CBS, the broadcast TV home of all things procedural (and boring), has green-lighted a pilot for a show called Elementary, which brings Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson into a modern-day setting. Sound familiar?
It should. It’s the same basic idea behind the BBC’s Sherlock, a huge hit in the U.K., and a strong buzz-winner in the U.S. thanks to airings on PBS. Sherlock starts Benedict Cumberbatch as the Great Detective, with Martin Freeman as his gun-toting, war-veteran, blog-writing sidekick, Dr. John Watson. The show was created by Doctor Who showrunner Stephen Moffat, and features a distinctive visual style, updating classic tales of Arthur Conan Doyle like The Hound of the Baskervilles with modern twists.
CBS’ Elementary takes the same premise, but brings Holmes and Watson to current-day New York City. Jonny Lee Miller, the actor best known as the title character in Eli Stone and as a recurring villain on Dexter, has been cast as Holmes. No announcement has yet been made about Watson.
I’m outraged over this. There’s just so much that’s disturbing about it… Where do I begin?
First of all, transplanting a fervently British character like Sherlock Holmes to America is an offensive idea in and of itself. I’d be opposed to it no matter what time period it’s set in. Maybe next they can get to work on a revival of Magnum, P.I. — set in Alaska.
Secondly, the pilot’s script was written by Robert Doherty, who’s scripted series such as Medium, Tru Calling, Point Pleasant, Ringer, Dark Angel, and Star Trek: Voyager. Not a single one of those instills any sort of confidence or geek excitement.
Lastly and most importantly, anyone with half a brain can see that this whole thing is a blatant ripoff of Sherlock. The BBC certainly isn’t blind to it, and is already considering taking legal action against CBS. Particularly troubling is the BBC’s assertion that CBS approached them a while back with an offer to produce a remake of Sherlock for American audiences. When the BBC said no thanks, CBS reportedly moved forward with their own “modern revival” anyway.
Is that a rat I smell?
Miller is a competent actor (I thought he was pretty great in Eli Stone), and even a native Brit himself. It’s unknown if he’ll be using his native accent or effecting an American accent for this role. But in a bizarre twist of fate, Miller’s last role prior to taking on the Great Detective was a British stage version of Frankenstein — where, I kid you not, he co-starred opposite Benedict Cumberbatch.
The second season of Sherlock recently aired in the U.K., with a third season already approved by the BBC and currently in the works. PBS will air the show’s second season in the States starting on May 6th.
There’s no word yet on when Elementary will air — or even if CBS will pick it up with an episode order beyond the pilot — though the timing would seem to indicate a likely Fall 2012 premiere should it make it to air.