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Sherlock vs Elementary


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Initial post: Nov 23, 2012 3:43:52 PM PST
Ms. Brentano says:
Just curious to see whether people think the British series about Sherlock Holmes is better than the American version or vice versa.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2012 4:10:46 PM PST
Hikari says:
Pamela--
How much time ya got? lol

In the interests of disclosure, I do not currently receive broadcast television, so I have not seen any episodes of "Elementary". I can't, therefore give you a fair assessment about the content of that program, but my impression from everything I've read about it, and other reviews, is that it has taken a great many liberties with the source material of Conan Doyle. And not just because it's 'modern'--a hallmark of the BBC Sherlock, also set in our contemporary time, is its affectionate homage to the Conan Doyle canon. Sherlock's world has been translated to the 21st century but is otherwise pretty intact. I think Sir Conan Doyle would recognize his creations therein, even though they are in modern dress, using smartphone technology. Based on quality of script and adherence to the integrity of the source material, I feel confident that the BBC Sherlock is superior in every regard to the CBS offering. Stunt casting "Watson" as a woman doesn't suffice for cleverness in my book. Mr. Miller is an interesting talent (he and BBC's Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, are former co-stars and friends), but Lucy Liu is like nails on a chalkboard to me and always has been. However that may be, I plan to rent the DVD when it comes out just so I can say I saw it.

Out of curiosity, have you seen both, or either? If you've seen BBC Sherlock, I would suppose the answer to your query to be quite elementary. The CBS show may be an entertaining enough entry into the detective genre, but I don't consider it to be a true entry into Sherlockia.

I'm sure Mr. Smith will be along by and by to ring in with his opinion. He's seen a couple of episodes.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2012 7:40:19 PM PST
Ms. Brentano says:
I've seen all of the BBC Sherlock and a little of the American Elementary. I love the British show. I wasn't that impressed with what I saw of the U.S. series but I haven't really seen enough of it to form an honest opinion which is one reason I posed the question. I wanted to see what other people thought.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2012 8:01:33 PM PST
Hikari says:
I saw an extended trailer and have read a lot of press reviews and articles about "Elementary". My impression is that they are doing a sort of a 'House/Monk' mash-up with a bit of CSI New York thrown in. Interesting that rival network FOX's show "House" has just gone off the air, no? The device of giving this Holmes a female 'companion' to look out for his welfare smacks of Monk. Another crime show set in New York? Yawn. Taking Sherlock Holmes out of London is removing him from his element--do we take a fish out of its bowl? The fact that he's a recovering crack addict covered in tattoos . . .well, it's just distressingly common. Sherlock Holmes should be classy, even when he's being rude.

I don't have any idea how this series is performing, but given the expectations and demands of shooting for American commercial television . . there's just not a whole lot of depth we can get into in 43 minutes per episode, and I think that would be fairly glaring. The Brits go for quality over quantity. We really should not try to go head-to-head with them in ripping off the same material because we really just embarrass ourselves. Based on the little bit I saw, I think Mr. Miller would have made an outstanding Moriarty on his pal Cumberbatch's show. Certainly a butcher Moriarty than Andrew Scott gave us. I don't associate his look with Sherlock, though.

Posted on Nov 23, 2012 9:39:25 PM PST
jandtkey says:
I have been watching "Elementary" since it began, and am enjoying it very much. I have not watched BBC's "Sherlock", but I am sure it would also be entertaining. If you enjoy watching good detective shows, you will enjoy this show. If you want the original Sherlock, you'll have to pick up a book. (Which I have also read several of and also enjoyed) Entertainment is what it is about, and if you don't catch the "critics disease" you should be easily able to enjoy this show!

Posted on Nov 23, 2012 10:14:53 PM PST
Somnambulist says:
I notice that the majority of people who watch Elementary and actually enjoy it haven't seen Sherlock. Hmm...anyway, I really dislike Elementary because it tries so hard to be original when it's really not. Elementary is definitely a Sherlock wannabe and if you think that statement is outlandish in any way, I'll have you know that CBS came to the BBC requesting an American version of Sherlock. They swiftly and rightfully so declined that offer, so CBS took Sherlock, made Watson a girl, changed the color of his scarf, and lumped him in modern day New York. It doesn't get any more pathetic than that. I remember in the first episode when Sherlock found a dead woman hidden somewhere and he said "Sometimes, I hate it when I'm right..." Ugh. Sherlock Holmes would NOT say that. I'm just going to end this rant because if I don't it will go on forever, haha. I just really dislike Elementary. Sherlock FTW!

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 7:04:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 24, 2012 7:15:12 AM PST
Cavaradossi says:
Hikari

"Sherlock Holmes should be classy, even when he's being rude."

I congratulate you. For someone who hasn't seen it, you certainly caught the problem with "Elementary" in a nutshell with that sentence!

There is nothing classy about this version of Sherlock. I object strenuously to the depiction of Holmes as a serious drug addict, just out of rehab and in danger of falling back into the habit if he isn't kept busy. That's not Conan Doyle's creation. If any man ever had more control over his occasional indulgence in the then socially accepted use of small amounts of cocaine than Sherlock Holmes, I doubt we've met him. Casting John Watson as his caretaker, female or not, falsifies the relationship between the two characters. Doyle's Holmes functioned just fine before Dr. Watson came into his life; Elementary's could not. It's the "Monkification" of a character that never needed it. House's extreme irritability also sits uneasily on Holmes. Frankly, how anyone can stand being around Elementary's Sherlock is beyond me.

Your point about taking Holmes out of London and setting him in New York is also well taken. One of the reasons Holmes is able to do what he does is because of his encyclopedic knowledge of London, its people, their habits and manners of dress. Has Elementary's drug-addled Sherlock been in New York City long enough to learn and observe similar things in the Big Apple, let alone the question of whether his brain was sufficiently clear to absorb any of it? It stretches credulity to the breaking point to suggest that he has and it was. In addition, CBS's Sherlock Holmes comes across more like a teenager suffering from ADD and in immediate need of Ritalin than an adult who's intensity comes from a mind rapidly absorbing and sorting clues. And then there are those tattoos and his continuously unshaved look, popular today, yes, but sitting uncomfortably on Sherlock Holmes! Ugh.

I like Jonny Lee Miller and I wish this show were more worthy of his efforts, but, sadly, I fear it's not. I stopped watching after the second episode, but then picked up again some weeks later, catching the missed one over On Demand. The thing is, misguided or not, I just can't seem to resist watching what people are up to with Sherlock Holmes. I Know you don't like Lucy Liu, but I always have. I wish she were a little more lively on Elementary, but I suppose the producers and writers have her acting becalmed to function as oil on Sherlock's troubled waters, again a misrepresentation of the Holmes/Watson relationship.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2012 8:22:06 AM PST
Hikari says:
Hi, Cav--
Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.
----
Conan Doyle's Watson did occasionally function as Holmes' sobriety coach in a sense--he'd monitor his friend's health and habits, hide the needles (the cigarettes in the case of our BBC pair), encourage him to eat, sleep, calm down, etc. but he was doing it out of a friend's concern, not because he was a paid babysitter of the Holmes family. Gigantic difference. I also understand this version has eliminated Mycroft, replacing him with Holmes pere. Meh.

We live in a time of extended adolescence, where it's acceptable for a grown man to behave like the Elementary Sherlock does, even without the excuse of a severe drug habit. I believe Mr. Miller is approaching 40 and surely that has to be the cutoff for antics like these? Conan Doyle's Holmes was an homme du monde and a successful entrepreneur with the consulting business in his early 20s, if Watson meets him at 27 and his reputation is already established in his field. I feel that Elementary is catering to our modern demographic of 27-year-olds who are more likely than not unemployed and playing X-box in their parents' basements. Ie., the lowest-common denominator. I guess if Jonny Lee Miller gets a higher profile out of this, it's not all bad. I wonder if he ever rings up his pal Cumberbatch and the two compare Sherlock notes together. The 'modern' update across the Pond could have gone equally sideways, I suppose, but for the fact that the creators of "Sherlock" know the Conan Doyle casebook inside and out. It shows.

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 8:45:34 AM PST
Larry Kelley says:
Having watched the BBC "Sherlock" I interested in seeing what American TV had done. Sorry, watched about 15 minutes and wondered what universe I had wondered into. What next, "Vampire Sherlock"?

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 9:28:18 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 24, 2012 9:31:08 AM PST
Hikari invited me to opine on this subject, and I am quite happy to do so. Full advance disclosure: I'm a long-time enthusiast for the original stories (as we devotees like to say, the Canon, or The Sacred Writings, which is a bit hyperbolic, but never mind) and the best of the vast body of Sherlockian literature.

We have before the bench two new entries in Sherlockian material, or, as we might call it, the meta-Canon, the Glossaria Ordinaria on the scriptures, the apocrypha, the Midrash to the Torah, the continuing revelation of the Word. Are they truly Canonical, infused with the true spirit of 221B, the London pea-souper, something nutritious at Simpson's, taking not the first nor the second cab, and calling attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, or are they vile heresies perpetrated on both the true believer and the unsuspecting public by some latter-day Moriarty in the entertainment industry with nothing but evil in his heart, a veritable Napoleon of dreck?

I will confess that when I heard about Sherlock--a contemporary re-setting of the characters--I was extremely skeptical. Some things just appear as Bad Ideas and initially this appeared to be one of them. Fortunately, it turns out to be a good idea--a transformation done in good taste and with a deep knowledge and puckish hommage to the originals. The deeper one's knowledge of the Canon is, the most one appreciates the way in which the writers insert references to things like the unwritten cases. The writing and plot construction are both in genenral first-rate. I have a few minor quibbles--for instance, I think that the relationship between Sherlock and Mycroft has become rather silly, and distorts the sense of the original. I admire the casting, although I cannot say that I find Mr. Cumberbatch to be the transcendently Next Great Thing than some of our fellow posters do. The court's verdict is that Sherlock is Canonical, albeit on occasion less orthodox than the purist might like.

Elementary is quite a different matter. Watson as a woman is the least of the problems--after all, none other than Rex Stout once made a cogent argument that Watson was a woman. Holmes was a traveler (note the many locations visited during the Hiatus, for which see The Empty House) and in the Sherlockian literature has done notable work in places like Minnesota and Dallas. However: Cav's note on Holmes as a fish out of water in New York is well taken. The biggest problem with the concept of character in Elementary is how Homes has become pathologized. It is fashionable among ill-informed commentators to say that Holmes was a victim of Asperger's Syndrome, or to magnify the use of cocaine into full-blow addition, and we have both strains in Mr. Miller's concept. The biggest flaw, however, is more fundamental. Holmes is a gentleman; Mr. Miller's version is an ill-mannered lout. Holmes is eccentric, and on occasion brusque, but never unintentionally rude. Mr. Miller's version is not. Besides which, he dressed badly, even when not in disguise.

Added to which, the plots with which our transplanted Holmes faces are badly constructed and improbable, and the actors are saddled with limp dialogue. Ms. Liu looks like a zombie walking through her part--an excess of Botox, perhaps, a drug dependency not touched upon. The verdict--a heresy, a most vile heresy, worthy to be hurled into the deepest pits of the Inferno. It's not even any fun.

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 10:39:35 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 24, 2012 10:50:27 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 1:42:59 PM PST
Re: Vampire Holmes?

Sorry, too late. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Vs. Dracula is an admirable and serious exercise in the best Sherlockian vein; as is The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 8:48:51 AM PST
Hikari says:
@Mr. Smith--
I still need to chase down that Rex Stout essay, but out of curiosity--how does Rex incorporate the unassailable fact that Watson's Christian name is 'John' into his theory that Watson was female? Or the fact of his front-line military service in Afghanistan as a field surgeon? Women did not qualify as physicians in measurable numbers until the 20th century, really, and if Holmes' Watson is in fact a lady doctor, she would have been a bird of exotic plumage indeed. I don't see how Stout's thesis holds up to the canon, myself.

That Watson functions in a somewhat 'female' role to Holmes, in terms of being, let's see--rather subordinate as to personality, mild-mannered, more emotional, solicitous of Holmes' welfare and moods . . .in general the softer and more nurturing of the pair--the 'wife' of the domestic partnership--that I can accept. Everyone can--just ask the Cumberverse on YouTube, which is very eager indeed for this domestic partnership to be consummated in the expected way of such things. Sherlock, the moody, authoritarian and larger physically is, of course, 'the husband'. Leaving Watson the role of 'the wife'. Mr. Freeman has not rung in on how he feels about this. I can only observe that playing a Hobbit is not the way to achieve more butchness in the collective mind.

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 9:04:44 AM PST
H: I think that you are attempting to impute more significance to Stout's jeu d'espirit than Stout intended. I therefore must refer you to the text itself.

http://www.hwslash.net/stout.html

Casting things in conventional sex roles? Tsk, tsk.

One might better say that Watson is more in touch with his anima.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 9:46:56 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 25, 2012 9:47:52 AM PST
Hikari says:
I would definitely say Watson was more in touch with his anima.

I don't subscribe to the view that Watson and Holmes' domestic partnership connotes anything sexual, though it amuses others to do so. But roles, gender or otherwise, are 'conventional' for a reason--convention equals 'prevailing mode', ie, 'the standard'. 'Unconventional' signifies something outside of the norm.

I'm all for the empowerment of both genders to break out of 'proscribed' roles of behavior. Even if those roles have been proscribed by millennia's worth of human development, biology and behavior. In the case of our Baker Street pair, Watson serves Holmes because it pleases him to do so (most of the time, when he's not getting abused for his pains); it gives him a sense of purpose, this role of his in their partnership. He loves Holmes and shows it by his service to him. Not unlike a happy wife, in fact.

And, like many wives of demanding husbands, Watson is often asked by onlookers, if only in their minds, "How does (s)he put up with that?!" :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 11:01:13 AM PST
Personally, I think it quite unnecessary to try and couch the relationship--either in the Canon or in Sherlock 2.0--in terms of marriage.

It's a friendship--which has the enormous benefit of not setting any pre-determined roles for the parties involved. It's also a partnership--in which the participants each do what they do well to mutual benefit. And we need not drag gender into it at all.

And love? Well--the very use of the term opens up a wide field of potential misinterpretation, and so I think we must avoid it.

And again--gender roles change enormously over time, among different cultures. But I very much doubt that I will ever r\persuade you to take a more historically nuanced view of what you are pleased to call human nature, and which I would rather call human behavior.

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 11:58:05 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 25, 2012 11:58:30 AM PST
Cavaradossi says:
William A. Smith

Our present day culture has difficulty imagining a close, even strong, friendship between two men without a romantic and/or a sexual aspect to it. Very tiresome. I first became aware of this curious tendency in the Star Trek world about two decades ago when I read that some fans were writing about an imagined homoerotic relationship between Kirk and Spock. My reaction then and now is: "Are you out of your fricken' minds?!" The same goes for the Holmes/Watson duo. I can't imagine what need is being satisfied by these fantasies.

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 12:01:48 PM PST
Cav: Merely yet another example of the increasingly debased use of language. For the average nitwit, love=romantic love=sex. Reducing everything to the glandular (and yes, I am completely convinced that romantic love is nothing but hormones in overdrive.)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 1:06:30 PM PST
Hikari says:
@Cav
Or, allow me to quote Karl Urban's Bones to Spock in their most recent outing--"Are you out of your Vulcan mind?!"

I thought that was a little clever--mostly as delivered by Urban, who was delighted to be playing the crusty doctor, and it showed.
----
I have no difficulty using the word love where Holmes and Watson are concerned, with no sexual overtones whatsoever. John is to Sherlock a 'frere d'guerre'. If someone has your back in the trenches, he becomes more than just a person of regard; it is a bond that is as close as brothers, or closer than many brothers, in fact. "Best friends" seems even a bit tepid for what binds them together. 'Soulmates' for all its New Agey overtones, is probably the closest we have in English to convey this bond. Sex doesn't enter into it. Eros is indeed, the lowest form of love and I think it's beyond question that Holmes and Watson have transcended the lowest form of anything (except maybe flat tidiness, but they've got Mrs. Hudson to keep it from getting completely out of hand. Wish I had a Mrs. Hudson . . .)

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 1:43:18 PM PST
Cavaradossi says:
Hikari

I wasn't including you in my remarks. I understood what you were saying, but it wouldn't surprise me if a number of your readers took your use of "love" in the misguided modern manner.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 3:07:04 PM PST
Hikari: I do think you are being a sentimentalist.

A strong bond of friendship covers it, without getting excessively sticky about it.

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 3:20:31 PM PST
Hikari says:
Love is not always sticky, Mr. Smith. It is a multilayered word that unfortunately has been gutted by overuse in Hallmark cards and vapid song lyrics. I think you know what I mean, even if we use different terms. Holmes and Watson would fall on the sword for each other. That's as deep as it gets, and it's not in the least sticky. If there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends, then I say John and Sherlock have it in spades.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 3:45:23 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 25, 2012 3:45:44 PM PST]

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 4:17:01 PM PST
H: You really are being sticky. Sorry.

And in re: the quote from scripture--I would certainly have to get the sense of the original text to gauge applicability.

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 5:28:41 PM PST
Larry Kelley says:
Hikari/Mr. Smith: Based only on the BBC series of Sherlock and on my experiences of observing human behavior with great curiosity over the last 60 years--you may call the relationship between Sherlock and Watson by any name you choose--but the relationship, without any sexuality between the two, is not a rare thing.

In any male to male relationship that is close, one is always going to be the dominant. There may be honest and very loud disputes about any number of things, and sometimes a brief parting of the ways, but a friendship such as Sherlock and Watson have, will often outlast almost any disaster. One or the other getting married may cause them to not see each other as often, or perhaps for years--but in the mind of each is the absolute surety that if one needed the other, he would come, no matter what. I didn't understand this completely (sorry for introducing personal stuff, but it applies) until my dad died. I called a few people that I thought of to let them know of the funeral. There was one friend of my dads that I know he hadn't seen in years--but at one time they had been very close. I didn't even think of him when my dad died--and when he found out that he hadn't been advised of the funeral--he wasn't angry, he was heartbroken. Men can be friends if both wish to be dominant, or if one cannot always give into the others decisions, but these types of friendship are often filled with anger, frustration and competion--and in the same situation where you desperately needed help, the "warring" friends are just as likely to not come to the others aid as not. What will destroy that sort of friendship between men is an ultimate betrayal. The betrayal may not be something that you or I would see as truly serious, but if either is utterly convinced that he has been betrayed by the other, the strong bond of friendship/love/ whatever you wish to call it will be broken. The final episode of Sherlock I watched, Watson thought that Sherlock was dead--and we know that he is not--he is actually there watching Watson suffer. For some, finding out that a friend is pretending, for whatever reason to be dead and letting them grieve as intensely as I am sure Watson would/did, would be the end of the friendship. Of course in this instance that is not what is going to happen. Men of substance have their own inner code, what they truly believe in. Someone who violates that code, particularly in a careless and uncaring manner, cannot remain a friend. That is not going to happen with Sherlock and Watson. Watson will understand that there is a reason for Sherlock to do what he does--with Sherlock there always is a reason.
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Discussion in:  Movie forum
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Initial post:  Nov 23, 2012
Latest post:  Aug 23, 2013

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