‘Elementary’ Series Premiere Review

Published 3 years ago by

elementary premiere sherlock holmes Elementary Series Premiere Review

Elementary may very well be television’s most highly anticipated new series, having a critical eye trained on it as television’s second Sherlock Holmes series on the air, following BBC’s Sherlock. CBS’s version, again, presents a modern take on Sir Author Conan Doyle’s iconic character, this time in New York City.

Sherlock’s character is set up as having already been established as a super sleuth across the pond. A drug addiction lands him in a New York City rehabilitation center and, upon release, he moves into one of his father’s least luxurious Brooklyn properties under the one condition that he maintains a sober companion. Cue lady Watson, a former doctor looking to save some lives after losing a patient.

As awkward as the premise may sound – using whatever Crocodile Dundee methods necessary to get Holmes to New York City – the actual execution is handled rather nicely. Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes, all tatted up and disheveled, is enjoyable to watch. His mannerisms are quirky and endearing, his ramblings are entertaining, and his monologues command attention. Miller’s Holmes may not be to the caliber of Benedict Cumberbatch, but his performance is strong enough to carry a series on his own.

Lucy Liu is surprisingly good as Dr. Watson. True, Liu has starred in numerous film and television roles, but the general response to her announcement was met with more than a little apprehension. Rightfully so, given the numerous Charlie’s Angels movies that nobody asked for. Fortunately, Liu’s role as Watson is subtle and nuanced, often helping to open up Miller’s performances and intrigue the audience.

elementary premiere johnny lee miller Elementary Series Premiere Review

Watson commands few scenes on her own, though they still manage to continuously slip in expository details throughout, leading to few impactful back-and-forths between her and Holmes. In a sense, Watson can been seen as the typical second hand in any character procedural, always helping to move the story along while the eccentric star does their thing, and there’s not much in the premiere that changes that. Even so, the awkwardly honest relationship that Holmes has with Watson helps to quickly build a relationship and attachment with the characters, making you want to see them together, and allowing Watson to have her moments to one-up her recovering addict.

Aidan Quinn rounds out the Sherlockian trio as Captain Tobias Gregson of the NYPD. Quinn’s performance is exactly what you’d expect from the famed actor, going back and for with Holmes, often annoyed, yet still respecting his opinion enough to go out on a limb for a case. Compared to all of television’s (many) other police liaison characters in procedurals, Quinn’s Gregson is one of the best.

Aside from its characters, what makes a Sherlock Holmes story different than any other tale of crime or murder is its unique story and approach. Elementary establishes that unique Holmes deduction and reasoning in spite of its tale, which takes far too long to become intriguing, leading off with a few too convenient assumptions coming from dirty walls and a tilted floor. As the episode progresses, the story eventually finds itself after a crime admission, leading to a relativity satisfying ending, though not due to the presence of Sherlock Holmes.

elementary premiere sherlock watson Elementary Series Premiere Review

As a procedural, Elementary is good, interesting – like so many others on television. In many ways, the Elementary series premiere feels like a television procedural with Sherlock Holmes as its guest star. Often times you’ll find Holmes obtaining the same type of information that any other television detective would in the same situation, only he’s rambling a bit more while doing it.

Overall, there weren’t enough familiar Holmes moments to make it feel like a genuine Sherlock tale – instead of just a version of The Mentalist, which itself is a version of USA’s Psych. Because it’s the first episode, you can forgive a few missteps. Character development and relationship establishments get rushed for introductions and such. Still, Sherlock Holmes is the center of the series, so there should have been more engrossing scenes to show off exactly what he can do. And using Google doesn’t count.

As the series continues, Elementary has the opportunity to refine itself, slowly falling into the storytelling freedom that a multiple episode order allows. With news of Moriarty soon appearing on the series, there’s no reason not to stick around to watch. For all the comparing and complaining over Elementary and Sherlock, the truth is that it’s a competent series which puts an entertaining twist on an overly-familiar genre.

But, no, it’s not better than Sherlock.


Elementary airs Thursdays 10pm on CBS

TAGS: Elementary
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  1. I actully enjoyed it a lot, more then I thought I would. It wasn’t perfect, but that can be forgiven being only the first episode. I actully rarely like anything from the first episode, have downright hated shows from the first episode that I later liked a lot once it got going, so I don’t judge too harshly on the first episode alone. I did like this quite a bit tho, and am looking forward to seeing more of it.

    • Nothing can beat the BBC version of Sherlock Holmes. Look for it, entitled “Sherlock”, on Netflix, if you haven’t seen it already. I won’t be viewing this garbage, after seeing that.

      • I agree, you cant compare with Benedict Cumberbath and Martin Freeman but I still did enjoy it. But I am a Sherlock Holmes Junkie…

  2. I just watched it. Not bad. Though you could have called Johnny Miller’s detective character anything……. The Sherlock Holmes connection was very thin. All I could think of is that Miller has a British accent.

    Every touchstone to the source material got left far behind. Modern New York instead of Victorian age London. Tattoos instead of the deerstalker hat and pipe. Watson is a young Asian American woman, instead of a British ex-soldier/Doctor. Police character is Captain Gregson instead of the classic Inspector Lestrade.

    Lucy Liu was actually ok. I thought she would be terrible, but she won me over.

    Johnny Miller’s Sherlock Holmes on the other hand was irritating to me. His “mannerisms” didn’t charm me in the least. Rushing through his dialog, as if talking fast is the same thing as being really smart.

    The plot of the pilot episode was weak too. But I’ll give it a pass, simply because it was the first show, and they had some work to do establishing the characters.

    The BBC Sherlock is a lot better……… no surprise.

    • And the fact his name is Sherlock Holmes…lol

      Addiction Problem, SACD did have Sherlock addicted to Opium, Morphine and Cocaine, Cocaine stimulated Holmes Brain so he could deduce better….I shall give it a chance.

  3. Miller’s Sherlock felt dumbed down, but I will continue to watch this, because it was the first episode.
    The Mentalist is my favorite show, so please don’t trash it. Elementary doesn’t look like it will be as good as TM.

    • The Mentalist is okay but it’s no where NEAR as good as Psych. It’s so frustrating that Psych came first, and is better executed, but it doesn’t get the same recognition that TM does.

  4. Fail.

    I was biased going into this as the BBC version is brilliant and easily knocked downey off the top for best sherlock of the recent revisions.

    This is another failed attempt at the US desperately trying to fill the gap left from house with a “fresh” take of sherlock stolen from bbc.
    It’s just another of many police procedural dramas, and the “logic” was weak at best. The writing is s***** and makes holmes look like he’s guessing not deducing so much so they had to write the statement of “I deduce” into the script so viewers didn’t think he was a pyschic.

    Shouldn’t last more than a season if there is a god.

  5. Jane(The Mentalist) was a former psychic, just like Shawn(Psych) is. There are no other similarities.

    • I totally agree. It’s like the reviewer never really watched Psych. Psych is more a comedy drama than a tv procedural.

      • Agreed. In fact I think shows like Psych do a much better job at drawing from Sherlock Holmes and making it their own – Psych just took the whole deduction-observation premise, kept the detective-and-sidekick dynamic and spun it into a unique new concept. Even House, which also drew inspiration from Holmes, did it in its own way.

        I haven’t watched Elementary but based on the review and based on what people are saying here, it looks like they just named the main character Sherlock Holmes to brand the series, then left behind every other element of the character’s mythology in favour of regular TV procedural elements.

  6. I was really looking forward to this show, but after ten minutes of not being able to understand A SINGLE WORD OUT OF “HOLMES’” MOUTH (combination of awful ACCENT and MUFFLED, UNCLEAR DICTION) I turned it off.

    I checked back in around 10:45 to see if things had gotten any clearer only to be met with “Blah badordenplatz British dialect wawa” so again I turned it off.

    Liu looked and sounded great! Too bad her co-star can’t talk!

    • Might want to clean the wax from your ears ;) His voice was very clear IMO, I had no issue understand what he was saying.

    • You DO realize that Johnny Lee Miller is British, right?

    • Tom, are you being sarcastic or playing the “dumb uncultured American” or something? Are you one of those guys who didn’t like Monty Python’s Flying Circus because it was hard to understand their thick Australian accents? lol.

      BBC’s Sherlock is good but I don’t understand all the Benedict Cumberbatch worship around it. I personally think it’s a little over-the-top character-wise.

      • I just didn’t catch a word the guy said, British or not! Maybe it’s wax in the ears or s— for brains…who knows? But I couldn’t understand a word.

  7. Numerous “Charlie’s Angels” movies?
    There were 2. How is that numerous?

    • It is 2 too many.

      • 1 was too many.

        • When they made a second one I lost any remaining faith I had in humanity. An SNL skit would have sufficed. McG should be blacklisted.

  8. Well, two is a number…
    I expected to dislike this, so I’m glad to say it was better than I expected. The stuff they lifted from the BBC show (scarf, title card) wasn’t much – beyond the whole premise – and the beekeeping was a nice touch. But overall, it’s not relevant that his name is Sherlock Holmes. You really don’t feel like that’s what you’re seeing. As a CBS crime show, it’s fine. As Sherlock Holmes, it’s both lacking and unnecessary.

  9. The only reason I watched this was because it followed the fantastic “Person of Interest” (best drama on network TV, IMO) and Lucy Liu. I thought the show was OK, but nothing really grabbed me and made me anticipate next week’s episode. Shows like POI and Blue Bloods are far superior, IMO, but I will continue to give this a chance simply because it follows POI.

  10. A lot of the previous comments have aired my own opinions on the episode and the series. Though just the first ep, I really don’t see the significance of his being named Sherlock Holmes. Yeah he’s a British police consultant. But that’s it. I hope that they write more Sherlock Holmes-type stuff into the character in later episodes. Someone commented about his talking too fast and him trying to equate that with intelligence. Well, Cumberbach does the same thing and he DOES sound smart. Sometimes, it’s the acting itself that bogs down the character.


  11. I really liked this show. I thought it had good characters, just enough humor and Lucy Liu. I watch The Mentalist and Psych religiously and there are some huge differences to Elementary.

    I see no reason of trying to deduce every little thing from pilot episode, or really any other show. I use to do that and it takes away from the total enjoyment of the show(s).

    With the loss of House, The Finder and Harry’s Law I thought I had already found 3 hours of Drama to fill those spots up, but looks like I found another.

  12. I emjoyed it. Is it high art? No. But, was it good, solid tv? YES
    I will watch again

  13. It was okay. As people have stated, The BBC version is a lot better. I will give it another 2-3 episodes to see if the plots gets better though because it did feel pretty boring.

  14. I hate to admit it but… i actually enjoyed it! yeah of course it was nothing compared to BBC’s Sherlock, we knew it wouldnt be. but it was way better than i thought it would be. Hopefully in future episodes they will have sherlock be more sherlock. and hopefully once audiences get more invested in it they will smarten it up. Because i agree it felt a little dumbed down. but after all that i was still impressed with it.

  15. For those that keep thinking that this version is a rip off of the BBC version just because CBS couldn’t obtain the rights to the character..

    Well, Sherlock Holmes, along with many other literary characters like Dracula, Tom Sawyer, Dorian Grey and Captain Nemo are considered out of copyright and free to use by any writer (hence the League of Extraordinary Gentleman)…

    CBS did not need the rights from BBC to develop a Sherlock character as anyone can develop a Sherlock story…

    Beyond that, yes, you can make similarities and comparisons based off current popularity not off of who has the rights…

    • I understand where you are coming from considering there has been a ton of Sherlock adaptations, but Elementary is actually is a rip off. In an interview with Sue Vertue, the producer of Sherlock, CBS did want the rights to the Modernized Sherlock. The new persona, so to speak, right down to the belstaff and scarf. They wanted to copy it all. The producers of Sherlock did everything in their power in order to keep the 2 completely different. CBS is just hopping on the hype of the BBC’s success. They saw it was working and wanted in on the action. That’s basically how it went down. “Do your research” ;)

      The only creative part CBS put into it was changing Watson into a woman and let’s be honest Watson is only a girl to give off that “will they won’t they” vibe. They are ruining Sherlock’s premise of a strong friendship and corrupting it horribly considering Lucy and Johnny have little to no chemistry. I admire the attempt but it’s not working.

      Personally, I can’t stand Elementary and just for the pure fact it really has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes himself. I just can’t enjoy it because I have loved the stories for years. He could be named anything. Just because his name is Sherlock, he’s just not. I feel if he was named anything else, people wouldn’t compare as much to BBC Sherlock, which is (lets be honest) so much better, and they’d probably have more viewers.

      BBC Sherlock > Elementary

  16. The last line of the review tells me everything I need to know. Pass.

  17. Yeah, Umm, sorry but I didn’t like it that much.
    Like Anthony says in the review most of the deductions Sherlock makes are something any detective could make after 5 minutes of thought. But the real mis-step for me was when for no reason what so ever the killer confesses “hypothetically”.
    And there was something about Millar’s performance that was screaming “Hey Emmy Voters Look At Me!!!!”
    I’ll stick with the much much much better Sherlock.

  18. I can’t believe all the positive comments I’m seeing.
    As a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, I won’t watch this unnecessary “re-imagination” or whatever they’re passing it off as.

    It’s a gimmick and the show could easily have been done without trying to base itself on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work.

    • And the biggest gimmick of all…lady Watson, to appeal to the female demographic. With the exemplary entertainment that is BBC’s “Sherlock”, which I believe has been made available on American TV through PBS, it is curious why anyone would waste their time watching this.

      • but its lucy liu!!! lol but it is honestly a decent show plus it has a rlly good time slot theres nothing else “good” on at that time so why not?

      • Girl Watson is only there for inevitable sexual tension. The “Will they won’t they” crap. The real Holmes and Watson’s friendship was always considered to have that tension in the subtext, which BBC plays and jokes with tastefully.. But Watson is girl to bank in on that and thus appeals to the female demographic, because we love ourselves some romance. Oh and so she’s a role model too I guess >.<

    • im confused avenger, did you watch the show and not like it, and thats why you dont understand the positive reviews, or are you condemning it sight unseen and don’t understand why everyone else is not doing the same? seems unlike you to judge something you’ve not seen.
      i’m not saying the show is any better or any worse than BBC’s Sherlock, i’m saying that it is NOT an exact copy of the BBC show. Sherlock is doing modern takes on already published novels, while CBS is only using the character name’s, and original stories, so far. i don’t see what’s wrong with liking them both for what they are. I thought Elementary was WAY better then Revolution, as far as new shows go. i was glad to see a toned down lucy liu. she was annoying in ally mcbeal, but i liked her in this.
      i approve this message.

    • Yeah, I don’t get it?

      Why adapt something if you wish to change the characters? Or drastically alter it? Kind of seems like a slap in the face to the original work, no?

      Can’t help but feel that if this show had of beaten Sherlock to air then they wouldn’t have bothered with Watson’s gender reassignment.

      • Also, if Watson and Sherlock end up hooking up, I may have to destroy my television.

        • I hate to tell you that it will probably happen >.<

  19. It was ok but felt jut a bit TOO much like The Mentalist. I guess you can only have so many “guys who can deduce the answer from the tiniest of clues” before it feels repetitious.

    Are we also to believe that in this universe they didn’t have the 19th century fictional character? I didn’t recall anyone mentioning the connection so if such is the case it’s a bit lame. They should have been more bold and acknowledged the connection but maybe not use the iconic characters first name so it’s all just one big coincidence with the last names.

    Yeah, not sold on it at all although I love both leading characters.

    • gah……characters…..I meant ACTORS.

    • Betty, thank you for confirming my experience. I wanted to enjoy this show but after watching a couple scenes and understanding NOTHING that came out of Holmes’ mouth, I gave up!

      The people who are making the show know the script, they know the lines, they’ve heard them a dozen times…I bet you if they showed that pilot to a test audience a large percentage would have the same experience we did.

      Maybe we should try closed caption…but then you have to READ your TV!

  20. I felt that compared to the writing and acting of BBC’s “Sherlock”, this pilot of “Elementary” couldn’t even hold a candle to what we already have on Netflix. Granted it was just the pilot, so I will still give this a second glance given a few episodes, but the beginning to this adaptation didn’t bring anything to the table.

  21. It would have worked a lot better if they hadn’t tried to make a Sherlock Holmes series. Because it’s not.

    It’s a show set in New York featuring a surly, brainy Brit with impulsive tendencies. That alone isn’t enough to make him Sherlock Holmes.
    Personally, I find Joan a little boring and their relationship a little dull – there doesn’t seem to be any chemistry.

    It felt like watching another episode of Law and Order and, above everything, the execution of the plot was pretty predictable and underwhelming – there was no real use of Sherlockian science and definitely nothing that a little police work wouldn’t have undercovered. I only mention this because the BBC version was so good at showing Sherlock’s train of thought and almost super-human deductions that it pales badly in comparison.

    Despite all that, I’m going to give the next episode a go. I’ve only seen the pilot and they’re usually the worst of the series – but I still feel i’m going to be pretty disappointed.

    If you want a US version of Sherlock Holmes, turn to the first few seasons of ‘House’.

  22. I love the premises of the show the guy was good but lucy lu is a terrible actor. It’s a shame because I love these kinds of show.

  23. My problem is that the deductions weren’t really things that couldn’t be figured out by other detectives later. I liked Miller but I felt as if they had wanted to reimagine it then do so with the wealth of history that was left back in England: Watson, Adler etc and keep the mannerisms, personality from the books something where we can connect this Sherlock to other Sherlocks we have come to know. Another thing I am not pleased about is the lack of friction that exists in the BBC version because that helps make Sherlock that much more complex and give insight to his drive, addiction etc and see better representations of how Sherlock now copes being sober in keeping his brain engaged. I felt like Elementary in the hands of ACD fans and better script writers could have allowed a different perspective and insight. I was also disappointed with the guest star in the pilot I felt so disinterested and felt disappointed in the acting. Lastly I was weary of the “because of a woman” comment only because of how American television works they are going to work in the Watson Sherlock will they won’t they that I feel will not help Sherlock’s characterization in this show

  24. Lucy Luis could have a far better character role than being a baby sitter. Horrible waste of her talent and it brings down the vibe of the show that he is in need of her disapproval.
    They could fix this over time – viewers can handle a change in her role. Sherlock is very appealing. This needs to be fixed.

  25. I’ve been interested by the comments comparing this CBS series with the BBC series. As a UK citizen I have to say my family and I have really enjoyed both and I am not sure why people insist on comparing them when they are quite different in design and not intended to compete. After all neither is trying to be anything like a faithful adaptations of Doyle’s books. To my mind Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are great in the US version and the NY storyline with the NYPD angle adds a new interesting dimension. The Sherlock franchise has been well served by CBS who have to their credit taken a new slant on Sherlock Holmes -just as the BBC has in its’ recent series which I applaud. Whether you prefer Cumberbatch over Lee Miller is a matter for personal taste. As a fan of both shows I’m happy to watch either guy in their respective roles and enjoy the BBC and CBS different takes on Sherlock. At least it keeps the character alive for those who may not have encountered him before.

  26. So now with a fem! Watson CBS is trying to add the will they/won’t they angle?
    How interesting…

    • Are we watching the same show?

      So far there has been no hint of will they/ won’t they, but more of will she stay on as an apprentice after her job as a therapist is over…

      The show has made no attempts to make this about them being a couple but more as them becoming friends and partners on crimes…

      And I am glad that they have left them as friends….

      • Give it time. It’ll get there. It’s only the pilot after all.