US TV has tried, and often failed, at remaking successful British shows. For every Sampson and Son (based of the British Steptoe and Son) there’s an Inbetweeners or an IT Crowd that just look like a horrible, knock off copy.
Elementary has had to fight this preconception ever since it was announced. Unfortunate timing or hoping on the bandwagon, the show was always going to be looked as an imitation of the brilliant modern British adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective.
So, the question exists. Is Elementary just a mimic, or is it something else entirely. The answer is somewhere near the middle.
The BBC show had more than a few stellar points. Benedict Cumberbatch’s cold, detached Sherlock, Mark Gatiss’ slimy Mycroft, the brilliant mysteries and the brilliant bromance between the great detective and the ever cheerful Watson.
Jonny Lee Miller could never match Benedict Cumberbatch’s award winning performance as Sherlock, so does the clever thing and doesn’t even try. He’s helped by the show’s writing that, again, doesn’t try and replicate the BBC’s magic.
A far warmer and wittier character, this Sherlock doesn’t have the quite the same level of sociopathic tendencies as the one we’ve grown to love over the last couple of years.
It’s not just the detective that strikes a different pose, as Watson is now drastically different.
Lucy Liu’s Joan Watson is more than just Martin Freeman in high heels. While John sticks around for the perverse pleasure of being Sherlock’s one and only friend, Joan is being paid to be there as his ‘sober’ companion.
While she doesn’t appear like she’s going to be anywhere near as fun as Freeman’s version of the world’s greatest assistant (sorry Amy Pond, it’s true), looking more like a much more eruptive emotional base of the show.
In actual fact, Elementary shares far more parts in common with other US procedurals than it does with Stephen Moffat’s fantastic series. The snappy dialogue between the two leads, the central male-female relationship, even the slightly light hearted music, it’s far closer to The Mentalist or Castle than Sherlock.
Will it match the instant BBC classic? Probably not. But by altering the formula just a little bit, Elementary doesn’t just come off as a lazy remake, and more a re-imagining. And that isn’t to be chastised or lambasted at all.
Elementary starts Tuesday, September 25th on CBS in America and
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith