
    I am sure the CBS show will be no match for the exceptional BBC production.
    The biggest problem I see will be the female Watson and her relationship with Holmes. But hopefully, the mysteries will be strong enough to overcome this deficiency. I foresee a storyline with Irene Adler, where the two women will compete for Holmes affection.

    • I’m awaiting the day that a female Sherlock will be featured.
      Conan Doyle conceived the character Sherlock Holmes after a real life doctor who taught him in Edinburgh. Back then, women were not admitted to medical schools ever. Now, there are many brilliant women, from which the new Conan Doyle screenwriter can conceive & model the modern character of Sherlock & Watson.

  7. They’re just attempting to capitalize on the success of BBC’s Sherlock, and I don’t admire that at all.

  8. I mean, I’m not excited for the cast but, I’ll give it a try. Hopefully, It might not actually be a disaster, although they changed up Watson a bit, like his military background.
    Yet, if it fails I shalt not be surprised.

  9. The BBC series remake is popular because they try to stay true to the books. Pier had it exactly right when he said that these characters are timeless for a reason. Just naming the show ‘Elementary’ was an insult to the books, to add future they have stripped John sorry Jane of the background of what makes Watson, Watson. Clearly CBS is in it for the money and I really don’t know how much they intend to make out of this already poor reboot of the brilliant sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

  10. I don’t like this version already. Plus Watson as a woman I’m sure women’s groups willow start complaining once they heathland Sherlock talks down to Watson. Plus to change their backgrounds. Is absurd!

  11. Firstly, I have nothing against Lucy Liu. She is a good actress.
    Whose idea was it to have Watson be a girl? Is it so they can bring Sherlock and “Joan”together as a hetrosexual partnership? What is wrong with having two males fall in love? And if Watson is a girl, how about instead making it new by making Holmes a girl aswell? Have a complete gender swap!
    And why, WHY, is Sherlock Holmes, the famous BRITISH detective who is BRITISH in New York? I just find this too try hard. This is not a Sherlock Holmes story but just another crime dramma with a few Sherlock-esk aspects.
    If this turns out to be not just another American crime show, and enjoyable and good, I will never speak another ill word about it. If not, So help me god….

  12. I feel that having a female character to portray Watson is so wrong in many ways.

    Reading the Series, I have noticed and valued the strong and rare type of friendship that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson has formed. It was one of the highlights of the series. It was one of the only signs that Sherlock Holmes is capable of such humane connection that usually doesn’t exist within him.

    Having a female Watson with the same character as the original one, would definitely have a different feel for the viewers. It will come out as a love team. And where would Irene Adler fit in the scene???

    This is a very risky move and I think they shouldn’t have taken it.

  13. Its a stupid idea to replace a watson for a Chinese looking girl!
    Why do Americans always want popularize things?
    Noop! The bbc show is magnificent and will never be topped by a another one!

  14. Bizarre to say the least. A new marketing concept? Defies many sensibilities. Being of Asian descent myself, I think the concept of “stretching” the prototypical Caucasoid model may be a token gesture, but really? White John Watson to Chinese Jane Watson? Lucy Liu???? Are you serious? But I guess if we were to believe, that Tom Cruise’ Japanese wanna-be crap fest “The Last Samurai” would be believable on some level, then perhaps, John to Chinese Jane Watson could be acceptable.
    Personally it is beyond my scope of understanding. For that matter, why not an African American Holmes or how about a Bollywood musical version with a female Hindi lead named Sandhya Holmes and her Korean male sidekick named Ja-Hoon Watson. C’mon it would be great! Break into a musical dance number every 10 minutes. NOT!!!!
    No offense to anyone but really, aren’t some devices designed to stay the same for the sake of integrity and authenticity?

  15. I love the idea of lucy liu being nypd, but seeing as i’ve never actually seen any Sherlock movies or read any books about him, I can’t say weather it’s a good match, however hopefully people can look past the Sherlock underlying and just see a good show.

  16. This show is trying to cash in on the Sherlock Holmes success without staying true to the original books. At least the first episode of Sherlock was based on “A study in Scarlet” this series bears no resemblance to the books and on top of that the writing seems sloppy.

  17. I tried to watch this, but could not follow the story because I could not understand what Sherlock was saying. Every one else was fine. The accent may be technically correct but I prefer Basil Rathbone. Thank you very much

  18. I cannot believe you put on this show and took off a gifted man

  19. Ok I decided to give Elementary a try….and I like it! really did not expect to…mainly gave it a chance because of Johnny Lee Miller & was prepared not to like a female Watson, but I retract my objections…

    I’m enjoying it on it’s own, not comparing it to “Sherlock” or past Holmes characters….

    Give it a chance..

  20. I love it. I hope you keep the actors as is. When you start making changes it really ruins the show. It’s the same but different then original. It makes it have a quality all to itself that make it unique. Again, love it!!!!

  21. Screw the haters, it’s a great show. Lucy Liu and Miller are fantastic together.

  22. So much for all the “OMG!” prognosticators, the show is quite excellent, and that’s coming from someone who is very picky about their Sherlock Holmes portrayals. Maybe many of the staid British (and others) here should consider being a bit more like the original Sherlock and not only adapt to the present, but embrace and even shape the future. And now, about those of you clearly reveling in an antiquated sense of gender-bias…turn around and face forward. As for the rest of you who are making judgments even before seeing the program, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” ~ Sherlock Holmes (And you call yourselves Holmes fans. Hah!)

    • Watched the show and it sucked :(

      I really looked forward to seeing a female Watson, but the screenwriters missed the point entirely.

      Holmes is an adapted sociopath, he doesn’t make human connections with people, because he is damaged past normal. The reason he connects with Watson is because Watson himself is damaged by his experiences in the war. Holmes is an addiction to Watson, because he needs to occupy his mind with something and Holmes infatuates him.

      What they did with the show is turn Watson from this independent guy that finds out he needs the friendship of Holmes just as much Holmes needs the friendship of Watson into a week character that can’t deal with her life and searches for a romantic relationship with a troubled person in order to fix him, because she can’t fix herself.

      This is not turning gender roles on its head, but reinforcing gender and sexual stereotypes. A woman can’t be valorous so we turn her from a soldier, scared by the horrors of battle, into a doctor that made a stupid mistake, because you know while men die on the battlefield women make mistakes on the operating table. Watson needed a friend in order to get him through the pain of his experiences in the original, but here she is just looking for a soul mate, because you know women need a man to help them in life and they cant form relationships with men outside of the romantic. In the original Holmes was constantly making fun of Watson’s inability to see whats in front of him, but their friendship was so important that Watson didn’t care. Here, because the writers probably figured that they made Watson too girly, decided that what makes a strong female character is to make her solve cases for Holmes?!? The entire point of the Holmes-Watson partisanship is that Holmes doesn’t need Watson to solve cases – he needs him in order to connect to humanity.

      Unfortunately I can go on and on about how stupid this show is and how it butchers both Holmes and Watson. This is just another crime drama, the writers used Holmes to sell better, because now Britain and everything British is hip, especially Sherlock Holmes. This is the primary reason they made Holmes British as well.

      If you want to watch a good crime drama about a man/woman duo, go see Castle. Castle have better actors, better writers, better characters, better stories and captures the male-female dynamic far better then this show.

      If you want a good Holmes interpretation, watch the BBC series or “House MD”. The first capture the feel of the books quite well and ads to them by making them modern and inclusive without feeling forced. The second captures the characters and the relationship of Holmes and Watson better then any show I’ve ever seen.

  23. Hi, There, CBS,
    I really like Lucy Lui in this series, but wonder why you didn’t give her the lead role and Holmes and that other guy whose trying to act like Holmes the Watson part. I really, really like Lucy Lui and think that she is strong enough to carry the lead role. With Eli Stone as Holmes, you are looking at a cancellation before the end of the year–hey, but thanks for trying.


  24. Lucy Liu makes a great Watson. She captures the essence of the character and dynamics of the holmes/ Watson relationship

    • I like Elementary because it has what I like most about Sherlock Holmes: deductive reasoning. I have nothing against Watson being a woman, nor do I have anything against Lucy Liu, she is a very talented actress. But to say that she captures the essence of the character would be false. This though is no fault of hers. The writers of this show has placed her like. she is as they described it a crutch to Sherlock. He now requires her to help him solve cases. Also they have already expressed Sherlock’s comfort with sex, so I have no doubt that soon a relationship of that type will be developed between them.

  25. I tried watching a few of the CBS episodes, generally it sucked. The writing was weak and the acting mediocre. Sherlock is far to talkative and Watson is utterly bland. I appears the writers neglected to read any of the books to get a bearing on the Watson-Holmes dynamic.

    It’s another boring crime drama with some British coolness and an attractive co-star. . . next. If you enjoy crime thrillers try BBC’s Luther or a touch of dark comedy and crime with New Tricks.

  26. I read several of the posts and I couldn’t relate to the negative or hyper critical ones at all. The script is very, very multilayered and clever to the nth degree. How many writers? The two actors are like a glyph of heart and mind. Ok I’m a man and Lucy’s magical magnetism definitely works for me. Johnny Lee Miller’s rapido deductive reasonings are quite brilliantly pitched. What’s more I’ve been considering changes in fashion and his dress would suit me. TV series are for enjoyment (right?) well I really enjoy watching this sophisticated, entertaining and well acted, well produced show. For God’s sake don’t pull it execs!

  27. Lucyliu is fantastic as Watson great stuff

  28. he did say “elementary,” quite often. hes just misquoted as saying “elementary my dear watson.”
    the adventure of the crooked man. by sir arthur conan doyle

  29. Lucy Liu as “John” Watson is ridiculous and frankly describes America in a nutshell. I understand attempting to keep things modern, but it is very annoying having to see Lucy Liu be in EVERYTHING that just never seems to suit her naturally or the roles she should even be playing. As a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, she is a very bad choice. -2000 points CBS. -2000.