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 have that same feeling I had when I saw the first footage from that recent Wonder Woman TV show attempt.

    • I now see someone above me left a similar comment, lol.

  2. Ugh, god I hate Lucy Liu! I like the guy they cast as Sherlock and Im even down for a female Watson but why, why, why, Lucy Liu? Maybe shes learned to act since the last time I saw her. Maybe they can make it work though. I dont know, Im still in for giving it a try. Maybe all the Brits will stop crying about this being a rip off now? I doubt it.

    • it’s not just the brits crying, but most of the world. seriously, why on earth would they cast johnny lee miller, the guy who last year won an olivier award together with bbc’s sherlock benedict cumberbatch for a set of roles they alternated in “frankenstein” at the national theatre in london? elementary feels even more like a rip off now – they obviously couldnt get mr cumberbatch so they’re going for the other guy whose face now is forever linked to benedict cumberbatch in some parts of the world. rather sad. and what’s that female watson for? getting some implied sexual tension into the show? that would be kind of a rip off, too martin freeman and benedict cumberbatch are already doing a great job at that, just that they’re referring to it quite a lot so it’s not just sort of cute but also incredibly funny. apart from that, it makes absolutely no sense to have holmes surrounded by a woman, he doesn’t like women, even i know that and i haven’t read that much of the original conan doyle stories. they should do their homework at CBS.

      • Bollocks

  3. I beliebe you people are missing the point.

    I couldn’t care less of Lucy Liu playing Watson or Megan Fox playing Moriarty for that matter.

    This is CBS, the one that gave us masterpieces of detective idiocy such as Numb3rs and C.S.I.


  4. Honestly, as a dedicated Sherlockian, I was not too happy when I heard about this show.
    Now that i hear John is Joan, and played by Lucy Liu, I am outraged.
    i realize this has been attempted before, why do you think it failed before? it would be interesting if done correctly and well, but we’re talking about CBS. That outcome is not likely.
    They need to quit while they’re at it. Not only will people who watch sherlock refuse to watch this, but the BBC will most definitely try to give it bad publicity.
    The phrase “Elementary” was not even used in the books! I realize it has been majorly used in everything else, but Sherlock got it right.

    • OUTRAGE!!!!!!!!!

  5. While I understand -why- CBS is doing this, I can’t say I think they really understand why BBC’s “Sherlock” is so popular. Not if they run this show the way it’s being described here.

    “Sherlock” is popular because, among other things, it has amazing actors, brilliant writing, and is totally respectful of the original material. Oh, and the implied sexual tension between Holmes and Watson doesn’t hurt it any.

    CBS, on the other hand, seems to have gone “Hey, this British show is super popular and is taking away from the viewings of OUR shows! Let’s take the VERY MINIMUM of the underlying idea and make a US show that’s sort of like it, but not really at all, in order to boost our viewership.” So they went and took out the bromance (because “everyone” knows that that’s Not Okay in the US), made his consulting with the police seem like a professional thing (no good showing the cops as being incompetent in comparison to an amateur… especially not a FOREIGN one), and from the sounds of things, have squeezed out any possibility of making parallels to the original material (because they wouldn’t want them to be accused of COPYING now, would they?). In doing so, however, it seems like they’re neglecting any elements which would make it… marginally watchable for any length of time.

    Honestly though, I’m going to give this series one episode, the pilot, to impress me. If (when) it fails to do so, I’m going to pretend like it doesn’t exist, and watch all six episodes of “Sherlock” repeatedly to scrub all traces of “Elementary” from my brain.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you. (especially on the part about having to watch Sherlock over and over to get rid of this show…)

      I mean really CBS? a modern day sherlock holmes. noooo that’s a completely original idea, go ahead (insert sarcasm here)
      Also, I agree with what you said about them not really catching what makes Sherlock so amazing… oh well ><''

      • Yup, its been done before. Dr Gregory House and Dr James Watson. Oh, you meant the Sherlock show? Opps. Well I guess a modern day Sherlock Holmes has been done twice before than.

        Or maybe you meant the cartoon, “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century”? Not exactly modern day, but the idea of Holmes out of his original setting has been done already numerous times. If CBS wants a crack at doing it, why not? If its good, yah! If its bad, we still have “Sherlock”.

        But than, CBS has already tried to a show about a modern day Sherlock, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” is a 1987 CBS television movie and pilot created and written by Bob Shayne involving the famous detective Sherlock Holmes finding himself in the modern world. So who is copying who?

        • Well said.

        • I think you are missing the point.

          I am by no means ssaying this will be a rip off but considering that CBS had *just* been rebuffed from gaining the rights to remake Sherlock you can’t fault people for being a bit supicious now can you?

          Plus House was only insprired by Holmes and never in the show made any major refrences to the books other than House and Watsons friendship and the TV movie? The premise is very diffenent from Sherlock it is about Holmes from the past being transported to the present, that is hardly anything like what Sherlock is like. I think you would call these Strawman arguments.

          Personally since the producer made a point to warn the show not to be to similar in style or tone to Sherlock this means that Elementary will likey end up being ultra cautious and just be another Crime drama.

        • Dr. James Wilson.

          • thank you.

    • yes i’m going to follow that exact plan…lol

  6. Sigh. What has American TV shows come to? (And yes, I am American)

    The thing that makes Sherlock Holmes so delightful is the fact that both are male. By doing it this way, other people won’t have reservations against doing anything bad against Watson (Cause, in Sherlock, look what Moriarty did! A Semtex vest! Granted, there were other females, but America’s hardly gonna let something so dangerous happen to the women)
    Plus, the bromance, and the fact that Mary marries Watson is what helps make Sherlock Holmes good.

    Why take the idea of BBC’s and make a modern Sherlock? This is just sad.

    And where’s the good British accents and speak? They’re BRITISH! Not Asian.

    I’ll still watch to try it out, but probably it’s not going to be good.

    • What’s with all the self hating Americans on this thread. I mean come on the best Sherlock Holmes is played by an American! (Downey Jr.) Get over it it’s just a British TV show. Sherlock is not the best thing to ever exist it’s simply a fun and well acted show. Writing is predictable. Let them try and fail but stop crying and blaming it on being American.

      • You are kidding, right? RDJ is nowhere near as good as Benedict Cumberbatch. And Jeremy Brett? RDJ just isn’t in the same league as these guys. And if you think the writing in Sherlock is predictable, I would like to know what show you’ve been watching, because it’s certainly not this one. But I do agree that we should let CBS try and fail. That’s a good plan.

        • Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone were awesome. Have you noticed that Cumberbatch borrows a lot from Jeremy Brett? I love it. RDJ did well but is not a quintessential Sherlock Holmes.

      • I’m an American and after witnessing the movies and Sherlock, from the BBC, have to say that Cumberbatch and Freeman have the most amazing chemistry, and the writing is top notch! It’s clearly based on ACD’s books, and doesn’t rely on heavy action scenes to tell a story. I LOVE RDJ, but he is certainly not the best Holmes ever to be portrayed.

      • Hmm, so you think ‘Sherlock’ is predictable? Please, tell me exactly how Sherlock managed to execute his faked death so brilliantly? Apparently you can see through the writing so this must be a piece of cake to you? I’m not really patient, waiting until 2014 for season 3, so I’d really like to know how.
        Also Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Sherlock is so damn irritating, I mean ACD’s version of Sherlock was not borderline crackhead. Benedict Cumberbatch’s representation is highly successful/popular for a reason – he stays true to ACD’s depiction.

  7. Nothing more to say than: hell, no. BBC’s Sherlock is amazing; America cannot possibly hope to replicate it. We should not try. And making John a woman…is wrong. Martin Freeman is the true Watson.

  8. I think the reason they’ve made it so different is because of the threats from BBC and Sue Vertue to sue if it’s too similar to Sherlock.
    Coincedentally enough, CBS approached BBC about making Sherlock a joint venture between the two channels – BBC refused, and now CBS are doing their own version? Hmm.

  9. I’m sorry, but what? You cannot have Watson as a female. It’s just… no. Watson is a male. Watson can never be a female. Some characters I am fine with gender-bending. Make Sherlock a female and I’d be fine (mainly because you can’t exactly do sexy stuff with a sociopathic asexual), but Watson will always be a man! Just… I’ll give it a shot, but i have low expectations, especially because it’s CBS. Sy-fy did it, I’d be excited, because they can do decent stuff. But CBS… just leave my hero alone!

    • More bollocks

  10. I still say Monk was the Americanized version of Sherlock Holmes.

    • I agree and Monk was fantastic. Sometimes networks get it right.

  11. lame. correction, Lame.

  12. I am sorry but in what way is Robert Downey Jr. the best Sherlock Holmes? Yes he does a good performance and the first film was great (Game of Shadows not so much) but the BBC’s Sherlock is a masterfully written, directed and acted show, easily one of the best dramas of recent years. I personally have no problem with a female Watson (though think it would work better if it was a female Holmes) but I do not like Lucy Liu to portray him/her. However I am outraged that CBS is ripping off Sherlock, and they are let’s be honest. It simply adds to the long tradition of American networks ripping off successful British shows and making their own version(Examples include Being Human, Shameless, Skins, Absolutely Fabulous, Life on Mars, Men Behaving Badly, Queer As Folk, Top Gear, etc. etc. You get my point)

    Perhaps we (the Brits) should try taking more American shows and see how they like it, or perhaps the States should try their own stuff.

    • I agree with everything! Well said!

    • I agree with everything accept I very much enjoyed BOTH versions of Queer As Folk.

  13. This could be good and CBS have every right to attempt to make their own Sherlock Holmes type show but the timeing is a tad suspect and the fact that they had approched the Beeb to do a remake means I am really supisious of their motive for making this.

    If they just wanna make an American Sherlock then if they don’t have the BBC’s permition then I sugest they don’t bother with all this. But if they really have an orginal take then why not?

    I probley won’t be watching though.

  14. Ever since she started trying to throw her weight around and got Bill Murray axed from charlies Angels i have had a problem with this woman. I don’t like her. I’ve worked with too many women like her.

  15. So long as we’re making comparisons, the CBS police procedural “The Mentalist” has several Sherlockian elements. The main character uses his observational skills to solve crimes as a consultant for the authorities; he is haughty and willingly uses people for his own ends (which involve defeating a successful psychopath); a parters-in-crime-solving dynamic exists between said character and a more levelheaded counterpart. Granted, “The Mentalist” has many unique aspects as well… but the similarites are more than a little compelling.

    “Elementary” sounds like a less imaginative rehash, to be honest.

    • You all talking a load of bollocks lam British and I think that casting lucyliu as Watson is brilliant

  16. I think the general consensus is that “Elementary” will be a flop, but even if it were good. It would have to be extraordinary for people to even acknowledge it as alright.

    Everyone has already disregarded any possibility of it living up to the “Sherlock” name, which is completely valid. “Sherlock” may have the best actors & writers of any television show to date, so a direct comparison is out of the question. I’m look at “Elementary” as a “CSI”-reboot…so that still doesn’t sound good on paper. But they struck gold once, I willing to see if they strike it again. Especially with Johnny Lee Miller as the lead, but it hinges on Lucy Lui forgoing blithering like an idiot for half an hour. With “Sherlock” coming around only every 1 to 2 years, it’s elementary that CBS should tap into the deprived market…(ugh, I just hope CBS doesn’t use stupid puns like that).

  17. This and the news that Bill Muary wont do a Ghostbusters 3 is making me think the Mayans were right about this year

  18. I’ll start off by saying that I’m convinced that, even if Elementary does succeed(which I find highly unlikely but stranger things have happened), it will never compare to BBC’s Sherlock. Inevitably, Sherlock will come out on top. That being said, I do intend to look watch at least the pilot episode of Elementary.
    Lucy Liu as John Watson set me on edge at first (partially because I adore Martin Freeman’s portrayal and am convinced it can’t be topped). Why would they choose a woman to play the role of Sherlock’s chronicler and dearest friend? As a fan of the original stories, it just didn’t seem to me that a man and a woman could recreate the complex bromance that is Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes.
    However, I’ve seen a lot of bad portrayals of Dr. Watson. Mostly, I’ve seen him as the bumbling sidekick, the dull-witted assistant who did nothing but praise Holmes and provide the comic relief. I’ve always been infuriated by this because, in the original stories, Watson is a capable ex-army surgeon, a good man who can keep up with Holmes(or at least not get left behind on one of Sherlock’s rants like those in Scotland Yard), and intelligent.
    If Lucy Liu’s Watson is as capable as the original, like some of the latest portrayals of Watson(Jude Law, Martin Freeman, etc.), then I’ll definitely give her a chance. If she goes the way of a typical CBS show sidekick/bumbling Watson, well, there really is no hope of me ever making it past the pilot. In my opinion, without a good Watson, Sherlock Holmes is not Sherlock Holmes. BBC understood that with the excellent Martin Freeman. I wonder if CBS will too?

    • I get it. Elementary will (eventually) tank. So, I propose something else, fellow Sherlock-lovers. How about a wager on how long you think Elementary will last on air before being cancelled?
      Let’s start at 2 episodes (or 80 mins.)

      • Gracie: That long, I go for not making it past the pilot stage when it’s given a preview screening.

  19. If you have ever read the original books, and then looked at Jeremy Brett series of TV shows (which are closer to the books than any previous attempts at the character on film), you will understand why I say I have no use for modern versions of the character.

    Author Conan Doyle would turn over in his grave if he knew what was being to the great character he created. Holmes was meant to be a period piece, the stories, as they were originally written still work and I would encourage everyone to watch the Jeremy Brett series. That is Sherlock Holmes!

    • I used to think exactly the same, but the idea behind the BBC’s modernisation was to allow today’s audience to experience Sherlock Holmes in a similar way to the Victorian audience when the stories were first published i.e. in their own time. It translates incredibly well. I agree that Jeremy Brett is the true Holmes and I doubt anyone will be able to top his performance, but Benedict Cumberbatch is my true Sherlock and I think that’s a crucial difference. He captures the character perfectly in my opinion.

      However, seeing as how Conan Doyle ended up despising Holmes and hates writing about him, I very much doubt he would be turning in his grave. What would no doubt make him angrier would be the fact that after all this time he is remembered for Sherlock Holmes and not his other work, which he considered far superior.

  20. This sounds like a failure to me. I like Lucy Liu but this just doesn’t sound right to me.

    Also, what happened to censorship on SR? There are numerous posts with some pretty gratuitous wordage.

  21. I feel like the whole premise of this show is, “‘Sherlock’ is cool, we ought to make a show just like it. Way to be creative and original, CBS.

  22. OH HAYUL NO.
    This is more than a modern take on Sherlock.
    They’re taking the names and running with them.
    I agree that Monk was certainly a modern take on Sherlock. BUT COME ON.
    If you’re going to give them the same names then give them the SAME GENDERS.

  23. NO. Just no. They totally copied BBC Sherlock. I really DO NOT like this. I’m American but I freaking hate this. John Watson was an army doctor. Joan Watson is a surgeon. Kind of like saying women aren’t strong & brave enough to be an army doctor. Also, I just don’t really like them living in New York City. I personally LOVE 221B Baker Street. Oh! Also, the British version (personally, I believe is the best remake of Sherlock Holmes) show is called Sherlock. That first picture, is from that show. It’s the opening. AMERICA, COME UP WITH YOUR OWN IDEAS. Everytime America tries to remake British shows & movies…. Well.. Just no.. Just.. NO.

  24. First of all, I strongly object to this blatant rehash of a superb British show. There is no way CBS is going to match the Mofftis’ writing, Paul McGuigan’s directing, or the fabulous acting of the entire cast. It saddens me that they’re going to try anyway.
    As for this latest development – I have no poblem with the concept of a female Watson, or even with Lucy Liu, per se (although they are going to give her some appropriate backstory, because, let’s face it, Joan Watson is a caucasian name). What bothers me is what they’re doing to the fundamental aspects of the character that have nothing to do with gender but which I feel have been done because they’re doing gender swaps – why can’t a woman be an invalided army doctor with military distinction? Women serve in the armed forces across the world! Why must she be a disgraced surgeon and not somebody highly respected in her field? I doubt these traits would exist if they had left Watson male, but of course, as has been mentioned, that couldn’t happen because then there would have been two men living together.
    Also, Sherlock Holmes belongs in London, and his egomania probably wouldn’t allow him to seek outside help for a drug problem, let alone in New York. We have rehab in England, too, you know. It’s a very thin story to (presumably?) make him more relatable to an American audience )and avoid a lawsuit from the Beeb).

  25. Yeah, I’m a Sherlockian, and I’m holding a considerable amount of rage here.
    Pisses me off that it’s set in NY. I mean a huge part of Sherlock Holmes is the running around England for the sake of solving mysteries, and then at the end of a long day settling back down in good ol’ 221b Baker Street. London is his home, and this new show will be missing a lot of that love if they give it an over used NY setting.
    And whether or not you like the whole “Joan Watson” twist is up to you. I personally feel a bit violated by it, because knowing the cookie cutter mindset of CBS, this could only be an attempt at making Watson a romantic interest, while avoiding the gay route. *insert frustrated scream*
    But even if I could look past the whole female thing, I already hate this “Joan” Watson’s character! “former surgeon who lost her medical license after a patient died while consulting with the NYPD.” NO! How far from the truth could you go?! John Watson is the brave army doctor, conditioned to a life of violence and war, thrust back into civilian life after being injured on the front lines, and finds himself without a home. Through an old army buddy he meets Sherlock, and through Sherlock fills his cravings for adventure. Never “Lost his license” either. He was a good doctor, it’s just a bit hard to operate when you’ve been shot in the shoulder. But no, let’s take away Emotionally and Scarred Soldier and replace it with Lady Struggling with Career, that’s just as deep and tear-jerking a back story.

    Okay, I’m done here. Needed to bark a bit. Feeling a little better.

  26. I am currently reserving judgement. Now know I am a big BBC Sherlock fan, and I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes in general, so I’m a little iffy on this CBS version. I’m also a little iffy on this “Joan Watson” thing, as well as Lucy Liu playing her…When I think of Sherlock Holmes, I think of JOHN Watson beside him. I’ll give it a try, if only to see if it will be a flop or not.

  27. Wow. All I have to say is wow.
    I’ll stick with BBC.

  28. I’m not even going to begin a rant about the MILLON THINGS WRONG WITH IT, but as a Sherlock girl whose been there since before the series and with it, I feel a sense of duty to CRUSH the idiot who gets this wrong (Metaphorically…maybe). Let’s just say that when one person in the world is watching this, and the ‘creators’ (copycats) still insist they did not fail, we can laugh our way back to good old 221B. I’ll say now that I won’t even give them a view out of curiosity for defacing Sherlock Holmes, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Lets face it, the American’s failed in accuracy on the movie but at the very least it was shot well…. please people, don’t do it again!

    One last thing, and it may be elementary, but if you name the series after a quote that Sherlock was never actually recorded saying in the books, you’re sort of walking into it.

  29. I think this whole idea is rather stupid. I am honestly disgusted with America for trying to recreate this amazing series. Please send Hollywood some much deserved hate- mail. I am honestly appalled with their stupid attempts to try and get their pathetic shows more popular than the much- deserving ‘Sherlock’. This American nut job will never top Benedict Cumberbatch… or his rather lovely cheekbones and arse.