Tag Archives: Elementary

Fall 2012 Review: Elementary

11 Oct

When something is on CBS, I expect it to be somewhere on a range from bad to mediocre.  Is that harsh and unfair?  Well, yes; I should come into every show fresh, and I do my absolute best to evaluate every show fairly and put aside my preconceived notions, though, as I said, I consciously attempt to put them aside, rather than pretend they don’t exist.

CBS’s wheelhouse exists mostly on a spectrum from what I think are largely terrible comedies to bad-side-of-mediocre to good-side-of-mediocre police procedurals.  My initial thought was to say this is most of CBS, but not all, but looking at the fall schedule, it covers everything but The Good Wife, which is a slightly serialized law procedural, despite what others may try to tell you (unless it’s changed very drastically in the last couple of seasons, which is possible though unlikely – from the commercials you’d have no idea it was a procedural at all). It’s then unfair for me to expect a groundbreaking serial drama from CBS, but maybe what I can reasonably expect is for them to do what they do well.

The brand of comedies they make are very, very difficult to make actually good (I have a complicated relationship with How I Met Your Mother, but let’s save that for another day).  However, procedurals, while not generally my cup of tea (my strange near-obsession with the original Law & Order aside), are not inherently bad.  And if there was to be a particularly good one, then why not, as my friend pointed out, an adaptation of the original procedural, Sherlock Holmes, for which each original story was a short few pages about him taking on one mystery.

Here’s a preconception I’ve had about this show since the day it was announced.  There’s already a Sherlock on BBC, it’s great, and thus, any version on CBS will jwithust be hopelessly inferior.  After all the saber rattling between Sherlock creator Steven Moffat and CBS over who might or might not be ripping off who, I immediately sided with Moffat and basically figured the new version would just be a watered down, worse cast Sherlock.

After all that exposition, you may not be surprised to read that CBS’s Elementary was actually pretty good.  Yeah, I still think it’s not as good as the BBC’s version, but it’s still far better than I anticipated it to be after reading it was getting made. Johnny Lee Miller, who has fiddled around with TV before, as the villain in the fifth season of Dexter, and the eponymous Eli Stone, does a solid job of evoking the classic Holmes characteristics – sharp, astute, biting, and unable to precisely fit in with the emotional demands of ordinary humans, while occasionally making a very small effort.  The police captain who gives Holmes access to the scenes largely stays out of things (and is played by Aidan Quinn), making the show about Holmes, and secondarily about Watson, who seems to be more an easily irritated but also fascinated sidekick/babysitter compared to Watson in Sherlock, who is more of a friend and a bit closer to a partner, though perhaps the relationship changes over time.  Also, Watson is a woman, played by Queens native Lucy Liu, so take that, tradition.

Otherwise, you probably know how a Holmes mystery is supposed to work; Holmes constantly detects little observational clues at the crime scene which others miss and slowly point him to the killer, and eventually enable to him to prove his theories.  He’s the original Psych or The Mentalist.  The case in the pilot was well-crafted and featured Holmes both figuring out a lot of information towards finding the killer, and then knowing who he was and figuring out more information to prove it, with a key assist from Watson, and her ability to actually interact with people thrown in.  It’s a well crafted procedural, and credit to Miller for making it go.

Note:  Okay, I’ve given a largely positive review and this is a relatively silly point that isn’t important at all.  However, in the last scene of the pilot, Watson and Holmes are watching the Met game, and Holmes says the game is very scientific and predicts exactly what the next three batters would do.  Sure, there are probabilities, but that’s pretty much what baseball is – I’d have to run some math above my level, but I’m fairly sure the likelihood of him predicting the outcomes of the next three hitters in a row (it’s center field fly out, though if I recall correctly, and I’m not willing to watch again for this, he says pop out, and it’s hardly a pop out, intentional walk – and of the three this is clearly the most predictable, and then grounded into double play) is pretty unlikely.

Second note:  This is just a pointless thought; but this is the place for it.  So, in a world like this, or the BBC’s Sherlock, the Sherlock Holmes stories have to never have been written.  Otherwise, they current day Holmes would think it was just too bizarre a coincidence, and every person who met them would say, “you’re just like Sherlock Holmes from those stories”.  So the world they live in is nearly identical to ours, except that Sherlock Holmes stories never existed.  Did Arthur Conan Doyle exist, but never write those stories, or is he gone too?

Will I watch it again?  Again, it’s a procedural, so probably not.  At this point, I just don’t value hour long shows without major serial components very highly – those I do watch I either primarily watch with others, or are British shows, meaning there are so few episodes, that it’s more inconvenient not to watch.  If this had only six episodes in a season, I would probably bang them out.

Fall 2012 Previews and Predictions: CBS

21 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

So CBS has two shows that look out and out terrible and two shows that will probably be bad, but have at least the possibility of not being terrible.  Let’s check ‘em out.

Made in Jersey – 9/28

If I had a contest where I picked the worst sounding show of the new season, it would have to be Made in Jersey.  I hate to be judgmental (I don’t actually hate it, but I admit I shouldn’t do it), but sometimes all you really need to hear is a premise, and you know all you need to know.  Made in Jersey is about a New Jersey lawyer from a stereotypical Italian family making her way at a presumably WASP-y white shoe New York law firm.  If I had to guess what would happen, it would be that her clients and coworkers are initially skeptically of her Jersey accent and unorthodox tactics, but she wins them over by showing them tricks they didn’t learn growing up in Connecticut and going to Yale.  Worse, the actress playing the main character is English, which at least led me to hope that the premise would be based on a lawyer from actually Jersey, the English island near France.  Alas, it was not to be.

Verdict:  13-  I know, I know, it’s CBS.   It’s on Friday, which is a blessing in that ratings are expected to be lower, but a curse in that people don’t really watch TV on Friday.  So people will watch it, and CBS didn’t cancel much very fast last year.  But their standards are also higher, and it really does look terrible.

Partners – 9/24

Two close friends and coworkers must deal with the strains of each other’s relationships; that’s about all we’ve got for a premise.  Well, also that they work as architects and one of them is gay.  Numb3rs star David Krumholtz plays the straight friend, who is engaged to One Tree Hill’s Sophia Bush.  Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie plays the gay friend, and Superman himself, Brandan Routh is Urie’s significant other.  It really shouldn’t be obvious from this limited amount of information that the show is going to be terrible, but in this case it is.

Verdict:  14+ Honestly, I shouldn’t let my verdict on one show necessarily impact my verdict on another, but I figured at least one of Partners or Made in Jersey, the two terrible looking shows would get cancelled quicker than the other.  I’m torn.  Made in Jersey is on Friday nights, which means most people won’t watch, but a mediocre A Gifted Man hung around almost a full year there.  Partners will have the security blankets of How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls (shivers) around it on Mondays.

Vegas – 9/25

The first of the CBS shows that may not actually be terrible necessarily.  It’s the 1960s, and Vegas is in its wild west days, before Steve Wynn and the like.  The show is portrayed as a battle of wills between the sheriff of Clark county, where Vegas is located, Ralph Lamb, played by Dennis Quaid, and a Chicago mobster who follows Horace Greeley’s advice and goes west to set up his own base of operations, Vincent Savino, played by The Shield star Michael Chiklis, looking to rebound from the extraordinary failure of No Ordinary Family.

Verdict:  Renewal – This is the show I feel like I have the worst grasp of on this channel.  How procedural vs. how serial it is, I don’t know, and even if I did know, I don’t know how much that would matter anyway.  I don’t think it will be very good and I don’t think it will be terrible, but I have no idea where in the range of kind of bad to kind of good it will be.  This is a wild shot in the dark.

Elementary – 9/27

Like modern-day adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, but unsatisfied by the mere 3 episodes a year produced of the British Sherlock and prefer it set in New York City?  You’re in luck.  Trainspotting’s Johnny Lee Miller is Holmes in this adaptation, and Lucy Liu is his (shock!) female Watson.  As a fan of Sherlock, I was naturally inclined to believe that a CBS take would be inferior, but initial reports are that the show is actually not so bad.  One difference may be in the involvement of Watson, who seems, in Elementary to be less involved in the cases and more irritated at Holmes.  I’m still skeptical but I’ll try to give it an honest chance.

Verdict:  Renewal – I think it’s a good fit for CBS.  It’s a procedural which means it’s right up CBS’s general alley, but if early reports are accurate it’s maybe a little bit better than most.  It should appeal to core CBS audience; Holmes is a hundred-year old character, but the show attempts to make Holmes new again with a twist.  I’m not crazy confident in this prediction but I do definitely think it’s the most likely renewal on the network.