There are some characters that never die, fictional creations so complex and deep that even hundreds of years aren’t enough to dampen their appeal. One of these is the great Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective originally appeared in 1887, and since then, he’s never really left. In 2012, Holmes and his personal valet Watson are the subject of a series of big budget movies, a successful BBC series, and soon, Elementary, an hour-long fall series on CBS.
CBS hosted a showing of Elementary’s pilot at Comic-Con 2012, and both Holmes and Watson look marvelous, despite their advanced ages. Elementary looks up-to-the-second current, in spite of its wizened protagonists.
This time out, Sherlock is played by Johnny Lee Miller. He lives in modern New York, not Victorian London, and he's a drug addict with a sideline in consulting for the NYPD. While Holmes’ drug-of-choice is not revealed in Elementary’s pilot, the original Holmes, was quite fond of cocaine. Holmes here is a wastrel with a rich family. He's a difficult genius, who's obsessed with solving mysteries and thwarting crimes, although his interpersonal skills need a lot of work.
Dr. Watson is in place too, but this time out, he's a she. Lucy Liu, ex-Charlie's Angel, plays Watson. She isn't Holmes’ personal valet, here. Instead, Watson is Holmes’ sober-companion, hired by the Holmes family to keep their prodigal son from from relapsing on drugs.
Holmes hasn't endured this long for no reason. There's something endlessly fascinating about a character whose power of intellect is so strong and disciplined that he can look at a chaotic crime scene and instantly infer exactly what happened and why, using only logic and reason. It just doesn’t get old.
The show itself is a whip-smart procedural, with the twist that all the detective work generally handled by CSI labs full of people is done inside Holmes’ mind. The pace is fast, almost to the point of frantic, with the entire plotline changing from scene-to-scene in totally unexpected ways.
In the pilot, Holmes and Watson are on the trail of a wife killer, or maybe it’s a serial killer? Or maybe something else. Nothing is simple here, and, like all good mysteries, the story unfolds like an onion, with deeper mysteries revealed constantly.
The performances are spot on, the writing is crisp and sharp, and the spirit of Sherlock Holmes is evident everywhere. This is not a series to miss when it appears on CBS this fall.