I am sometimes baffled by the battle lines people occasionally draw between each other. I'm not talking about matters of politics or religion, though the difference there may only be a question of degree. I'm talking about the Kirk vs. Picard / Joel Robinson vs. Mike Nelson / crunchy wheat vs. nicely sweet / great taste vs. less filling type conflicts that often lead to blazing flame wars on the internet. If you like the one, then the laws of astrophysics forbid you (apparently) from even tolerating the other. And depending on whom you talk to, you're either a magnificent, highly intelligent paragon of virtue, or a morally questionable Communist for taking that side.
I'm not one of those people. What you like is your business, and what I like is mine. And I don't see why you can't like both sides. In my view, James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard are both equally capable starship commanders, though they have completely different approaches to their jobs (and are played by actors who approach their art in completely different ways). And Michael J. Nelson was just as good a host of Mystery Science Theater 3000
as was Joel Hodgson before he left the show. The fact that he's a different person, who has a different way of doing things, does not change that.
And now similar battle lines seem to have been drawn between the fans of SHERLOCK
, the BBC tv show that updates the Sherlock Holmes mythos to the modern era, and those of ELEMENTARY,
a show on CBS that does pretty much the same thing, but also relocates Holmes to New York City (though Holmes himself is still British). One reason fans of SHERLOCK
give for disapproving of ELEMENTARY
is the story behind the creation of the latter show: the story goes that the powers-that-be at CBS approached the makers of SHERLOCK
and asked if they would make a clone version of their show for American tv. The makers of SHERLOCK
said no. Whereupon CBS said, "Fine. We'll just make our own updated version of Sherlock Holmes and call it ELEMENTARY
To this I say: Sherlock Holmes is a public domain character. Countless versions of Holmes have been conjured through the years (including Basil Rathbone's rendition, which updated Holmes to World War II, so the idea of updating Holmes is nothing new either) and there's no indication that this will stop. ELEMENTARY
is just one of these versions.
Personally, I like both shows (I have both seasons of SHERLOCK
on DVD, and I will probably get the ELEMENTARY
DVDs whenever they come out), because they both bring interesting things to the table. To demonstrate, I give you the following comparison:Holmes
Each show has their own unique approach to the main character. The Holmes of SHERLOCK
(played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and henceforth referred to as
Joel Hodgson Captain Kirk
BBC Holmes) is a fastidious, almost prissy character, always nattily dressed when he isn't lounging around 221B Baker Street in his bathrobe (well, aside from the time he was dragged to Buckingham Palace clad only in a bedsheet). In the show's initial episodes, he often has nothing but disdain for all these room-temperature IQs surrounding him ("What goes on in your funny little minds? It must be boring."), though he does seem to soften up a little bit as the show progresses. When he goes through one of his world-famous visual analyses (like when he examines a tennis shoe), helaunchesintorapidfiredialoguewithoutstoppingorevenpausingforbreath
, and it shows up on his face like a magnesium flare when a revelation pops into his head. He has moments of extreme lethargy (to the point that he can't be bothered to take his smartphone out of his shirt pocket to send a text; Watson has to do it for him -- this is entirely in keeping with the original Holmes character), and he throws all-out tantrums if he does not have a case to give him intellectual stimulation, or if he's frustrated by a case (as in The Hounds of Baskerville
Meanwhile, the Holmes of ELEMENTARY
(Johnny Lee Miller, whom I shall call
Mike Nelson Captain Picard
CBS Holmes) is not nearly as fastidious. He often wears T-shirts (though when he does wear button-front shirts, the collar button is always fastened even though he never wears a tie -- I can only remember seeing this elsewhere in the tv show American Gothic
in the character of Sheriff Lucas Buck), and he is always unshaven -- whereas I'm not even sure BBC Holmes has even started
shaving. (So in short, CBS Holmes dresses
like Gregory House MD, while BBC Holmes acts
like him.) CBS Holmes does have his annoying little quirks (like when he decides his Watson needs to start taking self-defense courses, which leads him to start pelting her with tennis balls -- "That could have been a knife!"), but BBC Holmes is far more annoying, to the point that his Watson once beats the crap out of him. ("You were a doctor! You helped people!" "I HAD BAD DAYS!")
There are hints of a history of addiction with BBC Holmes. He often wears nicotine patches, especially when he doesn't have a case to stimulate him, and Watson has to hide his cigarettes (and his older brother Mycroft occasionally offers him a cigarette to test his mood). But with CBS Holmes, drug addiction is a major part of his establishing story. The whole reason he's in New York City -- and the reason he meets Watson -- is that he fell into drug addiction while working as a consulting detective for Scotland Yard (the cause for this fall is gradually revealed through several episodes). His father, an awesomely rich but apparently cold and distant figure who has yet to appear on the show (and might never do so), decides that his son needs a change of scenery, so he says he will pay for Sherlock's rehab if he relocates to New York City. CBS Holmes, though he doesn't have much affection for his father, acquiesces. And while he's undergoing rehab, he decides to do consulting detective work for the NYPD.
As for his deductive methods, he doesn't do rapid-fire dialogue like BBC Holmes, but he still notices everything.
He also possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure information (though of course, BBC Holmes has his "memory palace"). For instance, when he sees a piece of paper with a typed line of apparently random punctuation symbols, CBS Holmes knows it to be a computer program written in a language called Malbolge, named after the ninth circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno
, which is intentionally designed to be virtually indecipherable. Watson
The differences between the versions of this character are far more pronounced. The BBC Watson (played by
Martin Freeman) is a lot like the original character in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories: coming home from a war in Afghanistan, he meets BBC Holmes through a mutual friend, and they both move in to 221B Baker Street. In keeping with modern times, he suffers from apparent PTSD and initially sees a therapist (though Holmes's older brother Mycroft tells Watson he should fire her -- Mycroft deduces he isn't haunted by danger; he craves
it), and begins the series with a psychosomatic limp (which he soon loses once he meets up with Holmes). As in the original stories, he's a doctor, which is why BBC Holmes draws him into their first case. And he seems to have a temper (see above).
The CBS Watson, however (played by Lucy Liu), isn't a veteran of the armed forces. She isn't even a doctor. Well, she's not a doctor anymore
-- she used to be a highly competent surgeon until she lost a patient through an honest mistake. She subsequently resigned in shame, and has taken up drug rehab counseling to pay the bills.
(Oh, and she's female. That's another thing the show's detractors howl about. I say the hell with them.)
And this is how she meets Holmes. When CBS Holmes arrives in New York City per his father's edict, she is assigned to him as his live-in rehab counselor, giving him constant companionship and guidance on the road to recovery. She tags along as CBS Holmes does consulting work for the NYPD, and this is how she's drawn into his cases.
One thing I like about the CBS show is that its Watson is on more of an equal intellectual footing with its Holmes. The BBC Watson is no dummy -- BBC Holmes calls upon his medical expertise on more than one occasion, he has saved BBC Holmes's life at least once, and he is nothing like the dithering bumbler played by Nigel Bruce in the Basil Rathbone movies -- but he is always one step behind BBC Holmes, who at one point uses him as a guinea pig. And while he doesn't just sit back and take it (he beats Holmes up at one point, remember?), I think CBS Watson would be far better equipped to deal with BBC Holmes's wacky hijinx. For example, when she first meets CBS Holmes, he deduces nearly her entirely life story at a glance, then makes clear that while they may have to live together for the next few weeks, they don't have to be friends (or something to that effect). She fixes him with a Death Glare and says, "I notice you don't have any mirrors in your place. I guess you know a lost cause when you see one."
She also lends a highly useful hand in the cases. In one episode, CBS Holmes is watching surveillance video of a potential suspect, and he says, "That man is wearing a pager? Shouldn't be too hard to find." She glances at the video and says, "That's not a pager. That's an insulin pump. Your suspect is a diabetic."
A couple paragraphs ago, I said CBS Watson would be well-matched with BBC Sherlock. This hints toward a pipe-dream of mine which will probably never happen, but here it is: I wish the makers of these two shows would get together to do a SHERLOCK/ELEMENTARY
crossover. The first meeting of the two Sherlocks would be comical in the extreme, as would the two Watsons trading notes.. Like I said, it will probably never happen. But I will still watch both shows and enjoy them equally.http://sdpbookstore.com/storybooks.htm#saintnicole