US Contemporary Sherlock Holmes Series Elementary Trailer and First Thoughts

I’ll let you check out the video first, if you wish, before giving my initial response.

Okay, first let me say that it isn’t as bloody-awful bad as expected. From the initial press releases I feared a Sherlock/Green Hornet mashup (with Lucy Liu as Kato). Miller seems to be an impressive actor. He’s certainly doing a lot more than I’d expect with less than sterling material.

That said my fear of American pandering and focus-group writing appears accurate. It looks like Monk-As-Done-By-Tragically-Hip-BBC-Mystery-Series-Team with Watson as Sherlock/Monk’s paid companion. Okay, excuse me but we’ve got everything from a million variations on CIS CSI (“There’s always something.” — Sherlock) on TV as well as things like Bones — which is Sherlock Holmes as a female forensics expert with an FBI Watson. The two examples of Sherlock’s deductive ability shown are a marble landing in a pool of blood showing where a “safe room” is located with a body in it and announcing that a huge amount of glass on the kitchen floor comes from two glasses while finding the second glass base under the fridge. I personally found it hard to believe that the New York police wouldn’t have a) noticed a pool of blood, not mention the smell of blood and dead body (oh, yeah, you can smell a dead body), OR b) notice they had too much glass and look under the fridge when they were sweeping for evidence.

My concern that the US version is going to dumb-down Sherlock appears justified. Especially since they seem to have targeted every ethnic stereotype in the preview. Look! Something for everybody! See our amazing uber-white guy with a cool foreign-but-still-English accent! We’ve also got a traditional US middle-class white guy! And look! We’ve got a hispanic Lestrade who’s an ineffective, bumbling idiot but very macho and scruffy (because we know all hispanic men are tough, blue-collar and not interested in style or hygiene, right?)! And shoot! Check it out. We’ve combined our hot, plastic babe with our inscrutable Asian, who’s a doctor, and made her the supportive, worshipful sidekick so the men won’t feel intimidated.

They’ve butched-up Sherlock Holmes with gangsta-style tats and conspicuously displayed, “incredibly cool” underwear over a 6-pack obviously to attempt to appeal to the American frat-boy, Jersey Shore mentality young males while Lucy Liu comes across as paid arm-ornament entourage/shrink. (Alternatively, they think that geek/nerd-boys would like to see themselves portrayed as over-compensating, testosterone-overdosed loser hoods). No offense but Eminem/Vanilla Ice/Jersey Shore “gangsters” are not what I think of when I think super-smart. And has *anyone* seen the people coming out of rehab? They look like they’ve been living rough, not like they just spent 6-months at a fitness spa.

So I’m hoping that after they pander to the brain-dead, party-boy crowd and/or the Hollywood executives (who probably are the frat-party-boy crowd), they’ll realize that those guys aren’t this show’s audience and let Sherlock look less like someone auditioning for a Details ad or a Beyonce music video, and more like someone who doesn’t really care about “fitting in” with the T.H.I.C. crowd (Tragically Hip Incredibly Cool crowd; this is not a compliment, btw). I kept expecting Katy Perry to appear singing Ur So Gay…

I sincerely hope Liu’s Watson is going to get some backbone and facial expression in the actual episode. In the preview trailer she bears a striking resemblance to a Kristen Stewart in Twilight non-action figure — but with less emotional range. I’m sorry but after watching all of the subtleties and dynamic tension of Martin Freeman’s Watson, the near expressionless, vapid portrayal shown in the trailer is just appallingly scary. It combines two of my most abhorred stereotypes: young women as wimpy sidekicks who appears to live for male approval and “inscrutable” (i.e. expression-less”), smart-but-not-as-smart-as-the-white-guys Asians who are Salarymen. Uhm, maybe you should go a littler easier on the Botox, Ms. Liu. Is it too late to get Sandra Oh for Watson?

I think I actually would have preferred Liu breaking out into Bruce Lee or Emma Peel. My initial fear was that they were going that route, but after seeing this trailer I’d rather see her kicking-butt and taking-names both mentally and physically — even if she does stir his tea counter clockwise later. FYI, this is a reference to Emma Peel’s advice to the new female sidekick. But that was the mid-60’s so women were happy just to be allowed to be smart and shoot guns, not the second decade of the 21st century when women actually get to be Supreme Court Justices, Prime Ministers and Secretaries of State.

I guess they got rid of Mycroft and everything is being arranged by Sherlock’s father (which again is so-ooo pandering to the stereotype that “bad boys” are rebelling against daddy; really? really? No one on staff could research ASBD or even Asperger’s?). Heaven knows what else they’ve done with the canon. And I’m not a stickler for canon. I grew up with Basil Rathbone’s Nazi-hunting Sherlock and I adored Michael Caine’s idiot version, so I’m pretty flexible. But Elementary comes across like an American politician during an election year — dishonest in attempts to ingratiate itself to everyone.

Well, I guess you get the idea that I wasn’t terribly impressed.

I’ll give it a shot, like all things Sherlock Holmes, but after the Dynamic Duos of Brett/Hardwicke, Downey, Jr./Law, and Cumberbatch/Freeman, my standards are pretty high and my tolerance for pandering essentially nil. (I should confess at this point that I haven’t had TV reception in this century…)

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