April 23, 2021

Elementary vs. Sherlock

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective creation, Sherlock Holmes seems to have immortal life. Besides the movies starring Robert Downey Jr. as the iconic hero, there are two current television shows that take a crack at updating his image.

The BBC weighs in with a masterful production that stars the compelling Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit”, “Fargo) as his Afghan-veteran friend Doctor Watson. This program skews closer to Doyle’s written word using his story titles and general plots in nine separate episodes. Series 1, 2 and 3 are available on Netflix with three shorter “Sherlock Uncovered” extras added to Series 3.

My American bias may be showing, but as good as the BBC “Sherlock” is, the CBS version “Elementary” starring another Brit, Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as a gender- reversed Doctor Watson may be the more entertaining. This Sherlock is a recovering drug addict whose father has hired Liu to be his companion to keep him drug-free. Finally, a really fresh take on the Holmes/Watson dynamic.

The series does follow the police procedural format with new cases each episode, but it is the over-arching story of both the famous sleuth and his medical sidekick that compels us. What happened to Sherlock to make him go off the deep end with drugs and leave his homeland? Does Irene Adler, Sherlock’s lady friend have anything to do with it? It is intimated that Watson gave up medicine because of a surgical debacle. What were the details?

My additional reason for liking “Elementary” is Aidan Quinn as Captain Thomas Gregson of the NYPD, the actual character being Tobias Gregson from Sir Arthur’s stories. In the original, Gregson is a Scotland Yard inspector who comes close to matching wits with Holmes and frequently consults with him on cases. In the American version, Gregson, with the first name now Thomas, makes use of Sherlock’s quirky expertise now that the great British detective has relocated to New York City. Time has aged Aidan Quinn who used to play hunky leading men, but this serves him well in his role as Sherlock’s more establishment-bound friend on “Elementary.” Seasons 1 and 2 are available by mail from Netflix.

I will watch both “Sherlock” and “Elementary” but the American version will be my treat of choice after a long, hard day.

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