How Elementary silenced its critics

Feature Frances Roberts 15 Feb 2013 - 07:00

After initial negativity, Elementary now has a 10 million plus audience and is likely to make it to season 2. What went right?

Just over a year ago, we reported the news that CBS was developing a modern-day New York-set Sherlock Holmes series with more than a whiff of cynicism: “It’s a good job it won’t be instantly compared to a multi-award winning, commercially successful and critically adored hit show that’s based around a not dissimilar idea…”.

That was nothing though, compared to the vitriol that spewed forth from the comments section (a place, admittedly, where the lingua franca is hyperbole). Disgust and outrage, rounded out with a notable thread of America-bashing, were amongst the gentler reactions.

It was as if, instead of a TV programme, the network had proposed setting fire to a first edition of A Study in Scarlet while whistling a cheery rendition of Yankee Doodle Dandy and taking it in turns to gob on the 221B Baker Street blue plaque. The new show would be an affront to Conan Doyle, to literature, to Britishness, to everything Holmes fans hold dear. Worse than all of that though: it would be an affront to Benedict Cumberbatch.

The negativity wasn’t without cause. It was bolstered by remake fatigue of the ‘hasn’t anyone got any original ideas?’ variety, and fattened on a diet of past experience with tried-and-failed US conversions. Mostly, it was fuelled by the credible suggestion that CBS, having been refused the rights to remake the BBC’s Sherlock, was making a copycat show. 

Sherlock producer Sue Vertue called the CBS announcement “interesting” (a word rivalled only by ‘fine’ in the bland-surface-masking-boiling-torrent-of-inexpressible-rage stakes). “It's interesting, as they approached us a while back about remaking our show. At the time, they made great assurances about their integrity, so we have to assume that their modernised Sherlock Holmes doesn't resemble ours in any way, as that would be extremely worrying.”

A promise that CBS’ finished product would be checked carefully for signs of copyright infringement followed, and fans of Sherlock (we retiring, taciturn few) were left to do the rest.

That wasn't the worst of it. Not only would the new Holmes live in New York City, but he would be a recovering smack addict with a girl for his Watson. A new consensus was quickly reached. We stopped spitting teeth over what Elementary had in common with Sherlock, and began denouncing its lead character for being Holmes in name only.

Enduring criticism (before anyone’s seen a single scene, remember) for being both a carbon copy of an existing version and so far removed from the source material it doesn’t count as an adaptation is quite the achievement when you think about it. CBS couldn’t have got the collective backs of the online community up faster than if they’d taken out a full page ad in the New York Times insisting Greedo shot first.

The loudest anti-Elementary complaints took on a prophetic bent. It was soon agreed that the new show would be cancelled in its first season, and thereafter destined to lurk alongside men’s leggings and in the grotty silo of ‘ideas that should never have seen the light of day’. To the chagrin of these modern-day Sybils, Elementary not only received a full season order, and an additional two episodes on top of that, but it’s also considered a cert for second season renewal in May by those in the know. What then, happened? How did the least popular TV idea since Don’t Scare the Hare win over its critics?

The short and annoying answer is that it didn’t. 

By that, I mean that Elementary’s ten million-strong US audience (twenty million in the post-Super Bowl episode) very likely didn’t follow the show from announcement, to online knicker-twisting, to first looks, teaser trailers, interviews, and eventually the pilot. They didn't need to be coaxed out of a negative stance, and they didn't need to be won over because they weren't critics. They just saw an ad, tuned in, and came back the following week.

Just as our Twitter feeds provide a warped porthole onto the outside world, magnifying a niche event until it feels as if everyone (not just that every one of the few hundred people we’ve chosen to listen to) is talking about it, so do sites like this. At any given time, plenty of people are getting on with their lives and planning to watch a bit of telly after work, not reading multiple reviews of the same thing and getting stuck in with the online debates. Den of Geek and its ilk spoil us for the real world.

The very slightly longer answer as to how Elementary silenced its critics is that it didn’t suck. The pilot reviews (ours included) were mostly full of pleasant surprise. It wasn’t the dumbed-down humourless travesty predicted by many, but a nicely diverting forty-odd minutes of TV. To begin with admittedly, there wasn’t a great deal to justify the use of the Holmes estate, but what CBS delivered certainly wasn’t sacrilege.

Crucially, Elementary continued not to suck. Week two was a steady piece of work, and when number three rolled around - an episode written by House’s Peter Blake -, it had become not just tolerable, but enjoyable, and a reliably entertaining watch. The cases may have been the weaker link next to the performances, but the writing was good, the cast was strong, and the concept worked. In its initial run, what Elementary consistently offered up was just under an hour of Jonny Lee Miller being brilliantly watchable in a show that couldn’t quite keep up with him. By the time the mid-season finale arrived, the two were almost neck and neck. 

How does it compare to the BBC Sherlock? Unfavourably perhaps, but then so do most things. Surface characteristics aside (the modern setting, the English lead, his scarf), the two are further apart than you might think. 

Take the format to begin with: three ninety-minute films (the BBC’s Sherlock) are a very different beast to twenty-four forty-minute episodes (Elementary). Moffat and Gatiss’ episodes are closer to the Basil Rathbone feature films than a television serial, while Robert Doherty’s Elementary is more akin to procedural series House, Bones or Castle than its British predecessor.

The use of canon differs greatly too. While Sherlock is (literally) riddled with nods to Conan Doyle’s stories, each feature-length episode built from fluid layers of reference, updated versions and knowing in-jokes, Elementary takes static elements from the Holmes back catalogue (character names, the violin, bee-keeping, drug-use, the art of deduction) around which to wrap its detective show. Instead of playing Conan Doyle’s esoteric game, if you like, Elementary borrows its playing pieces for use on a more familiar, generic board.

While cases come to Holmes via his front door in the original story and the BBC version, Elementary leans far more heavily on the character’s role as a police consultant. Most episodes then, start with a call-to-arms and tour of the crime scene, the kind of thing you see in plenty of other TV procedurals. Sherlock’s cases are modernised versions of those in Conan Doyle’s books, while Elementary’s are the sort of thing any TV detective could be presented with – murders, kidnappings, heists...

Yes, it makes Sherlock is a denser, more cleverly constructed creation, but then at three episodes a year, it can well afford to be. It’s simply not a case of comparing like with like. 

Miller's character and performance doesn't ape Cumberbatch's (or Rathbone's, or Brett's, or Downey Junior's for that matter). His twitching, face-rubbing, Withnailian Holmes is nowhere close to Cumberbatch's still, viper-like ice queen and those glassy, purring vowels - it doesn't feel half so dangerous for a start. As Watson, Lucy Liu is every bit as exasperated with her Holmes as Martin Freeman's character can be, but she's no copy either, nor is she a bumbling Nigel Bruce-type - thank goodness. They're new versions of the archetypes, and there's room for them all.

I’ll admit to finding Elementary’s choice to zone in on Holmes’ drug-use a sensationalist one at first, a tabloid approach to the character’s juiciest bit. It’s proved to be nothing of the sort though. Elementary has dealt intelligently with Holmes’ addiction in recent episodes, using it to add jeopardy, forge a push-and-pull antagonism between he and Watson, and give this version of Holmes an emotional history.

That Holmes’ genius is also seen as a pathology of sorts in Elementary, just as it would be in our diagnosis-centred age, is also a true contemporary take on the character. The BBC series has swerved left of most of that chapter in Holmes’ history so far, joshing about nicotine patches and making only oblique reference to the detective’s former habit (Lestrade’s search in A Study in Pink and Mycroft’s concern over the “danger night” in A Scandal in Belgravia). To modernise is to transplant a character from one cultural and historical milieu to our own, and in our own, a wealthy man with a history of intravenous drug use would be offered treatment and all the concomitant recovery, twelve-step stuff.

The other major fear when Elementary’s female Watson was announced was that it would lead to sexual tension and ‘will-they-won’t-they’ tedium (because the fans just hate that in Sherlock). Victoria Coren wrote entertainingly of her horror at the notion of Holmes and Watson getting it on in a column calling out Elementary for being zeitgeisty. The thing is, it hasn’t come to pass, and TV gods willing, it never will. Creator Rob Doherty has repeatedly called his show's Watson/Holmes relationship a ‘bromance’ in which one of the ‘bros’ happens to be a woman, and though I think ‘friendship’ is a simpler way of putting it, that’s a fair description.

The familiar arguments will shuttle back and forth, but the truth remains that a new take on a beloved property doesn’t take the old one out of existence. The best creations are robust enough, and special enough, to withstand any number of future interpretations. Thanks to Miller, and the show’s writers, Elementary moved me from cynicism to fandom without dislodging one atom of my love for Sherlock or Conan Doyle’s stories. Perhaps it’ll do the same for you.

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The only infuriating thing about Elementary is that I can't find out where and when to watch it!

In the US, it's on Thursday nights on CBS, and in the UK it starts up again on Sky Living on at 9pm on the 26th of February. Not on a terrestrial UK channel unfortunately

Elementary started it's first episode with about 13/14 millions viewing figures, and now it's generally holding 10 millions, so there are 3/4 millions drop, but don't just confuse ratings and viewing figures. Its ratings at 10 pm on Thursday in the US are generally at 2 to 2.2, which are lower than ABC's Scandal, a show with amazingly growing ratings; also, Elementary has strong lead-ins from TBBT and POI, but can't hold their audience to stick around at 10 pm, and even with the post super bowl boost, its ratings are still at 2 to 2.2, and its demo skew old, not what CBS had hoped the show to get for the network. Not like many people predicted, I never thought it won't get renewal as its CBS's own production and obviously CBS has put in all the resource them have for marketing before it was aired, and its ratings didn't meet CBS's expectation was the reason why it got the post SB boost, but if it keeps getting the lukewarm ratings, I can see it to be removed to Friday night the next season, or after the second season if it even gets s third season. As for the show itself, yes, Moffat and Gatiss are writing AU fanfictions and taking some liberties, but most of time the audience can instantly identify the story and characters in the canon, that also goes with the performances from Cumberbatch and Freeman; Elementary? it takes such a great liberty interms of the story and both leads' performances, it's pretty much like Fifty Shades of Grey to The Twilight, and FSoG's author at least have the respect (and of course copyright issue) not to use the same character names. I have no problems that people like Elementary, but don't fool yourself that it's in Holmes-verse.

The cases of the week are a bit predictable and mostly like any other procedural and I stopped watching those a long time ago. And the police wants his help but initially always refute his theories which is dumb and frustrating.
But thanks too the quite brillant performance of Miller and the warmth of Liu I am growing more fond of this series which is getting richer with backstory and character development.
And "Elementary" is better at showing how he got and still practices his skills. With "Sherlock" we are just to accept his greatness in everything. "Elementary" is more humble as a whole and that is not a bad thing.
It is still a procedural show , but it is by far the best one out there and that is why it is so popular.

Rather padded out
article. All you had to write was; Elementary- Awful Plot, terrible acting, predictable
in every way, yet Jonny Lee Miller is incredible and every single viewer
watches the program to see him steal every single minute of the screen.

Err...I occasionally watched it to see if JLM showed his bare chest in that ep, and sometimes even his bare chest was not enough to endure that show. (shrug)

The only reason I watch it is JLM. Without him this show wouldn't hold my interest at all.

I like it, but then again I have never watched the bbc version

I find it to be passable, like Diagnosis Murder or Castle it passes the time entertaingly enough... but comparisons to Sherlock hurt it, I await each episode eagerly, I watch the DVDs in English and then in Japanese, it has become an obsession....

elementary is one of about 6 active shows I find moderately distracting.

The thing I like the most is that there is no 'will they/won't they' romance to drive the show along. That makes it distinct from other shows in the genre (Bones etc). Of course, there is the chance that this approach will cause it to lose viewers in the long run.

I don't think this is the best procedural show out there. For someone who is a fan of the genre and have watched a lot under that category, I think this is the blandest one yet. The Mentalist is leagues better than this. The cases of Elementary are too generic. Elementary, indeed.

As for Miller's Holmes' deduction, that is just a simple 'stating the obvious' approach. I believe if Gregson and Bell put some effort, they'll be able to notice what this Holmes' sees(which is the obvious). A testament to this is that Watson's on par brilliance on seeing things on the crime scenes. Put a CSI there and they might even see things Holmes' points out. As opposed to the canon Holmes, you'll be scratching your head trying to figure out how Holmes knew these things but when it's revealed to you, you'll just be having that 'Why I didn't think of that? It's that simple!' moment. 'You see but you don't observe.'; this is what Miller's Holmes is doing. I agree with MagC; this is not Sherlock Holmes.

I think you should start by reading the canon. It's the quintessential Holmes and the reading the source of it all is the right thing to do.

Holmes and Watson being together wouldn't be bad... As long as there's little public display of affection... including public display of affection for us to see. I liked Sherlock asking Watson to be his partner, and if they got married at some point - as opposed to having a hot emotional affair that you just know is going to end badly - I think that would work well.

Its a procedural cop show (which the yanks make oh so well) with a slightly interesting lead character/actor. I enjoy it

Watched the first three episodes and found it hugely tedious. I went in with an open mind, rather than comparing it to Sherlock, and I tend to enjoy any adaptations of Holmes, but I was genuinely bored out of my skull.

I LOVE both of these show. I have a huge affection for Elementary.

Yes, people like to view Sherlock and John as a couple yet would hate that with Sherlock and Joan. And you know why? Because it's still a remarkable, daring deed to have a gay couple or even a gay man as the lead in a major franchise yet it's "been there, done that, shot the horse ten times over" with a woman and a man - just look at every other show in the US TV. And that's why people were wary of it.

I'm of just the opposite opinion. In Elementary, it's "I googled it" or something he comes across by accident. In Sherlock, just watch A Study in Pink, how he explains to Lestrade exactly how he came to know what he knows about the woman in pink. And he does it in every episode.

Pretty much. I like the show but it's Joe and Mary, not Holmes and Watson because there's this thing called reimagining and then there's writing original characters and slapping famous name on them to garner attention.

Also, regarding the show's ratings, they are below The Mentalist's a year before, which was in its 4th season. When you replace an old show with a new one, you do it because you expect it to get better ratings. Elementary's ratings are slightly below average for CBS.

I like the show, and would even like it without the famous names attached to it. It does appear quite formulaic and needs some kind of over-reaching arc to keep it being a case-of-the-month borefest but I am willing to give it a chance. I think I may get bored of it though unless it grows and evolves into something different each week.

I am always curious as to whether US and/or UK tv shows use statistics from recorded programs to make up their viewing figures/rating. I almost exclusively record tv shows on PVR/TiVo/Sky+ and presume lots of other people do too and am curious as to whether our stats are included in the viewing figures or if its "live" viewing only.

Personally, I have always liked it. I have never seen the BBC Sherlock mini series which was on recently so had nothing to compare but know both are "modern takes" on Sherlock. Maybe because I havent seen the BBC Sherlock they is no reason to dislike Elementary??

I quite like the show, although it's not as brilliant as BBC's Sherlock, but it's a lot better than say CSI.

I guess you are deep down not a die-hard book fan or simply have not read the novels?

Agreed. CBS publicized as if Elementary is a hit show, but actually it's just an OK show for them even comparing with the last season's The Mentalist, which means it currently can't even hold the usual audience for Thursday 10 pm timeslot, and its post super bowl ratings are almost record low if people bother to google the info; even CBS can't deny that it's a waste of the super bowl bump and hide the fact that it's just a so-so new show.

I like Elementary. Yes, the cases could be more convoluted, but I really enjoy the interaction of the leads and the handling of the drug addiction. No, it's not Sherlock, but I'd hate it if it were just a glossy remake of the UK series (which is what I found the American Being Human to be). I can find room in my heart/viewing schedule for both Sherlock and Elementary -- yes, Sherlock is far more brilliant, but it comes in much smaller doses that I have to wait forever for (much like Luther, which is also unmatched in the US).

The cases of the Mentalist are just as simple and predictable and I got bored with that after 1 season , mostly because apart from the lead I did not like the acting nor the directing on that show. When I said best procedural I meant the acting and atmosphere. But I could very well get bored with this show after 1 season as well.

Two reasons I don't watch Elementary - 1) It has nothing much to do with Sherlock Holmes, and 2) It's just another procedural, albeit on a House-level. Like House, there is a great lead actor, but if you've seen one episode, you've seen it all. It has nothing much else to offer.

I meant the practical skills like picklocking.
Let me state very clearly that "Sherlock" is on another level as far as deduction and basically everything else. But it I can not recall Cumberbatch practising anything or even admitting to ever having practised anything at all. He is simply brilliant when we meet him and likes to show it off whenever he can.
Or in short what Joel Freeman said :) below and in addition I liked the "humbleness" of the practising.

Viewing Sherlock and John as a couple is simply people fantasizing about something they want. People WANT them to be gay. People don't understand the difference between sexual tension and a bromance these days. Sexual tension is what Sherlock and Irene had. That was "I want to rip your clothes off and have sex on that table over there" tension. Nobody can make the argument that what Sherlock and John have feels the same as that. They might love each other but I doubt they want to rip each others' clothes off. All the "couple" references in Sherlock is more of a running gag than anything.

So, Joan being a woman got all those people riled up because they wouldn't be able to fantasize about them being a gay couple. So they scream "homophobia" when the writers didn't even intend Joan and Sherlock to have any kind of romantic attachment. Quite frankly, I don't think those people care what the writers intended. They just want to fulfill their fantasies. That's what they're mad about.

If we're being honest though, having a straight woman and a straight man as leads while being ONLY platonic is just as an accomplishment as having a gay couple as leads. But as I said, BBC's Sherlock wasn't even groundbreaking in that sense, since Sherlock and John aren't gay to begin with.

Appreciating that, the power outage thing probably didn't help with post Super Bowl numbers, as it was pushed late, but you're right, it's certainly no steamroller success.

I agree - TOTALLY.

I assure you, if you watch 'BBC Sherlock' not only will you definitely see the difference immediately, you will immediately have a new favorite TV show!

If you have not seen the BBC version, you are truly missing a treat. I assure you, if you do, you will not regret it.

It's the whole 'Watson is a girl' thing that's put me off, frankly. Yes, I am a Sherlock fan. But I am also a girl, so pleas don't accuse me of being sexist.
I just don't know why, but everytime I see Lucy Liu and whatisface who plays Holmes together, I want to kill myself. I just HATE the whole damned thing.
I want Johnlock back, please.

Watched both the BBC and the CBS series. I can't stand Sherlock at all whereas Elementary (which was OK) was pretty enjoyable.

"How Elementary silenced its critics" is a misleading title, is more like : "How Elementary is just another procedural, assisted by persons of the age of my grandmother, who is just OK, and the more of the same, or so the critics and 'diehard sherlock fans "simply gotten bored and forgot all about the show" - would be a better title.

As many have said is just another procedural: as The mentalist, Monk, House, Bones, and all CSI, NCIS. I do not like procedural, so it makes no difference to me, I like Sherlock, but it's for the characters, however unpleasant that Sherlock is most of the time, I still love him and his interactions with John.

Also as others have said, it is just OK in the ratings, and I never doubted that it would be renewed, because Americans LOOOOVE procedurals drama (while there are many incredible show in USA that I like but, unfortunately, that is not so accepting by the public), but really "fury "decreases, and am happy to ignore most of the time.

Brilliant and thoughtful analysis of the show. You articulated exactly how I feel, but in a far superior way then my own martini influenced ramblings. There is just something about Elementary that is so wonderfully attractive for me. Yes, it is essentially CSI or Bones (I cannot tolerate these dreadful shows) but the brilliance of the male lead and the complex relationships really remind me of classic Dr Who. A brilliant misunderstood altruist who just cannot relate to humanity. For me that is the central factor that keeps me enthralled. Despite the occassional trite and higly illogical plot lines.
Great writing. Well done!!!!!!!

my argument was never whether Elementary was going to be good or not. It just seems so.. unnecessary. We have a brand new film series, and a brand new TV show, and why would I want a third one? I had no desire to see the amazing spiderman movie, and at least they waited until the other one was over. Why not release a new batman series in between dark knight and rises, having nothing to do with them? Just seems like 'what's the point?"

The ratings are so-so. It's not doing great in the target 18-49 demo, as others have mentioned, and that is what determines its ad rates. Scandal is winning that time slot by a decent margin now -- 2.2 versus 2.8. I don't think Elementary is bad, but the cases are eh and it drags at times because of it.

I wonder how much CBS paid for the above article....

And thus you prove the truth of the statement "the comments section (a place, admittedly, where the lingua franca is hyperbole)"

Thanks, Sandra.

"That was nothing though, compared to the vitriol that spewed forth from the comments section ... Disgust and outrage, rounded out with a notable thread of America-bashing, were amongst the gentler reactions."

I like how DoG retcons its own continuity here. A little bit dishonest no? ;)

Because I remember a completely different story, where the disgust and outrage came primarly from DoG actually (and some of the most hardcore Sherlock/Moffat fans for sure, but we know how fans can be), again and again, based on unfounded accusations, childish narrow minded views (on a female Watson being kinda sacrilege), and false illusions of Moffat/Gatiss ownership on the Holmes character trotted out wthout any other kind of proof other than Sue Vertue's bitterness and threats, again and again. It was as if 'Sherlock' invented the character and didn't itself come right after (and was itself heavily inspired by) two successful Holmes reboots (modern day reboot 'House' and the Guy Ritchie movies).

And I also clearly remember that the more balanced comments - stating exactly what DoG finally admits today - came from the comments section actually (the good thing about modern technology, is that it's easy to check ^^). It wasn't you Frances, I'll admit that, but Simon and (on a lesser extent) Louisa had their fun, a lot.

I also clearly remember my disappointment about DoG, and how tiring and childish this lack of balance and profesionalism became to me, and how I slowly drifted from a frequent DoG reader, to a very occasional one.

Instead of just stating how Elementary silenced its critics (as if those critics were right in the first place), I think this article would benefit from putting in perspective how stupid the Sherlock/Elementary controversy was, from the very beginning. And how unfair the treatment 'Elementary' received here was.

Not even the bits where he keeps heads in the fridge to measure saliva evaporation or somesuch? Doesn't that count as him practicing? He's always got some forms of experiments on the go.

My simple answer is I like it, and I will watch it and will look forward to watching it every week, sometimes it okay to just like something for what it is.... go on try it

Both do.

In the US, networks get paid by advertisers for people who watch the commercials within 3 days of airing (called the C3 ratings, which are seldom published publicly by Nielsen). L+SD, live plus same day before 3am, are the ratings that are generally published, while the the L+7 ratings, live plus 7 days, are widely available online.

I'm unsure how it works in the UK but I do know BARB tracks DVR usage.

What weak-kneed sob-sisters those who call themselves "Elementary" fans are! You would never catch a true fan of "Sherlock" admitting the show has flaws. Those folks who like "Sherlock" but who are willing to admit it's not perfect are quislings. Those who have questions with Moffat's writing are haters with political agendas. Any ratings success, no matter how modest, is fueled by mindless zombies too dazed to use the remote after watch "Person of Interest", and Moffat-haters who don't like "Elementary". Even the head of CBS is a member of that cabal.

I have no opinion about the show, but you're bang on about its ratings.

It's a middling performer that gets the standard super-old-skewing CBS procedural audience, shedding much of its Person of Interest lead-in. CBS was clearly hoping the show would attract a younger audience, similar to House, but it just hasn't happened, and their attempt to boost it by giving it the Super Bowl lead-out slot didn't work.

I think younger audiences are tired of predictable cookie-cutter CBS-style procedurals, I don't think it is enough of a twist on the genre to make it stand out, and I don't think CBS has the platform or brand to launch a young-skewing show.

I agree that it's likely two-and-done, unless CBS has a drama disaster next season, deliberately props up the show, or it gets some word-of-mouth after finding a twist that captures the public's imagination (ala Scandal).

Or, y'know, CBS starts airing it after TBBT repeats in the Summer. That might work.

I thought the BBC's Sherlock was convoluted, tedious, overlong and generally overlong, so I'm glad that American TV have not only done a much better job, but are also giving it two dozen episodes a year instead of three bloated episodes every eighteen months or so like the BBC are doing.

Maybe he just enjoyed the show, and is not a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, like you are. Most people do not have time to catch every show that's on these days, so there is really no need to insult him and accuse him of being illiterate.

I agree with you, but House wasn't really procedural, it did go on for a little too long, but the show was about the mental state of House and his coworkers first and a case-of-the-week medical drama second.

How can you call yourself Pip without ever indulging in one of the greatest British television shows of all time. You have forsaken two iconic Anglo-Saxon characters.

Yeah, it is different from all other outings of Holmes and Watson, but that's what made it seem like such a cash grab. Sherlock deviated from other adaptations of the books by keeping the characters and placing them in a different setting. Elementary feels like it was meant to be another bland detective show about two people solving crimes, and the name was tacked on once the creators realized that people were getting back into the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Please hang on a mo' while I check the meanings of 'lingua franca' and 'hyperbole'.

Sure, I was cynical about Elementary at first (maybe less so than some people on here), but it has genuinely surprised me. I still tend not to think of it as Holmesian, but as it is it's an excellent American detective show with a flawed lead. And, to me, it's a cut about all the other CSIs and NCISs that follow that template. Like the article says, it's reliably entertaining. It's not at the same creative heights as Sherlock, but I really don't think it's meant to be. It's just a fun detective show that's there to inspire enjoyment rather than burning passion.

Sherlock long and winded. I can't wait for it to stop ruining the franchise. Elementary however is the right length and keeps you coming back for more. Jeremy Brett and Johny lee Miller are the real Sherlocks.

Something new...why not!!!

I am huge Holmes fan and at first I thought this show will flop big time. But as time went along, I and the the wife became addicted to it. It interesting to seee how this relationship between the two will develop as the new season kick in. Give it a chance you haters!!!

Are those rating better than BBC Sherlock's?

The BBC version is good but be prepared to put up with fantastical elements. How likely in a post-7/7 world can Cumberbatch travel the tube covered in pig's blood and carrying a harpoon and not be arrested? How likely is a secret CIA bio-weapons group to make tee-shirts advertising the program? How likely is Cumberbatch to fight an Arab assassin in his flat who is dressed like an extra from Lawrence of Arabia? These are only a few things that make you go hmmm.

You can answer that for yourself: are nine million viewers in a population of sixty-something millions better than ten million viewers in a population of over three hundred million?

I watched the pilot (barely) and it was really boring. I managed to guess the killer in the first 10 minutes, but it took Holmes a whole episode. Hey, I guess I'm smarter than him!

But the main thing that bothers me is the fact that they take only the name from the books and submit us to recycled storylines from other procedurals. Yeah, it would still bother me if the character's name was Hercule Poirot and there was no mention of his canon cases.

That's exactly what they do. Clearly they thought just tagging on the names Holmes and Watson would guarantee them an instant hit. It's an offence to viewer intelligence everywhere.

Of course one could point to PBS' ratings for an American-to-American ratings comparison.; 3.2 million for the highly anticipated second season opener--not bad, but not great and certainly lower ratings than Downton Abbey. How are the ratings for Elementary in the UK?

Reading comprehension failure again, I suppose. I was just comparing the numbers in each show's country of origin. Who cares if Sherlock has only attracted 3.2 million viewers in the US when it's sold in 200 countries worldwide?

No, it was not "reading comprehension failure again". You are free to pick the numbers that make your case look good, and ignore the ones that don't, I suppose.

Surely you must agree that viewer numbers in country of origin are the most important ones? I'm sorry to break it to you, but acceptance in the US is not the be all of anything. The US is more than welcome to watch its own shows and become more provincial every year.

"Surely you must agree that viewer numbers in country of origin are the most important ones?" Then why bring up that Sherlock is "sold in 200 countries worldwide?" Since you have an answer for everything, you may have the last word and claim victory.

PBS does not rely on the ad as the commercial TV networks, so the ratings of their shows work differently, but yes, the premiere of viewership of S2 of Sherlock in last May in the US is 3.2 millions, which is twice of its other prime-time programs and higher than the ep. of Man Men aired on the same time slot that day, and its average ratings is 2.1, a tenth or 2 tenth lower than the average ratings of Elementary. However, PBS is not big TV networks like CBS, FOX, ABC and NBC, which usually have more than 8 million viewership for their prime-time shows, and it didn't have the marketing budgets that CBS put in for Elementary. Sherlock didn't have billboards on Sunset Boulevard like CBS did for Elementary for months before its fall premiere; it didn't have Cumberbatch and Freeman on every important talk shows; actually one is the number, and it's a small local NYC morning show, and only Cumberbatch was on because Freeman was filming in NZ then. Cumberbatch had interviews on NY Times, LA Times, NY Metro, NY Post and two podcasts, one with NY NPR (a public station) and one with Marvel Studio, and the fan event for 400 attendees, not like Elementary was at SDCC and had all press and entertainment mags coverage. The press tour for S2 of Sherlock was about a half month commencing mid/ late-April and aired in the early May whereas Elementary was for almost a half year since CBS announced their plan to make its own US version, and very heavy marketing for the whole summer. Sherlock was mentioned in a small corner of scheduling section on TV Guide, and that's all of its entertainment magazine exposure. When S2 was premiered in the US, it faced stiff competitions: the finale of GoT and in the middle season of Mad Men and a dozen of other US hits and its second ep. HoB was aired on the weekend that The Avengers came out in the US; the younger audiences (which are a major part of Sherlock's fanbase and target audiences) won't sit in front of PBS; they'd be out with friends for the movie, not to mention that most of die-hard fans stateside have already watch S2 when its "World" premiere was in January in the UK. No one would wait for months because a hit show like Sherlock would have download links up on the web the minute it finished in the UK; no one wanted to be spoiled. When Moffat and Cumberbatch asked how many people had not seen S2 in the fan event in NYC in last April, only about 10 people among 400 raised hands, so you know the drill. And actually lots of Americans' exposure to Sherlock were from Netflix, not from PBS. Under such circumstances, its S2 ratings are just one or two tenth lower than Elementary, and it did better business than Mad Men and as far as I can recall, possibly also better than S2 of Homeland, I wouldn't be surprised that bosses at PBS and CBS have quite different moods, considering the costs and profits. Indeed Downton was doing extremely well in the US, but its PBS's flagship ever since its first season was aired in the US; it gets the winter schedule to avoid all the new/ return Fall dramas from the big networks, and it's a British period drama that Americans usually have some nostalgia for, and PBS's marketing budges for it are clearly more than for Sherlock, and if I were the marketing director at PBS, I'd make the same decision; if I don't have big budgets then I have to focus on the biggest hit, which is DA.

Thanks! Excellent response. One could even argue that even though a large number of the American fan base had already seen season (or series) 2, they tuned in anyway to give it support. Although I think you do a disservice to word of mouth and non-traditional media support for S2 broadcast in the US, your point is very well-taken.

Some people apparently have trouble telling when they are being manipulated into buying into a product. A show that dedicates itself to consistency, emotional character growth, and realism is not boring or generic. It's called actually crafting good film and good art. It's called doing justice to a medium. But some would rather have a shiny product that fizzes and bangs even if, at the end of the day, all it is is shallow writing and characterizations. If you want wave your dollars at a product that's entirely the result of 'clever' production and marketing, if you want to fall for that hook, line, and sinker, go right ahead. I'd rather watch a show that doesn't solely rely on stereotypes, archetypes, and heavy handed deus ex machina. A story that subverts norms and challenges you is infinitely more interesting than one steeped in privilege and an annoying blue blood, old money attitude.

Not to mention that the racism, sexism, and general bigotry that just rolls off of the bbc Sherlock fandom is clearly at play in some of these 'criticisms' of Elementary.

I've seen them both and all I can say is I like Miller's Holmes. I feel for him and want to know more about him. Cumberbatch's Holmes is amazing, but I just can't find that "in" that really allows me to care for a character. He's very cold and computer-like, which was never the image I had of Holmes growing up. To each his own, I suppose, but I prefer Elementary's off-beat, socially awkward genius to Sherlock's joyless sociopath.

Thanks. I herewith do.

watched the pommie version of Sherlock and hated it. Watched the pilot of Elementary and was bored stiff.

Then had nothing else to watch so I watched episode 2. It feels like someone hit me with a tazer - I love the show now, the combination of Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu works for me - I personally hate shows where the male and female lead end up in the sack.

This is a very vibrant, fresh and very entertaining take on Arthur Conan's Sherlock. JLM is just quirky enough to not be overly quirky, unlike the english version which is half comedy half drama and in total: rubbish.

The episode where they introduced M really blew me away, just the right amount of creepy to keep you wanting more.

Here's hoping the yanks won't can what is to me a winning recipe.

I think the main reason Elementary is doing so well is because Sherlock is not on the air here in the US. I wonder how well it would do if both shows went head to head.

I've watched the show and while I don't hate it, I see absolutely no difference between Elementary and The Mentalist. You could swap the names of the two shows and there would be no difference except for the actors.

I like elementary ..not a comparison with BBC ..Funny how u all act as if BBC is some low budget frachise.. And love all these long blown out critics ..Love how layman's act as if there boring mess of a rating critique actually has any merit..The show is gaining support and is evolving..So all you U.K. peeps just have to deal ..

A personal fan of the Conan Doyle works, I'd love to write an angry appeal about how utterly awful Elementary is, but I really cannot. I genuinely enjoy tuning in to see it, despite my typical American bashing.

I am of the opinion that a great story needs only be told once, but a great character should live forever. I see no point in overdoing the rebranding of a story already written. If you want to read "A Study in Scarlet" then read it, if you want to see a masterful actor, and some pretty decent writers, give a concept a shot to make a new piece of art, well that is how we progress.

I'm a fan of Sherlock too, and, fearing backlash, I have to say, I think I prefer Elementary. Both are masterfully woven stories, with beautiful retakes on classic characters. I feel that Cumberbatch captures Holmes' underlying anger (and self-conciousness) as well as what can only be described as how silly he can act as well. However, Miller, I feel, captures the logical reasoning that one of Holmes' philosophical leaning would approach life with, and creates a somewhat more self-assured genius. This could be attributed to the loss of SPOILER and his time in rehab.

I think the thing that unbalances the scales for me is my love of an epic. I do not want two hours of a character, or one book. From the size of the collection that Doyle wrote, I think he quite agrees. The length provided for by these seasons is suited to a modernisation of the short story style of some of the stories. For me, Holmes was never supposed to be "good-guy vs. bad-guy" for 2 hours and that's it. The stories were a mix of this heroism against Moran and Moriarty, and what is best compared to the procedural cop dramas of today's TV.

For anyone who shirked this show due to a love of Conan Doyle's work, or a love of the British "Sherlock", I beg you, persevere and reconsider.

I find, as a rule, Sherlock fans to be the most elitist, pompous, overwrought group of fans on the internet. I'm sure there are delightful fans out there, but I find more Sherlock fandom trolling of ANYTHING to do with Elementary than I have encountered with other shows.

That said, I love the heck out of Elementary. I'm absolutely hooked. It's by far my favorite network show. But it is a network show. Sherlock has months to create 25% of the material Elementary is contracted to create. That a show can be this consistent in network television is a real anomaly and something to celebrate.

Also, you people quoting its ratings are quoting overnights (which are on the rise again). If you factor in +7 and streaming it's a bonafide hit. "Two and done" will likely prove to be an ignorant statement if this show catches any kind of summer buzz, and judging by the spoilers, it should. CBS is being smart for once and releasing all the eps on Demand on a bunch of providers. We'll see.

Very interesting article.... I'm a life long Holmes fan having started reading the short stories when about 9 years old. Without doubt the definitive Holmes for me is Jeremy Brett and the Granada series was / still is perfect... but this obviously related to what was being broadcast in my formative years. I, of course, watched BBC Sherlock and thoroughly enjoyed it. I occasionally found Steve Mofatt influence to be a bit too clever for his own good (just like he is prone to be in Dr Who sometimes) Elementary, on the other hand, is much more accessible and JLM's take on Holmes I could argue is closer to a modern day take on the original character than BC's.... As already mentioned some of the Plots are a bit too light weight but hey some of ACD's were too.... All in all there's room for both in my opinion.... just as long as the Jeremy Brett repeats keep on coming aswell...

She's right you know. Someone who hasn't read most of the popular Sherlock Holmes mysteries wouldn't be tickled by BBC's Sherlock. And they'd like something like Elementary (its not on where I live & i'm not interested in downloading it) simply because its not so steeped in the literature.

BBC's Sherlock is based on the books. Sherlock is everything that's been defined in the books plus the touch phone, flat-screen & head in fridge gimmick.... so there really is no comparison... CBS shouldn't have tried to relate both, just launched Elementary as something special

As compared to how likely is a character like Sherlock Holmes likely to get out of school let alone get off the tube alive?

To my amazement, I actually likely "Elementary"....despite expecting to turn off after an episode, maybe less. And then, after a while, I loved it. To be honest, it seems far closer to the spirit of the original than "Sherlock", and I don't mean just the bee keeping or monographs on cigarette ash or lectures about not filling his brain with irrelevant data, nice though it is that the writers are obviously great and respectful fans of ACD. I mean that they have really achieved the impossible, an updated Holmes who is exactly in the spirit of the original, who is given original and baffling crimes to solve, who is obsessive about details, who deduces, who does all the right things except live in Baker Street and shoot "ER" over the fireplace (though I live in hope). Possibly the best thing about "Elementary" is that it has hardly mentioned Moriarty as yet (by episode 16, in our case), whom modern takes on Holmes seem obsessed with (or an equivalent character in the 2009 movie). Of course the whole thing may go pear shaped eventually, but so far it's holding up well. If it isn't getting enough viewers on American TV, I'm afraid that says more about American tastes than the programme itself.

Are you sure you were watching Elementary....?

I enjoy Elementary a LOT more that and the BBC Sherlock!

I'm supremely confident that I didn't watch the wrong show for three hours, yes.

Women can be sexist against women, too. You clearly have some major internalized misogyny going on.

Yeah that apparently Arab ninja dressed in clothes fit for a beduin in Sahara was just weird

Personally, I limeabit of originality. I think Sherlock is just a mordernized version of the book if I can't be bothered reading. I like Elementary because it's original but still Sherlock Holmes. Maybe I'm just one of those people who like change and originality.

Tired of Sherlock fans bashing what they don't bother watching. Jonny Lee Miller is a much better Sherlock than Cumberbatch. Sherlock is supposed to be detached, not an asshole. Besides, the brushing over of Sherlock's drug addiction really bothers me.

this is my favorite post by far

Oh you Americans. Your ability to read or watch TV. We know TV wins out every time. Enjoy the show for what it is and that is entertaining. They have gone a particular way with the storylines and full credit to them. In Australia we enjoy entertainment, but we have crap shows that are popular, but Elementary is not one of them.

I'm not American and, as my original post states, I've enjoyed the vast majority of other Holmes adaptations (having read the source material as well). While I appreciate your efforts to make deductions about me, may I politely suggest that in future you leave the detective work to Sherlock. :-)

I am a massive Sherlockian who has read most of the Conan Doyle stories at least twice, owns an enormous collection of pastiches, has loved actors' interpretations from Rathbone to Livanov, and has published an original pastiche short story. My license plate has a Sherlock Holmes plate around it. My checkbook is printed in Holmes checks. I've been to the 221-B Baker Street museum in London. And "Elementary" is my current favorite TV show. I liked "BBC Sherlock," but it is not in my top ten of favorite shows the way "Elementary" is -- and it's not one of my favorite Holmes adaptations.

You don't have to like "Elementary" if you are a Sherlockian, and you don't have to be a Sherlockian to like "Elementary" or "BBC Sherlock." But I am getting very, very tired of the, "You don't prefer my favorite film version, so you must not be a True Fan" argument. Some of us Sherlockians love "Elementary" best. That does not mean we are not "true fans."

Excuse me, but I'm reasonably sure I'm an American and I'm just as happy reading as watching. Probably *more* happy reading, much of the time; in fact, the quickest way to drive me off from checking out a Facebook link three-quarters of the time is to have it be a link to a video rather than a written blog post.

Of course, I recognize this makes me an unusual American. But not *that* unusual. Y'all Down Under get our TV shows faster than you get our print material, and what's going to be portrayed on TV? Americans watching TV. Of course. Biased sample.

Is Holmes's drug addiction central to his character, though? And is there some reason there needs to be a whole lot of attention paid to a nicotine addiction in particular? Tobacco simply does not eat up a person's entire life the way cocaine or heroin often does.

As for the notion that a detached, logical person is necessarily the antithesis of an asshole, clearly you have not been subjected to criticism by atheistic science-fanboys. I haven't directly either, but I've seen them savage religious people on the basis of "logic" and it wasn't pretty. I *have* been subjected, however, to bad behavior from people who tried to write off their issues with an Asperger's diagnosis, and that wasn't terribly fun either.

It isn't difficult for me to believe there are only 3.2 million viewers in the United States with taste.

Elementary has better acting, writing, and a cast and crew that know how to do drama.
Sherlock has an idiot named Steven Moffat who can not write, nor would know a good casting choice from a cheap box of cigars.

I'm read the stories, I'm an Irene Adler fan, and as such, I prefer Elementary's rendering of Irene over that of Sherlock - I haven't seen it, but the relevant facts are that Irene had more feelings for Sherlock than Sherlock for her (even though the show has labelled her a lesbian...and Irene had to be rescued by Sherlock eh?

Canonly, in Conan Doyle's story, Irene was an opera singer, cross-dresser, a blackmailer, who had an affair with a king but eventually seduced a handsome lawyer into abandoning his practice for her - she had nerves of steel and is on the shortlist of people SMARTER than Holmes. Irene was "The Woman" to Holmes, while he was a fleetingly small part of her world.

Canonly, Moriarty was never seen, and died off screen - afterwards, Holmes went into hiding, both of them were obsessed with each other. Canonly, Irene Adler also probably died off screen "the late" Irene Adler.

Elementary has a brilliant take on Irene and Moriarty by combining the two, it didn't feel like a twist but something possible - and fans of the book series would actually guess that Irene was Moriarty long before the big reveal, because Irene has a painting that Moriarty has! I love how the show has subtle clues for book fans.

I read the canon Doyle stories, and I like how Elementary didn't rehash the canon stories as episodes - because I already know how those end - rather, it's used as backdrop and inspiration.

I missed some Elementary episodes due to irl stuff (and there are a lot more Elementary episodes than Sherlock ones), but to-date, there are two canon queer characters in Elementary, not just subtext, but canon: Mrs.Hudson, reimaged as a transwoman played by an actress who is a transwoman. Matto, the guard for SPOILER in the most recent episode, "The Diabolical Kind".

I'm thrilled with the way Elementary is going. I don't like Holmes/Watson, so I'm glad that there is no sexual tension between Holmes and Joan Watson. I always liked Moriarty/Holmes (I'm a fan of Grindelwald/Dumbledore)...on one hand, Moriarty as a woman means we missed out on a homosexual relationship which is rarely portrayed, on the other hand, I'm glad Irene-Moriarty wasn't stereotyped as being Redeemed By Love.

I have given Elementary a go because I thought I might enjoy it, but i've watched four episodes and to be completely honest It seems confused about it's identity, if it wasn't for his name I would have no other clue that it's a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, there's virtually no 'mystery' element to it either there is one murder suspect two if they're feeling adventurous, even CSI gives you two or three suspects to occupy your mind for the duration. But here Sherlock just states what the viewer already knows and after the fourth episode I just got bored by how bland it was.

The general plot points of the four episodes (and probably the others) are as follows:

1: Someone is murdered.
2: Sherlock and Joan go to the crime scene.
3: There is a main murder suspect.
4: Sherlock spends 20 minutes of the programme figuring out how the suspect did it, only to find the suspect has a cast iron alibi, so couldn't possibly have.
5: Near the end it turns out the alibi was not so cast iron and that person did it all along.

You get the idea.

I have to say, as a Conan Doyle fan, I prefer Elementary. Don't get me wrong, Sherlock won my heart as soon as that Holmes did with an iPhone what book Holmes does with a pocket watch, but the show is over produced and just seems too wrapped up in its own adorableness! A victim of its own success.

For me, the characters in elementary ring more true in feeling. Joan rather than John removes the need for Watson to marry in the second novel. Her being a sober companion is a solid reason to stick around despite his crazy, rather than "hooray! Instant best buddies! This makes perfect sense lalala!" Even blending Irene Adler and Moriarty feels right, the two people who ever got the best of Holmes in one. Yes, Sherlock stays truer to the letter of the law, if you will, but Elementary wins on intent.

Doyle was writing at the dawn of detective fiction. As such, his plots are basic and childish to a modern, police procedural watching audience. I agree with Elementary's choice to use all new plots, appealing to the modern audience their modern Holmes is designed for.

I had no hopes for this show going in, but it most certainly did win me over.

"show has labelled her a lesbian" which show are you referring to? If its Sherlock, she has clients & she doesn't care which gender-- its more accurate to say she's bi-sexual.

As for the rest, your opinions are yours, mine are mine and ne'er the twain shall meet.

This show is fantastico. Great chemistry between Miller & Liu. It's a thinking person's show. I think those that don't love it, are still stuck in reality tv show land

Watch don't complain & have no reason to back it up!

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